As Americans we have good reason to be deeply concerned about the Bush administration’s plan to complete a $’0 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia. This proposed sale of high tech weaponry is not only objectionable inasmuch as the Saudis have been dubious allies, but because it will only further tensions within the already volatile Middle East. The idea of adding even more weaponry to the Middle East is akin to adding more kindling to a blazing fire.
This administration has sought for more than four years to fight an ill-conceived war in Iraq that has only further destabilized the Middle East. In fact, this administration’s foreign policy has emboldened our adversaries in the region, including Iran and Syria. In turn this has left our ally in the State of Israel to contend with the increased threat from the regimes in Tehran and Damascus as well as fighting Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Now President Bush seeks to battle these antagonist nations and extremist elements by arming other nations in the region through a multibillion dollar arms deal that will have ramifications far beyond the original sale.
The proposed multibillion dollar weapons sale to nations in the Middle East will have many short-term and long-term consequences for American foreign policy interests in the region as well as for the security of the State of Israel. In the short term, the addition of advanced highly powerful weaponry will only increase the likelihood that Iran will continue to pursue its nuclear ambitions. This sale will only make the regime in Iran feel as if its only option for survival is the development of a nuclear weapon that can act as a hedge against the increased military strength of its neighbors in the Middle East. In addition, through this proposed sale, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates are also likely to receive equipment and weaponry. All of these nations, including Saudi Arabia, have never even used their military to fight a war outside of their immediate borders. The sale of these weapons will only encourage these nations to exercise their newfound military strength in a region already enflamed with conflict.
Through this proposed weapons sale, Egypt will also receive an additional $13 billion in advanced weaponry reported to include AIM-9X missiles, used on jet fighters for aerial combat, to which Israel has previously objected. Saudi Arabia’s $’0 billion weapons sale is reported to include J-DAM munitions, which convert regular bombs into advanced satellite precision guided "smart bombs," weapons that have also been objected to by Israel in the past. Clearly, the infusion of this kind of advanced weaponry will have many long-term ramifications that could help shift the military balance of power in the Middle East.
However, the truly frightening long-term ramification of this proposed weapons sale is the unknown. With the high level of instability and conflict currently witnessed in the region we cannot say with any certainty what the future of the Middle East will be.
We made this same mistake in the 1970s, when we continued to prop up a monarchy in Iran through military support only to see that regime overthrown. It was then replaced by an extremist theocratic government that used many of these same military resources to rise to become the greatest threat within the region today.
We can also be certain of the precedent that as highly advanced weapons get sold to nations, older weapons technology ends up filtering down into the system and can easily end up in the hands of terrorist organizations. For example, the Katyusha rockets that Hezbollah has used to attack Israeli civilian towns and cities for years were originally developed by the Soviet Union for use in the Second World War.
Clearly, Saudi Arabia and other nations within the Middle East should not be rewarded for their lack of democratic institutions, their insufficient progress in human rights, and their continued refusal to officially recognize the State of Israel. However, the sale of such highly advanced weaponry not only sends the wrong signal to these nations, it is quite simply dangerous to the future of the entire region and the international community. Sadly, President Bush has yet to learn from the Iraq war that aggressive military intervention within a volatile situation does not yield peace, only the probability of more conflict.
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., a Democrat, represents New Jersey’s eighth congressional district.