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Obama's 'Toys for Tyrants' Program Wins Applause


January 4, 2012
John Glaser / AntiWar.com & United Press International

Last week, the Obama administration announced a $11 billion deal to send military arms and equipment to Iraq, despite the country's descent into tyranny under the Maliki government. The same day, the White House announced it was sending $30 billion worth of weapons -- including 84 F-15 fighter jets -- to Saudi Arabia, easily one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world. This "Toys for Tyrants" program mostly benefits a few powerful US companies -- Boeing, General Electric, Ratheon.

http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2012/01/03/obamas-weapons-welfare-to-tyrannies-gets-applause/

Obama's Weapons Welfare to Tyrannies Gets Applause
John Glaser / AntiWar.com

(January 3, 2012) -- I wrote last week [1] about the Obama administration's $11 billion deal to send Iraq military arms and equipment, despite the descent into tyranny of the Maliki government. That same day, it was announced [2] that the Obama administration was also sending $30 billion worth of weapons [3] -- including 84 F-15 fighter jets -- to Saudi Arabia, easily one of the worst authoritarian regimes in the world.

Loren Thompson, writing at Forbes.com, has caught on to this [4] (excuse his tardiness) and has a few things to say that are revealing both because of his insight and his exemplary Beltway attitude which omits the ugly parts of Washington's dangerous foreign policies.

Thompson rightly points out, as I have before [5] a few times [6], that Obama's excessive arms sales [7] to allies in the Middle East and East Asia, aside from serving as aggressive military postures to threaten Iran and China, serve a domestic purpose as well:

It doesn't hurt that such sales create tens of thousands of jobs in the US Boeing [8] assembles the F-15 fighters at the center of the deal in Missouri, and General Electric [9] will build the engines in Ohio. Both are swing states whose electoral-college votes could determine the outcome of the 2012 presidential race. Many additional jobs will be created at the sprawling Raytheon [10] missile complex in Arizona, a state already poised to benefit from an earlier Saudi buy of 36 Boeing Apache [11] tank-killer helicopters. Raytheon's radar facility in Massachusetts should also be a big beneficiary.

What the president and his advisors have figured out is that, unlike sending troops to fight overseas, there is almost no downside to sending weapons. They allow partners such as Saudi Arabia to meet more of their own security needs indigenously rather than relying on an overstretched US military, and they stimulate economic activity in America's industrial heartland at a time when well-paying, unionized manufacturing jobs are hard to come by.

Leaving aside the bad economics [12] of these kinds of policies, boosting domestic economic numbers and keeping the military industrial complex fat and happy are surely factors in Obama's peppering of deadly weapons around the world. It is notable that this President, whom crunchy "liberals" continue to defend, is making such shrewd political calculations at the expense of the well-being of millions of innocent people whose tyrannical governments are now armed to the teeth thanks to US policy.

And what is this talk about "almost no downside to sending weapons"? I've already talked about [1] how the leadership in Iraq is systematically ruining the freedom and safety of its own people, and Saudi Arabia is in the same camp, sporting a long record of repressive policies [13], human rights violations [14], and violent crushing of dissent [15]. And the arms trade certainly doesn't end there [7]. Thompson seems to think this is just great, a brilliant confluence of savvy foreign and domestic policy.

Thompson then tries to describe these policies as novel, "a striking departure," in fact, "from the ideological preferences of the post-Vietnam Democratic Party." Please. You really don't have to do much digging to figure out that's not true: Presidential administrations, both Democrat and Republican, have heavily relied on arming regimes in developing countries and client states for decades, at approximately the same standard. Under Bill Clinton, according to this CRS report on conventional arms transfers published in 2000 [16], "Developing nations continue[d] to be the primary focus of foreign arms sales activity by weapons suppliers," and "the value of all arms transfer agreements with developing nations in 1999 was nearly $20.6 billion" which "was the highest total, in real terms, since 1996."

During the 1996-1999 period, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ranked first among developing nations in the value of arms transfer agreements, concluding $7.7 billion in such agreements. India ranked second at $7.3 billion. Saudi Arabia ranked third with $7.1 billion.

In 1999, South Africa ranked first in value of arms transfer agreements among all developing nations weapons purchasers, concluding $3.3 billion in such agreements. Egypt ranked second with $2.6 billion in such agreements. Israel ranked third with $2.3 billion.

The numbers for the Clinton era are not substantively different than the latest such report released for the 2003-2010 years [17], and no different from Obama's current wielding of weapons welfare.

And there is just as much harm-potential generated from Obama's doing it as Clinton's. Clinton's support with money and arms of Turkey resulted in major atrocities against Kurds in the southeast [18], leaving the countryside devastated with tens of thousands killed and millions displaced. Money, arms, equipment, and training were also sent to the regime in Indonesia during the Clinton years despite Jakarta's veritable genocide in East Timor [19].

Obama's weapons welfare and so-called containment/projecting-power policies are equally dangerous. Whatever Thompson thinks, it is neither novel, nor savvy. It's deadly, menacing, and savage.

