Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Arming the Saudis because?

The United States just can't seem to figure out how to deal with the Saudis. Last week the story was that the U.S. was pretty peeved with the Saudis for supporting some of the Sunnis in the Iraqi civil war, for trying to put together their own conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for declaring the U.S. war illegal. This week the U.S. concludes a $20 billion arms deal with the Saudis, including Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) a guidance kit that makes dumb bombs into smart bombs, causing some Israeli officials to express concern about southern Israel being vulnerable,

What's going on?

I suspect the main reason is a bit of an overreaction to the perceived Iranian threat. Unfortunately, this sale combined with the fact that Rice and Gates are probably not going to get any concessions from the Saudis on poking around in Iraq (since the Saudis, who live in the neighborhood, don't have much confidence the U.S. knows what it's doing), could make the U.S. look weak and desperate rather than strong.

It also makes all our talk about "democratization" more laughable than ever. There's probably not a regime in the Middle East less democratic than Saudi Arabia -- they don't even pretend -- but the U.S. is eager to lavish arms on them. Of course Israel, Egypt and Jordan will want more goodies too. It looks sadly as if the U.S. is arming both sides, the Shia and the Sunni, in the Iraqi civil war. Is this the way to calm things down?

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