Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bush administration to offer huge arms deal to Saudi Arabia, other countries

The Bush administration is preparing to ask Congress to approve an estimated $20 billion arms sale package for Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Israel geared toward upgrading the countries’ air and missile defense systems and improving their navies and air forces. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to announce Monday that the administration will open formal discussions with each country about the proposed packages, in hopes of reaching agreements by the fall. From the NY Times:
The proposed package of advanced weaponry for Saudi Arabia, which includes advanced satellite-guided bombs, upgrades to its fighters and new naval vessels, has made Israel and some of its supporters in Congress nervous. Senior officials who described the package on Friday said they believed that the administration had resolved those concerns, in part by promising Israel $30.4 billion in military aid over the next decade, a significant increase over what Israel has received in the past 10 years.

But administration officials remained concerned that the size of the package and the advanced weaponry it contains, as well as broader concerns about Saudi Arabia’s role in Iraq, could prompt Saudi critics in Congress to oppose the package when Congress is formally notified about the deal this fall.

In talks about the package, the administration has not sought specific assurances from Saudi Arabia that it would be more supportive of the American effort in Iraq as a condition of receiving the arms package, the officials said.

The officials said the plan to bolster the militaries of Persian Gulf countries is part of an American strategy to contain the growing power of Iran in the region and to demonstrate that, no matter what happens in Iraq, Washington remains committed to its longtime Arab allies. Officials from the State Department and the Pentagon agreed to outline the terms of the deal after some details emerged from closed briefings this week on Capitol Hill.
Indeed, the Bush administration argues that the Saudis and other Persian Gulf states are in talks with other potential suppliers, and thus, it is better for the U.S. to supply them lest we lose our influence in the region. But I don't understand the insistence by the Bush administration, other than their general ineptitude at prosecuting a successful war against terrorists, on providing such aid to countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan without conditions or accountability. As I've written about before, Pakistan is failing to adequately put down Al Qaeda and Taliban on their border with Afghanistan, yet we continue to give them unconditional aid. Likewise, nearly half of the suicide bombers in Iraq are Saudi and they aren't doing enough to stop the influx from their country, yet our government will soon present them with this arms deal. Congress should insist on conditions or block it altogether.

UPDATE: The WP reports that House Democrats will try to block the deal (as well as block a US-India nuclear deal). Also, the just passed bill - which will become law - implementing security recommendations of the 9/11 commission apparently includes conditions on military aid to Pakistan.

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