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Criticism of U.S.-Gulf Arms Deal in Gulf Press

By: I. Rapoport:Source Memri
The U.S. recently announced a series of arms deals, worth $20 billion, with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. The deals are part of steps aimed at countering Iran's regional policy in the Middle East.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary-General 'Abd Al-Rahman bin Hamed Al-Atiyya approved of the deals, saying: "The Gulf states have strong ties with the U.S., especially in the area of military cooperation... These deals are undoubtedly aimed at meeting the security requirements of the GCC states, which have every right to keep in step with advancing [military technology]. In my opinion, these deals by the GCC states do not constitute a threat to anyone, since [these states] are fully entitled [to make] such deals, just like any other [country] in the region."(1) The Gulf press, however, published articles criticizing the arms deals and U.S. policy in the Middle East. Columnists wrote that the Gulf states should not be squandering their funds on unnecessary weapons, and that the deals are aimed at promoting the interests of the U.S. rather than their own. These columns had a tone of appeasement vis-à-vis Iran, stressing that the Gulf states, while taking steps to arm themselves, were nevertheless interested in friendship with Iran, not military conflict. Saudi Arabia, while expressing unconditional support for the arms deals, warned the Gulf states not to trust Iran's intentions, on the grounds that, in light of Iran's imperialist aspirations, it was likely to use its weapons to attack the Gulf states.

The Gulf States Are Not Powerless Proxies of the U.S.

The editor of the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai, Jasem Boudi, wrote in an editorial that the arms deals serve no useful purpose, and criticized the U.S. for viewing the Gulf states as proxies to fight Iran on its behalf. He called for establishing an atmosphere of trust and stability in the region instead of building arsenals: "... In light of our painful experience with the New Middle East that the U.S. wants [to create], we must say that we have no wish to taste once again the [bitter] taste of war. We refuse to turn our lands into a launching pad for an attack on Iran, and we find it hard to believe that Iran will invade and occupy the Gulf states as part of its war with the 'Great Satan' [i.e. the U.S.]... These arms deals will be neither advantage nor deterrent. The alternative is, of course, [to create] an atmosphere of trust, security and stability [in the region]...

"The Gulf states are not cardboard [states] that lack sovereignty. They are not impotent and powerless lumps that [purchase] arms when America asks them to, and sit quietly when it asks them to. They do not lack the ability to understand policy and assess danger. They are certainly not [willing to serve as] the proxies, boxing gloves, or talons of other [countries]...

"Ultimately, our true interest is in security, stability, peaceful coexistence and neighborly relations with Iran... The war is an American plan; it is not the plan of [the countries in] the region. We hope that the people who came up with [this plan] understand that a military confrontation, should it occur, will be 'the mother of all earthquakes,' [felt] not only in the region but in other areas as well... Will America surprise us, for once, and listen to its allies, who advise it to be prudent in its handling of the region's issues? We hope it will, but we are not [particularly] hopeful."(2)

These Funds Should Be Used for Development, Not Armament

Kuwaiti MP Dr. 'Abd Al-Muhsin Yousef Jamal wrote in the Kuwaiti weekly Al-Tali'a: "The Gulf states must buy arms at full price, while Israel receives them as a gift from President Bush and [will continue to receive them] from his successors... Whenever oil prices go up, they immediately try to take [the money] out of [our] bank accounts, in any way that serves the [interests of] the American economy, even though we have no need to arm ourselves in this fashion. The most infuriating thing is that America [not only] sells us arms but also determines for us who our enemy should be!

"Since its liberation [from Iraqi occupation in 1991], Kuwait alone has paid over $10 billion to the U.S., and I do not know for whom this enormous arsenal is intended. Whom do we [intend to] fight? After all, Kuwait's international [policy] is based on good relations with other [countries]!

"...The U.S. has imposed strict conditions on arms [sold] to the Arabs. [These arms] must not be used against Israel, they must not be advanced, and they may only be kept in certain areas... I hope that the Gulf countries learn a lesson from this, and give first priority to the interests of their people and to their relations with their neighbors, before they begin enthusiastically purchasing arms that are of no use to them. These billions [should be used] to boost the economy, strengthen infrastructure, and promote the wellbeing of the [Gulf] peoples."(3)

The U.S. Should Treat the Gulf States Like Allies, Not Subordinates

Columnist Dr. Tareq Seif wrote in the UAE daily Al-Ittihad: "America's behavior in the Gulf raises an important question: Does its regional [policy] promote the joint interests of America and the countries in the region, or does it serve America's interests alone? In other words, is America treating the countries in the region as its friends and allies, or [is it treating them] as its subordinates, who must comply with its requests without objection or question, even to the detriment of their own vital interests?...

"The American administration did not consider the special character of the commercial, economic and financial relations between Iran and the Gulf states, nor did it consider the vital strategic interests of these countries when it adopted a policy of coercion towards Iran...

"In the long term, the American administration, headed by Bush, is creating mistrust and doubt in its relations with the countries of the region, and [raising doubts] as to the degree of [its commitment to] preserving the interests of its allies and friends. [America's policy also] highlights the inability of its intelligence apparatuses to assess the scope of the threat faced by the region...

