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Washington Approves Massive Arms Deals for Arab States
A US Army Boeing AH-64E Apache helicopter. The State Department has approved the sale of eight of the helicopters to Kuwait. (Pacific Aviation Museum)

Washington Approves Massive Arms Deals for Arab States

Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are facing threats from Iran and regional instability, and are constantly strengthening their military systems, experts say

The US State Department has approved possible arms sales to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt worth a total of more than $4.8 billion.

The US Defense Department’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the prospective deals on Tuesday, giving lawmakers 30 days to block the sales if they wish.

Kuwait is approved to buy eight AH-64E Apache Longbow Attack Helicopters, equipment to upgrade 16 AH-64D Apache helicopters to the AH-64E version, and spare parts to upgrade its Patriot missile systems, for a total of $4.2 billion.

Hussein Jamal, a leading Kuwaiti writer and political analyst, told The Media Line the deals have been in the works for some time, but were rushed out now ahead of the change in the American administration in January.

“Kuwait has always felt threatened by its surroundings, as it’s located between the three largest countries in the region: Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran,” he said.

Kuwait needs defensive arms to protect itself in any scenario, and generally tries to diversify its purchases to avoid becoming dependent on any one country, “but the military doctrine in Kuwait has become closer to American weapons,” Jamal said. “Thus, the new Apache helicopters and other weapons come to complete the Kuwaiti defense system and air force.”

He said that there are no recent signs of concrete threats to Kuwait, but that the Arab region is unstable in terms of security. In such a region, a small country like Kuwait needs, at a minimum, to have excellent defense systems. “To that end, it should always be looking for unique weapons, and I believe that the Apache deal in particular comes in this context,” Jamal said.

Jamal added that Kuwait has no plans to initiate any kind of offensive operations whatsoever, which explains why most of its weapons are defensive in nature, “and most of the arms being bought are defensive as well. Let’s not forget that Kuwait was invaded by Iraq overnight in 1991, therefore Kuwait feels the necessity, despite the economic pressures, to make quality arms purchases like this one.”

Kuwait has always felt threatened by its surroundings, as it’s located between the three largest countries in the region: Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran

The Saudi deal is worth $290 million, for 3,000 Boeing-made GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I (SDB I) munitions and associated equipment.

Salman al-Ansari, founder and president of the Washington-based Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), told The Media Line that, unsurprisingly, the US and Saudi Arabia continue to support their defense partnership.

“The deal for precision-guided bombs, the GBU-39, is sure to have been under preparation for some time, since arms orders generally are,” Ansari said.

Accelerating its approval at this particular time might have strategic implications, especially in light of Iranian threats to US interests and the region, “particularly through its terrorist branches in Iraq and Yemen,” he explained.

It is important to remember that Saudi Arabia is the third-largest military spender in the world and the largest buyer of American weapons, Ansari said. This is yet another sign that Washington relies on Riyadh and considers it the “golden key” to the stability and security of the Middle East for combating terrorism.

Mohamed al-Qubiban, a Saudi strategic analyst and a retired major-general, told The Media Line that the Saudi armed forces, in all its branches, needs the arms to keep pace with developments made by the friendly American and British forces.

Qubiban added that Saudi Arabia needs the munitions in light of the conflict in Yemen that began six years ago, as well as other challenges, and threats to Saudi marine navigation.

“This [deal] strengthens the kingdom’s position in terms of security and economics, as well as the alliance between Riyadh and Washington,” he said.

The sale also sends a message to those questioning the Saudi-American alliance in light of the transition in the White House due in three weeks, “confirming that the relationship between the two countries is strategic, and not linked to specific persons. Therefore, it will not be shaken after the new American administration enters office,” Qubiban explained.

Saudi Arabia needs these arms, as the kingdom faces several threats, he said. “Iran and its forces carry out yearly military exercises in the Arab Gulf [aka the Persian Gulf], which reflects Tehran’s intransigence in threatening the countries of the region and marine navigation in the Red Sea,” he added, with the latter being a reference to attacks on ships by Iran-aligned Houthi forces based in Yemen.

“This is a clear message to everyone that Saudi Arabia is ready to defend its land and its territorial and international waters,” Qubiban said.

Egypt’s deal, worth $169.6, million, involves the purchase of an anti-missile countermeasures system for its presidential aircraft, and 20 advanced targeting pods for military aircraft.

The American administration said the sales would support US foreign policy and national security objectives by “helping to improve the security of friendly countries that are important to political stability and economic growth in the Middle East.”


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