An emerging unholy alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US is a key driver behind potentially the biggest arms deal in US history
It is ironic United States President Barack Obama, 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, stands poised to preside over the sale of up to US$60 billion worth of 'sophisticated weaponry' - a bland euphemism for some of the most efficient killing machinery ever devised - to Saudi Arabia.
So much for America’s continued perception of itself as advancing the cause of democracy and human rights in this region. True, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have backed away somewhat from making this an explicit foreign policy goal in the Middle East, but this duo have never been slow to castigate less strategically important regimes for alleged shortcomings in governance and human rights.
The Saudi monarchy ranks as one of the most authoritarian, not to mention misogynist, regimes on the planet. Public beheadings are still routine practice (over half of those executed are foreigners from developing countries), physical and sexual abuse of South Asian maids is rampant and it is the only country in the world where women are not yet allowed to drive. And for those who have forgotten, it was the House of Saud that for years promulgated the extremist Wahhabist ideology that at least partly inspired the September 11 hijackers – 15 of whom originally hailed from this desert kingdom.
So what is behind quite possibly the largest ever single arms deal in United States history? A major driver is the emerging unholy alliance between Washington, Tel Aviv and Riyadh, which seeks to thwart Iran's growing influence in the region, itself a result of Washington’s foreign policy misadventures under Bush. It is even rumoured that the Saudis have given the green light for Israeli jets to fly over their airspace, in the event the Israelis decide to bomb Iran (though of course this is not something the custodian of Islam’s holiest sites would ever admit to in public).
On the Arab street and across much of the wider Muslim world, the ruling Saudi royal family is despised, and rightly so. Americans' continued untrammelled support for this repressive regime is a sore that fuels anti-American sentiment and undermines genuine efforts at diffusing tensions in the region. It is also surely just a matter of time before this policy manifests yet again in some form of ‘blowback’.
Of course, Obama’s scramble to sell weapons to the Saudis is also about profits (and jobs) for the American military-industrial complex, amid fears that rival European arms manufacturers are gaining ground. The White House is reportedly to stress that an estimated 75,000 jobs in companies such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and General Electric will be protected if the deal goes through.
Obama is increasingly turning out to be America’s version of Tony Blair, who is currently using his penchant for double-speak and chicanery to promote his autobiography around the world. So much for Obama’s much-touted pre-election mantra, ‘change we can believe in’. Sadly, it is a continuation of more of the same.