Foreign Affairs

Don’t Sell to Saudis

I don’t know all the details, but it does not matter; the deal the United States made this week with Saudi Arabia was a bad move. When I heard that the Bush Administration planned to sell $20 billion worth of weapons to the Saudis I thought it was a mistake.  I thought there is no way that our President would knowingly allow Saudis to further their arms collection for a few dollars. These being the same Saudis who have been undermining the work of Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki; these being the same Saudis who perhaps harvested the very terrorists who attacked American civilians on September 11, 2001; and these being the same Saudis who are supporting Hamas in Gaza, and blocking the American peace plan for Israel and Palestinian.
 
I know. I know. Saudi Arabia is an ally, a friend of ours for decades! Selling and transferring arms is definitely not a new thing; in fact we’ve been doing it for years now. So what’s the big deal? Well, the fact is that the Saudi government has been falling short on their end of the bargain for quite awhile now. And until they shut down the movement of terrorists across their borders, participate more seriously in regional security, and help stabilize the Iraqi government, they should not be offered weapons. It’s one thing to give them billions for oil; it’s another to give them bombs for billions.

Arms sales of this quantity require Congressional approval, which thankfully, will not be easy for the proponents of this deal. In fact, Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner plans to introduce a resolution to block the deal, and claims there will be broad support for his bill. He told the Washington Post, “The reputation of the Saudis has taken quite a beating since 9/11.” “And despite the fact that the administration has done everything to portray them as part of the moderate Arab world, members of Congress from both parties are increasingly skeptical.”

It is plans like this that make me get down on my knees and thank the good Lord for making the Founding Fathers so brilliant. The checks and balances they created often prevent disastrous actions from ever occurring. This is one of the times when you just hope enough people check the powers that be and balance them out by dissenting. And yes, that means you and me as well. This is a perfect example of why a democracy needs its citizens to be involved; and why a democracy needs the freedom of press and the freedom of speech. For without knowledge of this situation, none of us would even know to do anything. But now that we know — now that we know our country will be selling billions of dollars to a potentially dangerous country — we must speak out against it.  

A deal like this, though, is always a bit more complicated than it appears. And this one is no different. American lawmakers have to consider that Saudi Arabia is the largest exporter of petroleum in the world. Of course they will always want our money, but if we use too much stick and not enough carrot, we risk dealing with an angry oil dealer. And that, my friends, would not be a good thing. Furthermore, we have to realize that stability in the Middle East is partly dependent on the Saudi’s ability to remain strong, vital, and influential. Without enough quality arms, they lose power over Iran. But by gaining new weaponry, they might be inviting Iran to build up its nuclear strength. A case in point is reports that Russia plans to sell 250 advanced long-range Sukhoi-30 fighter jets to Iran in an unprecedented billion-dollar deal. In addition to the fighter jets, Teheran also plans to purchase a number of aerial fuel tankers that are compatible with the Sukhoi and capable of extending its range by thousands of kilometers.  This sale would grant Iran long-range offensive capabilities.  So while we are arming the Saudis, Russia is busy arming Iran.  

The cold war may be over, but both the arms race and the push to control foreign sources of oil are apparently still quite hot.  In the name of stability, both the US and Russia are still arming regional, potentially rogue powers in the name of positioning and energy.  If this type of global power playing hasn’t boded well for us in the past, why should we expect different results now?  Isn’t that what got us into this mess in the middle-east in the first place?  For example, up until September 11, 2001 the U.S. supplied the Taliban with funds in exchange for the ability to build an oil pipe-line through Afghanistan.  We armed and trained Sadam because it seemed economically expedient at the time, but to date, the war to remove him and re-stabilize the region has cost us many times more than it has benefited us.

Economic “One-upmanship” and jockeying for control of outside sources of oil should not come at the expense of our long term safety.  Our addiction to fossil fuels is breaking our resolve, and is weakening our ability to punish those who would seek to hurt us.  If our dependency on foreign oil continues to lead us to make such potentially dangerous concessions, where will we be wasting American lives and resources next?

This is a complicated situation, but is the answer arming the Saudis with billions in bombs and artillery?


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