"The American administration must reassess its relations with the Gulf states by placing its partnership with them on a more suitable footing... It must stop treating them as its subordinates who must comply with Washington's plans."(4)

The U.S. Seeks to Foment Crisis Between the Gulf States and Iran

Bahraini columnist Radhi Al-Sammak wrote in the Bahrain daily Akhbar Al-Khaleej that the U.S. had defined Iran as the enemy, and had imposed this position on the Gulf states while providing them with weapons that cannot deter the Iranian nuclear threat.

"Since the Gulf states [remained] completely silent, the U.S. allowed itself not only to announce the [arms] deal but to say, in the name of the GCC states, that the deal comes in response to Iran's growing military capabilities and to the so-called threat of its nuclear program aimed at manufacturing nuclear weapons...

But none of the GCC states [actually] made a clear statement regarding the nature of this deal and their part in it... and not one of these states justified the deal in terms of confronting the Iranian nuclear threat. [In fact], the GCC states all declare their friendship with Iran and their wish to develop their ties with it in various areas. Therefore, the statement made by America in the name of the GCC states smacks of a deliberate [attempt] to generate a crisis between these states and Iran - and the first to be harmed by this tension... is not the U.S. but the peoples of the Gulf... It is the intensive military presence of the U.S. in the Gulf which constitutes the real threat to the peoples and countries of the region...

"None of the [Gulf] states paused to consider the benefit of these costly deals... [considering that] the weapons [we purchased] cannot deter a nuclear [attack].

"Finally, there remains one embarrassing question regarding the deals: What is the [purpose] of all the American warships and aircraft carriers in the Gulf, if not to defend [the U.S.'s] allies? Which is the more effective deterrent... the massive [arsenal] of state-of-the art weapons deployed by the enormous American naval [force] in the Gulf, which has been rapidly growing throughout the last three decades - or the defensive weapons that [the U.S.] has charitably allowed the Gulf states to [purchase] at astronomical cost?..."(5)

The U.S. is Trying to Get Its Hands on the Gulf States' Capital

Columnist Hassan Al-'Attar wrote in Akhbar Al-Khalij: "The peace and quiet we desire... will not be achieved by building arsenals of weapons which have already proven to be useless, but by eliminating the factors that generated the atmosphere of insecurity and hostility [in the first place]... I believe that the reasons cited by [U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice were merely a cover for [the U.S.'s] real motivation [for the arms deal], which is to get back the large sums that the Gulf states received in the last four years due to the rise in oil prices. [This was done] by means of the American arms manufacturers, which are a central pillar of the American economy..."

"The American administration's current political steps in the Arab region are an attempt to involve the Gulf states, and some of the [other] Arab countries, in the conflict with Iran, even though these countries have declared, on a number of occasions, that they are against a military solution to the conflict, and that they object to America launching a military attack on Iran from their territories..."(6)

Saudi Arabia: The Gulf States Should Fear the Iranian Threat

In contrast to the criticism published in the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia expressed approval of the arms deal. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Sa'ud Al-Faisal stated that the deals were part of a comprehensive plan for the defense of the region, and stressed that his country is arming itself for defensive purposes only. "It is a well-known fact," he said, "that Saudi Arabia is a non-aggressive state, and it has a right to defend itself, especially in light of the dangers coming from every direction..."(7)

Saudi columnist Khaled Hamad Al-Suleiman wrote in the Saudi daily 'Okaz that the Gulf states needed to bolster their defense capabilities in order to establish a balance of deterrence in the region and to counter Iran's imperialist aspirations: "Iran is filling its arsenals with submarines, destroyers, missiles and [other] advanced weapons... and working day and night to manufacture a nuclear bomb - yet it has the nerve to criticize the Gulf states for [exercising] their right to strengthen their defense capabilities!!

"Iran... sticks its nose into everything that happens in the Arab world... and its fingerprints can be found wherever there is trouble in the Arab [world]. Yet it condemns the Gulf states for striving to improve their ability to defend themselves and their people in order to confront the dangers of this conflicted region, and [denies] their right to restore the regional balance [of power] which has been drastically upset...

"The Iranians should [try to] understand why the countries in the region have started to enhance their military capabilities, [instead of] objecting and trying to claim this right for themselves alone... It would be a mistake for the Gulf states to trust any Iranian assurances that its arsenals will not be used to subjugate the Gulf, or that its nuclear bomb will not threaten the Gulf - because Iran has had only one [goal] on its agenda since the [Islamic] Revolution - namely, to re-embrace imperialism."(8)

*I. Rapoport is a research fellow at MEMRI.

(1) Al-Raya (Qatar), August 11, 2007.
(2) Al-Rai (Kuwait), August 3, 2007.
(3) Al-Tali'a (Kuwait), August 1, 2007.
(4) Al-Ittihad (UAE), August 5, 2007.
(5) Akhbar Al-Khaleej (Bahrain), August 8, 2007.
(6) Akhbar Al-Khaleej (Bahrain), August 8, 2007.
(7) Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), August 9, 2007.
(8) 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), August 5, 2007.

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