It’s getting harder and harder to make sense of the Alice in Wonderland moves and counter-moves in the Middle East.
This latest gambit is making everyone nervous:
The Bush administration will be asking Congress to approve a $20 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia and neighboring Gulf states despite the concerns of some U.S. officials that the Saudis have been hampering U.S. efforts in Iraq…
The size of the proposed package, which would include advanced weaponry, has made Israel and its supporters in Congress “nervous”… The administration is expecting Israeli supporters and Saudi critics in Congress to oppose the deal when it is formally presented to Congress this fall.
To resolve these concerns, the administration has promised Israel $30.4 billion in military aid over the next decade, and is asking the Saudis to accept restrictions on the “range, size and location of the satellite-guided bombs” and to agree not to store the weapons near Israeli territory…
Do not run screaming from the room just yet…
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Yes, the Saudis are a corrupt bunch. Yes, it does appear that we are arming our enemies, those truly evil Wahhabists who have sewn such destruction in the world. The first thought of a reasonable person has to be: “is Bush out of his mind?”
Actually people have been asking some variation on that question for some time now. However, in this case, Ed Lasky at The American Thinker has a bit of history and a lot of strategy for us to consider.
First of all the details: these sales also involve other Middle Eastern countries. Mr. Lasky calls them “allies” but for most Americans – including me – thinking of Egypt as an ally is a hard concept to get one’s mind around. And he reminds us that Israel has not been left out of the equation. They will receive even more military aid than the others over the ten year period.
But Mr. Lasky wants us to examine the ingredients in this sausage the U. S. is making:
This move [massive arms sales] is being taken in reaction to the provocative steps Iran has taken by not only continuing its nuclear program, but also by being the arms supplier to Syria, Hezb’allah, and insurgents in Iraq. Iran has also been making huge purchases of arms from Russia. Iran has also laid claim to various islands in the Persian Gulf (the Arab nations call this waterway the “Arab Gulf”) and has pressured the smaller nations that line the Persian Gulf to accept Iranian suzerainty over the area.
So Iran is the reason. This is about strategy. What of the history? Well, Mr. Lasky invokes President Reagan’s moves in bringing down the Soviet Union:
The fear of the Sunnis that the Shiite arc in the Middle East is strengthening is also an element in trying to assuage Sunni Arab concerns by expanding arm deliveries to them. However, one other tactic might be at work-and it is one that helped to bring down the Soviet Union. When President Reagan was briefed that the Soviet economy was weak, he undertook a massive military expansion-hoping to bring the Soviet Union’s economy to its knees since he suspected their economy would not be able to match the American build-up in arms and would “go broke” while trying.
In sum, it may not be as bad an idea as it first appears. After all, the sale stretches over ten years. It may be that just a few years down the road things will have changed and the need for shoring up anti-Iran will not seem so compelling. On the other hand, change in Middle East seems as though it does not occur in human terms – it’s more like geological time over there. However, let us bear in mind the fact that The Wall is history; how many of us ever expected to see the fall of the Soviet Union in our lifetime?
Thus, it is well worth your time to read the rest of Mr. Lasky’s brief essay and ponder his view of the situation. Just reading his description of Iran’s current condition offers hope.