16 September 2010

Saudis to buy $60 billion in armaments from the U.S.

Here's the announcement in the Washington Post:
The Obama administration is seeking to sell Saudi Arabia advanced aircraft worth up to $60 billion in what Pentagon officials say would be the largest-ever single foreign arms deal.  A senior Defense Department official said the administration is prepared to authorize the sale to the Saudis of as many as 84 new F-15 fighter jets and three types of helicopters: 70 upgraded F-15s, 70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks and 36 Little Birds.

"This gives [the Saudis] a whole host of defense capabilities to defend the kingdom," said the official...

According to the military, Boeing - maker of the F-15, the Apaches and the Little Birds - has estimated that the purchase would involve 77,000 direct and indirect jobs in 44 states. Some of those would be jobs that would be kept, but an unspecified number of new jobs would also be generated, officials said...

Defense industry analysts said the sale of the aircraft is a key to U.S. efforts to boost support from Arab allies against Iran.
And here are excerpts from some insightful commentary at Al Jazeera:
Ignoring the fact that miltary aircraft (which form the bulk of the deal as we know it) are prettty much useless against a nuclear missile, especially one that does not exist, $60bn buys a mind boggling amount of firepower, so that must mean that Saudi Arabia's military capacity right now is woefully insufficent compared to Iran's, right?

Er, no.

Saudi military spending already dwarfs Iran's by a factor of six. Indeed, by head of population, Saudi is the world's biggest purchaser of military hardware.

Global Firepower has a direct comparison of the two nations' military strengths, and it turns out that Iran's military is only superior in terms of manpower numbers...

But when it comes to "air-based weapons", Global Firepower puts the relative numbers (before this deal) at Saudi 453, Iran 84. (Bear in mind also that Iran's aircraft are widely described as museum pieces by military analysts, because the sanctions mean that Iran has no access to spare parts or modern technology).

So why does Saudi need 84 new F-15 fighter jets, 70 upgraded F-15s, 70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks and 36 "Little Birds", just to fight a land army?

And when you consider the reality that Saudi has the full support of all the US military bases in the region, the suggestion that Riyadh has something to fear from Tehran is laughable...

... then what is really going on?  Well, with America suffering it's worst recession in 60 years, the biggest arms contract ever signed would certainly be a welcome boost to earnings in the military industrial sector.
Then this, from The Guardian:
While Israel sees Saudi Arabia as a useful buttress against Iran, there is a fear in Tel Aviv that a rogue Saudi pilot might opt for a suicide mission against Israel. The Israeli air force want to maintain an advantage.
So I agree with the Al Jazeera columnist:
So Washington will probably be announcing another big arms sale soon, this time to Israel.
I am so f**king fed up with seeing the world economy running on the basis of arms sales.


  1. Nice analysis of the situation. Yeah, it doesn't make me sleep any better at night either.

  2. Remembering of course what Washington never seems to want to: 19 of the 20 9/11 suicide bombers were from Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia contains many fundamentalist Muslim sects, as well as a repressive government.

    So what do we Americans do? Sell 'em arms! Seems like this sort of thing has played out once or twice in history, and not in a good way.

    I suppose it just means more money for war when we decide we need to take down our ex-"allies"

  3. Disagreed on the Iran point. They DO have access to technology, they just have to work harder through intermediaries to get it. Hello, Iran/Contra? Not-hearing about it doesn't mean it's not happening.

    Re: Israel - the very reason they get such a idiotically huge chunk of our foreign aid is because they turn around and spend (most of) it on OUR weapons. I doubt we'll be assembling an additional sale on top of that, particularly under their current gov't.

    This is decent assessment of the Israeli POV regarding Saudi Arabia


  4. So giving aid to Israel so they can spend it on our weapons is just a way to disguise corporate welfare.

  5. I suppose all the Americans who feel unfavourably towards Islam, who oppose the NY mosque etc. and are so pro-freedom etc. wouldn't be so hypocritical as to support this sale to one of the most extremist, repressive, human-rights-abusing countries in the world? Right?

  6. A cynic could say its a way of circulating the money given to them as oil revenue. Its also a way of ensuring jobs at defence plants across the US. Social security in another guise.


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