By Rannie Amiri
Special to Palestinechronicle.com
Sometimes a foreign policy gambit is anticipated to be so successful there is no need to keep it secret. In fact, it can be made public. Such was the case when the United States announced multi-billion dollar military assistance packages to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt this week. Lest anyone think the United States plan for the greater Middle East has failed, this arms deal makes it clear just how much of the region is firmly under their control. And thanks to venal Arab regimes, it has been a task made easy.
The proposal would provide Saudi Arabia and the five other nations comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council (Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and United Arab Emirates) with $20 billion worth of arms over the next ten years while upgrading their existing military equipment. Not to be outdone (and to make sure it gets through Congress), Israel will be guaranteed $30 billion over the next decade, a full 25% increase in the amount they normally receive. Egypt will also garner $13 billion. According to Secretaries Rice and Gates, one reason for the aid packages will be to bolster Sunni Arab governments to counter Iran’s perceived expanding influence. Before embarking on a tour to the area, they claimed mobilizing support for the current Iraqi leadership among these countries will be an additional priority.
Except these two objectives are in complete contradiction to one another.
Among all Mideast nations, Saudi Arabia has done the most to undermine Iraq’s security. Although al-Qaeda’s influence and numbers in the country are overblown, American intelligence estimates that half of the 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month come from Saudi Arabia. More significant though is the financial support they provide to extremist Iraqi Sunni factions seeking to topple the Maliki government. It is these groups which have generated the greatest sectarian strife and unrest in the country, primarily by carrying out spectacular mass bombings killing scores of civilians daily or through destruction of religious shrines. Even United Nations Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad (someone regarded by the ruling United Iraqi Alliance as having been too pro-Sunni when he was US ambassador) went out of his way in a recent New York Times op-ed to rebuke Saudi Arabia’s destabilizing actions.
If that is the case, why would the United States reward a country, whose king happens to be the only Mideast ruler who refuses to meet with Maliki, with a $20 billion arms deal?
Because they share a common goal: to see his government fall.
It is General Petraeus after all who is openly arming similar, if not the same, radical Sunni groups, nominally to fight al-Qaeda though more likely to turn their US weapons on Maliki and the United Iraqi Alliance later.
Saudi Arabia, under heavy pressure from the virulently anti-Shia Wahabi sect dominant there, regards another neighboring country under their control abhorrent. The United States meanwhile is being goaded by Israel and their apologists to attack Iran. Both then see merit in supporting groups inimical to Maliki and those sympathetic to Iran. The arms package facilitates this and strategically puts additional weapons at Iran’s backdoor.
And at what price, Iraq? According to a report just issued by the British relief agency Oxfam, one-third of all Iraqis are in immediate need of some form of emergency assistance; nearly one-third of all children are malnourished; 15% cannot afford to eat; 70% are without suitable water supplies and only 20% have adequate sanitation. In the sweltering Iraqi summer where temperatures can reach 120 F, electricity in Baghdad runs for only one hour daily. With Iraqis suffering as they are, the multi-billion GCC arms deal becomes revolting.
Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak will similarly be the recipient of a hefty supply of weaponry despite the undemocratic nature of his regime.
Since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981, Egypt still remains under an official state of emergency governed by Emergency Law. This allows for the random arrest and indefinite detention of anyone without trial or charge. Since assuming power and in direct violation of Egypt’s constitution, Mubarak has never appointed a vice president. Many believe this is because his son Gamal is being groomed to succeed him. Be it lopsided “elections,” Egypt’s atrocious human rights record or the routine jailing of political dissidents, Mubarak rightly earns the title of dictator.
Paying off someone with this sordid legacy becomes important however, if the United States wishes him to continue taking a soft line against Israel, a hard line against Iran and keep a watchful eye on Hamas in Gaza. Ironically it was Saddam Hussein who once said: “Hosni Mubarak is like a payphone. You deposit your money, and you get what you want in return.”
King Abdullah of Jordan is likely to get a slice of the pie as he serves many of the same functions as Mubarak. It is common knowledge that his father, the late King Hussein, was on the CIA payroll for decades.
The latest leaders to fall victim to the lure of money and power dispensed by the United States are Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
The most telling sign that the unelected government of President Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has been effectively bought and now takes its orders from George Bush and Ehud Olmert has been removal of the phrase “armed resistance” from Fatah’s platform. Unsurprisingly, this occurred shortly after Fatah’s expulsion from Gaza by Hamas and the promise of weapons from Bush and Olmert thereafter. The Electronic Intifada has helped expose the longtime collusion of Abbas’ former Gaza security chief Mahmoud Dahlan with the Israelis:
"Be certain that Yasser Arafat’s final days are numbered, but allow us to finish him off our way, not yours. And be sure as well that … the promises I made in front of President Bush, I will give my life to keep." – Excerpt from a letter written by Mahmoud Dahlan to Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, July 13, 2003.
No doubt a portion of the $30 billion allotted to Israel will help keep “moderates” like Abbas and Dahlan the corrupt, subservient figures they have proven themselves to be.
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s administration has likewise been hired by the United States, in this case to act against Hezbollah through extremist Sunni proxies as described in previous articles. Both Abbas and Siniora are being used to divide their people, rendering Palestine and Lebanon weak states. Bringing the two into the fold has been a coup and cause for celebration at the State Department.
The gains being made in the Middle East by the United States and Israel are staggering. With few exceptions, the conquest of the region proceeds unabated thanks to the complicity of its servile rulers. The kings, emirs, princes, dictators and despots that constitute the Arab kleptocracies are selling themselves and their people for a measly price.
Gone is Iraq, the cradle of civilization, whose citizens are starving while billions of dollars in US weapons pour into neighboring countries actively abetting its collapse. Gone soon too will be Palestine, already divided between itself, and the right of its people to resist a cruel occupation. To the north, “civil war” has again entered the Lebanese lexicon.
-Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on the Arab and Islamic worlds.