NOTES
[1] I wrote last week: http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2011/12/29/us-sending-iraq-11-billion-in-arms-despite-malikis-turn-towards-dictatorship/

[2] it was announced: http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/u-s-finalizes-30-billion-weapons-deal-with-saudi-arabia-1.404461

[3] $30 billion worth of weapons: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/massive-us-saudi-arms-deal-seen-as-a-foreign-policy-security-and-economic-boon/2011/12/29/gIQATNWQPP_print.html

[4] writing at Forbes.com, has caught on to this: http://www.forbes.com/sites/lorenthompson/2012/01/02/obama-makes-arms-sales-a-key-tool-of-u-s-foreign-policy/

[5] I have before: http://www.google.com/url?q=http://news.antiwar.com/2011/08/14/debt-committee-represent-defense-industry-states/&sa=U&ei=QUIDT8CnLs2TtwfM7JnjDg&ved=0CAQQFjAA&client=internal-uds-cse&usg=AFQjCNHOLJovSb5N9OxeM9UbEC1fIFaF-A

[6] times: http://news.antiwar.com/2011/11/15/arms-sales-to-asia-and-the-gulf-vital-to-us-corporations/

[7] excessive arms sales: http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2011/09/29/the-specs-of-us-weapons-welfare/

[8] Boeing: http://www.forbes.com/companies/boeing/

[9] General Electric: http://www.forbes.com/companies/general-electric/

[10] Raytheon: http://www.forbes.com/companies/raytheon/

[11] Apache: http://www.forbes.com/companies/apache/

[12] bad economics: http://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2011/10/27/the-seen-and-the-unseen-the-productive-vs-destructive-economy/&sa=U&ei=ckQDT4jeL82SgQfY5tmyAg&ved=0CAQQFjAA&client=internal-uds-cse&usg=AFQjCNHIcEiJf8-b2zIe-STpOAVknsOJhw

[13] repressive policies: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15977980

[14] human rights violations: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/rights-group-calls-on-saudi-authorities-to-release-activists-detained-in-protests/2011/12/30/gIQAZJwpQP_print.html

[15] violent crushing of dissent: http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20120102/wl_nm/us_saudi_shiites_warrants

[16] this CRS report on conventional arms transfers published in 2000: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/transfers92-99.pdf

[17] the latest such report released for the 2003-2010 years: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/R42017.pdf

[18] major atrocities against Kurds in the southeast: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/turkey0305/3.htm#_Toc97005223

[19] despite Jakarta's veritable genocide in East Timor: http://www.chomsky.info/articles/199910--.htm



Saudi F-15s Tip of $123 Billion Gulf Arms Plan
United Press International

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (December 30, 2011) -- The $30 billion sale of 84 advanced Boeing F-15SA fighters and upgrades for 70 older models is a major component of a far wider US arms deal with Saudi Arabia that's worth $63 billion and aimed at countering Iran.

But even that mega-deal is dwarfed by what the Financial Times calls "one of the largest re-armament exercises in peacetime history" -- the sale of advanced weapons worth $122.88 billion to the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf, all to smother Iran's expansionist aims.

Washington's announcement of the F-15 deal Thursday was apparently timed to coincide with major Iranian naval maneuvers in the Persian Gulf.

These are widely seen as a warning by Tehran it will seek to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the only way in and out of the gulf and a key oil artery, if the West imposes new sanctions to throttle Iraq's oil exports.

The $63 billion, 10-year US arms package for Saudi Arabia, which includes helicopters, missiles, precision-guided munitions and tanks, was unveiled in 2007 and is now kicking in.

The sales to the gulf monarchies, along with a projected arms deal with Iraq worth $11 billion, are intended to underline the Americans' commitment to protect the region's Arab oil states from Iran as it allegedly strives to develop nuclear weapons.

The US withdrawal from Iraq, which was completed a couple of weeks ago, has alarmed the Saudis and their partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The gulf monarchies' concern was heightened by the way the administration of US President Barack Obama abandoned one of the Americans' staunchest Arab allies, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

Mubarak was driven from office by unprecedented street protests in February in the early phase of the political upheavals that have convulsed the Arab world since January 2011.

Saudi Arabia is Iran's archrival in the gulf region. The kingdom, like the other GCC states, is dominated by Sunni Muslims, the main Muslim sect. Iran is controlled by the breakaway Shiite sect. The two have been locked in a religious feud since the seventh century.

Tensions between the two camps in the gulf have been rising steadily in recent years.

The Obama administration recently accused Iran's Revolutionary Guards of involvement in a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, a charge Tehran denies.

Saudi Arabia has the largest military forces in the region. But like its GCC partners, has little or no combat experience.

These states, particularly the United Arab Emirates, are heavily reliant on foreign technicians to keep their complex weapons systems functioning -- and have even had to depend on Pakistani pilots to man their frontline squadrons in the past because of manpower problems.

The United Arab Emirates has in recent years built up a formidable air force with considerable striking power.

Military analysts in the gulf say the emirates, dominated by economic powerhouse Abu Dhabi, has signed contracts for military hardware totaling $35 billion-$40 billion, mostly with the United States and France.

US officials reported Thursday Abu Dhabi has signed a $3.59 billion deal with the Lockheed Martin Corp. to buy Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile interceptors capable of shooting down, short-, medium- and long-range ballistic weapons, such as Iran's Shehab-3b and Sejjil-2 systems.

The officials said the contract, involving 96 interceptors rather than the 144 originally envisioned when the project was first mooted in 2008, is likely to be formally announced next week.

THAAD will form the core of a regional missile defense shield the Obama administration plans to deploy across the region.

The GCC's defense chiefs agreed years ago to develop an integrated early warning system but dynastic rivalries have prevented progress. The Emirates is the first foreign buyer of THAAD. Saudi Arabia is reported to be interested in the system as well.

Kuwait has signed a contract for upgrading its Raytheon Patriot missile defense systems, which are designed to counter low-level threats, to PAC-3 standard. All told, tiny Kuwait is expected to spend $7 billion on US weapons systems over the next few years.

The sultanate of Oman, which shares control of the Strait of Hormuz with Iran, is slated to spend $12 billion on 18 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D jets and installing new command-and-control centers.

Copyright 2011, United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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