Avid Editor's Insights

Uh oh… US weapons sales to Arab countries ‘will alter the military balance in the region’

Posted by avideditor on January 4, 2010

Haaretz has a deeply disturbing report on recent sales of American weapons to other countries in the region, principally Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Of particular concern are the sale of offensive weapons to the Egyptians that could potentially be used against Israel, and the fact that there have been no arms sales to Israel since the Obama administration took office. In a report to Congress, the Pentagon notes that some of the arms sales ‘will alter the military balance in the region.’

Israel’s defense establishment began to be concerned by U.S. arms sales to moderate Arab states during George W. Bush’s presidency. In response to criticism the U.S. has argued that providing Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries with arms is part of Washington’s efforts to boost the moderate axis in the Middle East and to deter Iran.

Senior Israeli and U.S. officials have said that Israel has been informed about the arms deals.

One of the deals troubling Israel was the sale to Egypt of four batteries of Harpoon Block II anti-ship cruise missiles, in a deal worth $145 million and containing 20 missiles. The Harpoon II is an advanced, accurate missile, capable of overcoming the countermeasures and electronic warfare suites generally available for defense.

The U.S. also sold Egypt four fast missile boats in a deal worth $1.29 billion. The U.S administration said the Egyptian navy needs the boats in order to better defend access to the Suez Canal.

Another deal with Egypt, this one to bolster the country’s air force, included 450 Hellfire antitank missiles. These missiles are usually launched from Apache attack helicopters. “Egypt needs these missiles in order to protect its borders,” the Pentagon explained in its report to Congress. “Restrictions on the use and transfer of the missiles will be part of the deal,” according to the Pentagon.

The U.S. will also sell Cairo 156 jet engines for F-16 jets, valued at $750 million, in the wake of a deal in October for the sale of 24 F-16 C/D fighter aircraft equipped with electronic warfare suites. The total value of the F-16 deal is estimated at $3 billion.

Read the whole thing. At the end of the day, restrictions on use and transfer are pieces of paper that can be torn up whenever the Egyptians don’t like. Surely you don’t believe that the United States would come and try to repossess its missiles (or that it could do so even if it wanted to).

Egypt is a repressive regime that continues to reap rewards for a peace treaty it signed thirty years ago while holding the other party to that peace treaty at arms length or worse. One cannot escape the sense that the Egyptian regime is lying in wait, still hoping one day to destroy the Jewish state. In all of its war exercises, the enemy is Israel.

What could go wrong?

3 Responses to “Uh oh… US weapons sales to Arab countries ‘will alter the military balance in the region’”

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