The United States should not be sending $60 billion of sophisticated weaponry to Saudi Arabia’s air force.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced its intention to sell F-15 jet fighters and Black Hawk and Apache helicopters to the Saudi kingdom, as well as to upgrade its entire air fleet.
This would mark the largest arms sale ever consummated by the United States. And the Pentagon is considering additional sales to other Gulf states.
The new top-of-the-line weapons would prepare Saudi Arabia and its neighbors to confront Iran, should Israel or the United States decide to launch an air assault on Tehran’s nuclear installations.
This spectacular arms transaction is likely to be approved soon by Congress, since animosity toward the Iranian regime runs high.
But there are strong moral and strategic reasons why Congress should not authorize this sale.
A pre-emptive attack on Iran would destabilize the region. Iran would likely retaliate against Washington’s allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia and Israel.
World oil prices could skyrocket, rattling the global economy even further.
But even if there were no attack against Iran, the U.S. sale would be unwise. It would fuel Muslim resentment against Washington’s expanding military presence in the region.
Plus, Iran is the world’s largest Shiite country. When the United States sides with Sunni-dominated countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, it enrages their Shiite minorities.
Lastly, the timing of this arms flood on the region threatens the climate for peace. As the Palestinian-Israeli talks are just starting to raise hopes, this sale creates the impression that the United States is more interested in regional war than in peace.
The last thing the Middle East needs is more arms.
Ghassan Michel Rubeiz, a social scientist and political commentator, is the former secretary of the Middle East for the Geneva-based World Council of Churches. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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