Military officer tells New York Times quotes sale of advanced fighter jets, choppers aimed at helping Mideast allies 'create their own containment shield against Iran.' Some members of Congress fear Saudi deal will erode Israel’s military edge
WASHINGTON - US administration and Pentagon officials told the New York Times Friday President Barak Obama is preparing to seek Congressional approval for a huge arms sale to Saudi Arabia, "mainly intended as a building block for Middle East regional defenses to box in Iran."
According to the NYT report, the key element of the sale would be scores of new F-15 combat aircraft, along with more than 175 attack and troop-transport helicopters and, if subsequent negotiations are successful, ships and antimissile defenses.
NYT said the deal has been put together "in quiet consultations with Israel, which has sought assurances that it will retain its technological edge over Saudi forces, even as Saudi Arabia improves its ability to face down a shared rival, the Iranians."
A senior Obama administration official told NYT, “We want Iran to understand that its nuclear program is not getting them leverage over their neighbors, that they are not getting an advantage.”
“We want the Iranians to know that every time they think they will gain, they will actually lose,” the official said.
According to NYT, when the arms sale plan is formally sent to Congress, that will start a 30-day clock for it to consider the issue. "There is little question it will go forward — the administration is already talking about how many jobs it will create in Congressional districts around the country — but several members of Congress have already expressed reservations about whether it would erode Israel’s military edge," the report said.
In a letter to Obama, Representatives Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Shelley Berkley (D-Nevada) and Christopher P. Carney (D - PA) wrote, "We are writing to express our deep opposition to the proposed sale of high technology armaments to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
"Saudi Arabia has not behaved like an ally of the United States. Despite repeated claims from Saudi officials since 2003 that current Saudi textbooks no longer include 'inappropriate' language, Saudi textbooks continue to use the same hateful and violent speech toward Jews, other non-Muslims, and women," the letter read.
"Furthermore, this deal would destabilize the region and undermine the security of Israel, our one true ally in the region."
'A way of deterring Iran'
The American daily said another gulf ally that serves as a "front line against Iran," the United Arab Emirates, has also purchased significant amounts of American weapons, in particular air-defense systems.
In the past, the report said, "Israel has often regarded those sales with suspicion. But in recent years, the standoff with Iran has changed the regional dynamics. Officials from Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates describe their perceptions of the threat from Iran in very similar terms."
NYT said that since entering office, Obama and his senior officials have hinted at "extending the American defense umbrella over much of the Persian Gulf, in hopes of preventing other states in the region, including the Saudi Arabia, from seeking nuclear arms of their own."
Pentagon officials were quoted by NYT as saying the purchase of American combat systems and related military support, including American trainers, would allow the US armed forces to operate seamlessly in the Gulf region.
“We are helping these allied and partner nations create their own containment shield against Iran,” an American military officer told NYT. “It is a way of deterring Iran, but helpful to us in so many other ways.”
- Yitzhak Benhorin
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