Good Question: Why Sell Saudi Arabia $20 Billion in Arms Now?

[While we’re on the subject of blowing taxpayer dollars:]

US Army Col (Ret) Daniel Smith asks some very provocative questions in a recent article on Foreign Policy In Focus:

The “headline-grabber” read: “U.S. Plans New Arms Sales to Gulf Allies.”

Nothing startling there. For decades the United States has routinely sold or transferred weapons and ammunition, sent military teams abroad or brought foreign military personnel to the United States for training, and transferred technology that allowed “friendly” governments to produce almost state-of-the-art copies of U.S. weapons.

What was a surprise were two details in the article’s subheading. The main recipient of Uncle Sam’s largesse was Saudi Arabia, and the value of the deal was said to be $20 billion.

Saudi Arabia? Isn’t that the country:



  • from which came 15 of the 19 men responsible for 9/11?

  • that opposed the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and whose king, in March 2007, called the invasion an “illegal occupation”?

  • that told the United States to remove its troops and find some other country for U.S. Central Command’s (CENTCOM) forward command post?

  • whose border is so poorly monitored that 75% of all foreign fighters crossing into Iraq do so from Saudi territory, far more than from Syria?

  • whose autocratic government either will not or cannot prevent its youth from going to Iraq – an estimated 40% of all foreigners fighting U.S. troops and Iraqi government forces are Saudi nationals – where they become bomb makers, snipers, and suicide bombers?

  • that nearly 60 years after the creation of the modern state of Israel still refuses to extend diplomatic recognition to Tel Aviv?


It’s hard to argue that they’re anything more than fair-weather friends, and while the Saudis are either barely supporting US actions in the region or are quietly or not so quietly subverting US efforts there, you have to wonder what sort of cerebral ischemic event has led the Bush administration to want to sell them $20 Billions of advanced weapons.  More importantly, Col. Smith asks, why now?

In a word, leverage:

But looking at the Saudi record and Riyadh’s increasing propensity to act in its interests without coordinating with Washington, there is the suggestion that the Bush administration is suddenly wary of its “other” flank in the Persian Gulf – the one occupied by the Saudi-dominated six-member Gulf Cooperation Council. Militarily overcommitted in mid-summer 2007, the White House has only two cards to play: pump up fear of Iran acquiring enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear weapon, or bribe the regional allies.

That’s a mighty big bone to toss to a mighty big dog.  Since there’s much profit to be had, the sale will likely fly through Congress.  The real question is, once the weapons are in the hands of the Saudis, what then?  If recent history is any barometer, we’ll probably see that many of these weapons will wind up in the hands of enemy forces as we are now seeing in Iraq.

9 thoughts on “Good Question: Why Sell Saudi Arabia $20 Billion in Arms Now?

  1. Well, it’s not like “money owns the world” is anything new. It’s well-known that the american politicians are nothing but a tool and a means to the ends of the arms and oil industries.

    Thanks for yet another display and proof of how blatantly obvious that is though.

  2. whose autocratic government either will not or cannot prevent its youth from going to Iraq – an estimated 40% of all foreigners fighting U.S. troops and Iraqi government forces are Saudi nationals – where they become bomb makers, snipers, and suicide bombers?

    Perhaps it’s to remove the excuse of incompetence in the eyes of the public, but I doubt that because
    – there probably wouldn’t be a direct openly public decloration of a weapons trade (unless this release is delibereately engineered to take blame away from the US for border control)
    – and it’s highly unlikely the US will be looking for excuses to get angry with saudi incompetence as a case for another invasion (in part because saudi is lower priority than iran to the public)

    Perhaps someone in the US system want’s to discourage an eventual invasion of saudi if there will be a systematic takeover of the middle east? (though unlikely the rampage’ll spread anyway given the aproach of new leadership) Perhaps an organization had a vested interest (economic/political) in extending the iraq war by indirectly supplying insurgents?
    Perhaps it’s to put more regional influence in the hands of the lesser evil for after the eventual pullout?

    Or just pure profit for an influential organization that doesn’t pay much towards the war (of it’s own pockets)

  3. Nah, most of the stuff they’ll be selling the Saudis and the other Gulf states won’t be stuff easily usable by insurgents in Iraq.  It will be warships, armoured vehicles, and combat aircraft.  The insurgents want small arms and explosives, not GPS guided air to surface missiles.  And its pretty much a given that a lot of what is driving this sale is sheer business.  If US firms don’t sell the Saudis this stuff they’ll buy from the UK and France.  For example they’ve currently got a contract to buy 72 Eurofighter Typhoons from the UK and its fellow Eurofighter partners.  Ironically one of the beneficiaries of more US arms sales to the Saudis is the US military, as the Saudi sales will increase the numbers produced of certain weapons, keeping the cost per unit down and keeping the production line running longer in case the US decides it needs more of them at a later date.

  4. I’ve always thought it should be possible to make the weapons we sell satellite-enabled, from anti-aircraft rockets on up.  Every year they get a signal from a satellite that enables another year’s operability.  If the buyer pisses us off, no signal.

  5. Mechanism controlling use could it be disabled/disconnected though? Would be handy though, and increases the control of the supplier over the buyer, but that might be a turn-off. If the signals were continuous and if they had to relay information back, they would be a giveaway of position, and could be potentially jammed (whether or not they had to respond), but I think the uplink would need to be fairly regular anyway because otherwise there would be a fair time period of unauthorised use.

    Satelites might be shot down though by nations capable of long-range rocketry…

  6. I don’t mean an enabling mechanism that could be bypassed, but something inherent in the brains of the thing that would self-scramble if the right code weren’t received in a given time period.

    Yes, a year is a long time so maybe it could be changed or presumably we could send an active signal that would scramble the device, or even detonate it where it was.  At minimum it would make for a really cool episode of “Mission: Impossible!”

    “Good evening Jim.  The secret codes to deactivate all US weapons has been stolen by a shadowy faction of Al Jihadddddddish.  This man, Abdul Badguy, is believed responsible.  Your mission, which you must accept or the plot will totally break down, is to recover the codes and expose Badguy as a total meglowannabe to his followers.  This tape will… wait a minute, we don’t use “tape” anymore!  This file will self-encrypt in fifteen seconds”

    Jim thinks; “Damn, it was more fun when smoke came out of the tape recorder”

  7. “Damn, it was more fun when smoke came out of the tape recorder”

    In this clip, animated dubya mistakes a vcr for a toaster

  8. David Gerrold’s War Against the Chtorr series has such a scenerio.  A southern coastal invasion of the US comes to an abrupt stop when we let our secret out of the bag—all American made weaponry comes with a disable code in the firmware.

    Can’t say as I buy the plausibility of the scenerio, but it fits well into the world he constructs.

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