Saudi Arabia | It's Complicated!
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates trip to the Middle East and the subsequent and substantial $63 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and a handful of smaller Arab states has drawn considerable criticism back home from Presidential hopefuls (Edwards | Obama) and other media-starlets as an act of incompetent short-term'ism and foolhardiness. Once again the Bush administration fails to explain purpose, background or legitimacy for such business enterprise and the overall response from observers is, therefore, once again negative.
Why does the Whitehouse have such a crappy and incompetent communications office? Even if the Whitehouse Spokesperson, Tony Snow, stood on the podium and said, "It's complicated!'. How difficult would that be?
Of the $63 billion in arms, a reportedly large chunk - $20 billion - is singled out for Saudi Arabia. Whilst $20 billion is a considerable weapons deal for one nation - past purchase record of arms deals with Saudi's - dating back to 1992 - show a healthy and consistent arms trade relationship between the U.S. and the 'House of Saud' that publicly accounts for more than $56 billion since 1992 - which is approximately $3.5 billion a year in lovely military hardware, consulting services and camouflaged table napkins.
Obama, like Edwards a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, said Israel's security was "paramount" in considering such a sale, and added: "We should not believe arms sales will be a replacement for the hard diplomatic slog we've got to go through in the region in order to not only stabilize Iraq, but to make sure Iran and Syria and other countries that historically have been hostile to us aren't getting stronger."
Clearly Obama believes diplomacy is the core solution for Middle East peace - which is admirable, honest, and a much needed contrast to the NeoCon military wet dream current pursued by the Bush/Cheney crew but a wee bit naive. It appears an unfortunate reality but the Middle East has become the ColdWar theatre for Russia's multi-polar vision and Putin's desire to destablize and weakness America's dominant position in the region. Does Obama recognize Russia as the leading arms supplier to Iran, Syria and 'other countries that historically have been hostile to us' and are getting stronger!?
The insanely high price of oil can legitimately be blamed, in part, on Bush's lack of vision, a lack of stones, or worse yet - an agenda in line with the global oil corporations. Of course the rapid economic ascent of China, India and other emerging economic giants with exponential oil demands has hardly helped but the U.S. military jaunt in Iraq certainly does not help to lower the price of oil.
$80 oil is making the enemies of the West, Iran, Syria, Venezuela included, rich. Putin has made a parle with this rogue nations and has become their arms dealer as a result.
Saudi Arabia and other Sunni muslim nations are deeply suspicious, and rightly so, of Shiite Iran and their distrust is eased by the spiraling arms race supported by the U.S. and thoroughly enjoyed by Russia's President Putin. Putin is in a win-win. As Russia becomes one of, if not the largest, oil exporter in the world - the price of energy is turning Russia into an economic super-power. As the middle east continues the weaponry version of 'keeping up with the Jones's' Russia both enjoys influence and satisfaction at the ire and continued weakness of American influence in this troubled hotspot.
To throw an additional jab into the Bush administration's ribs, Putin visited this week with former U.S. ambassador for Saudi Arabia, and now Secretary General of the Saudi National Security Council Prince Bandar bin Sultan. As Putin rarely travels abroad without a few glossy weapons brochures, you can be sure the topic came into discussion. How would that affect the mix? Putin out to nix U.S. weapons deals or simply present himself as a smiling alternative source?
Luckily perhaps for Bush, Prince Bandar, or 'Bandar Bush' as his close Bush family friends have nicknamed him, remains a pro-Western and wholly moderate member of the Saudi family that continues to rule unabashedly over the oil-rich and otherwise distinctly conservative nation.
It is no surprise then that Israel has accepted the U.S.'s arms deal with the Saudis with not so much as a quiet 'ho hum' even. The threat of Iran on Israel, the Middle East, and therefore Saudi Arabia is seen as a blessing perhaps and a incentive for the continuation of peace talks with any and all Arab nations willing to stand up to the Shiite threat whether real or perceived.
Saudi Arabia has already declared its obligation to defend Sunni interests inside Iraq should and when the United States depart the Iraq debacle under growing home-based political and social unhappiness. Such actions by the Saudi's would be an immediate threat to Iran and its own greedy ambitions for a Shia Islamic state inside Iraq.
So perhaps the one saving grace of the whole Middle East disaster is the bringing together, potentially of fair-play Arab nations and a gingerly open-minded Israel - with one common distrust and loathing of Iran's ambitions and regional power-play.
There is one winner in the whole game - and it appears to be Russia.