Saturday, August 04, 2007

Aqoul Commentary -- Mideast Arms Buildup

This admission sounds odd coming from me, the essectial pacifist, but the administration's recently-announced massive weapons sales to all our allies in the Middle East is not the undiluted evil that it appears to be at first glance. None of my readers will ever accuse me of promoting armed conflict, but in this case an arms buildup can be compared with setting a backfire and digging a fireline to stop the progress of a forest fire. As the old saying says, we are fighting fire with fire. Like the mental patient said, I may be crazy but I'm not stupid.

This post at Aqoul, Weapons for Everyone, and the comments thread is worth reading in full (so's not to late for the comments to go off the deep end, but at the moment they are keeping on track).

As you might already have read, the United States has announced a massive arms package covering Israel, Egypt, and the Gulf countries. Guardian columnist Brian Whitaker, a Middle East expert, believes the deal is a bad idea, as it will inflame Sunni-Shia tensions throughout the region. While I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Whitaker, I must respectfully disagree with him and say I consider the deal a good idea overall.

First off, there is no denying that Saudi Arabia and Egypt have poor human rights records, and discriminate against their native Shia populations. Egypt, like Jordan, is scared of the growing influence of Iran, and has been reacting to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appeals to the Arab street by speaking increasingly of evil Shias, albeit without explicitly connecting them to Iran. Both countries feel threatened by Iranian policies. The problem is that unless they can find a way to channel this into something less unpopular at home than criticism of Tehran's nuclear policy, they are likely to continue to demonize their minuscule Shia minorities. Whether or not they receive aid will not change this underlying problem, and therefore will not make a large difference to the way they treat Shias.

That having been said, Egypt faces no direct military threat from Iran....

Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states are a different story, however....I disagree with Mr. Whitaker when he says Saudi Arabia is more concerned about keeping its Shias down than with countering Iran. Not only because the little anecdotal evidence I have come across suggests discrimination against Shias is actually lessening, but also because Saudi foreign policy over the past few years has focused more on Iran than anything else.....

Militarily, the Gulf countries do face a real threat from Iran. Because of their small size, they are extremely vulnerable to an Iranian attack....

The beauty of this deal lies in how it supplies all of America's allies with arms at the same time, thereby maintaining their relative positions to one another. By doing so, it avoids a lengthy fight in Congress about Israel's security if the Gulf countries are armed...and makes sure no two American allies in the region need be involved in an arms race.

This is a compelling string of arguments, not just a stream of angry rhetoric. Interested readers with patience can read it in full. Aqoul comes across as a bunch of crackpots, but collectively so does the US Senate.

The Whitaker piece, linked above, is short and sweet, but the comments thread (now closed) is a meandering thicket of mostly spitwads. I don't have the time or energy to plow through it all, but scanning it the feisty rejoinders of tehrankid77 made some interesting points.

I also liked this: May I introduce Ceredig's law? Analogous to Godwin's.
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of an American moron claiming to have saved 'your sorry British asses' in WWII approaches one.


Anonymous said...

I don't see anyone decrying about Russia or China's arm sales or what have to Iran.

serendip said...

BTW, Tehrankid77 is on the IR's payroll. Here is a study on the contents of Iranian school children's textbooks:

tehrankid77 said...

Serendip, i have no idea where you got this idea that i am on the IR payroll? do you know me, have you met me? fyi, i am on noones payroll, i work 40 hours a week and damn hard for my monthly salary, pay a mortgage like everyone else, have over 15 other DD to pay each and every month.ok

tehrankid77, london, uk