Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hagel to Finalize Weapons Sale to Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel

by Nadine Makarem

The US is expected to finalize an extensive series of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel during the visit of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to the region, which begins tomorrow.

The deal, worth an estimated USD 10 billion, will involve the sale of military aircraft and missiles, including the first transfer of the V-22 Osprey ‘tilt-rotor’ transport aircraft to a foreign customer, according to the New York Times. 

American sales of military equipment to states in the Gulf are widely-perceived to be aimed at deterring Iranian attempts to build up its military power. Israeli leaders have also expressed alarm at Iran’s development of nuclear technology, and have threatened to take action to prevent Iran from developing the technology and materials necessary for the construction of a nuclear weapon. 

Hagel is expected to arrive in Israel tomorrow to discuss Israeli fears regarding Iran, before visiting Saudi Arabia and the UAE to put the finishing touches to the deal following a year of behind–the–scenes negotiations. 

In striking the deal, the US has had to walk a tightrope between supporting its traditional allies without seeming to antagonize Iran, all the while ensuring that Israel is able to retain its existing edge in hi-tech weaponry without emboldening it enough to launch an attack.

A previous agreement in 2010 included a purchase of over 80 of the latest version of the F-15 fighter-bomber at a cost of almost USD 30 billion by Saudi Arabia, which are still in the process of being transferred. The current deal includes an additional 26 F-16 warplanes for the UAE, worth about USD 5 billion alone, as well as the latest long-range air-to-surface missiles for the aircraft operated by both states. 

Meanwhile, as well as the Osprey aircraft, Israel will receive KC-135 air-to-air refueling planes, missiles designed to attack air defense networks, new radars for its existing combat jets, and almost USD 3 billion in financial aid.

The US is also understood to have given assurances to its Israeli ally that the weapons supplied to the Arab states will be subject to monitoring by US Air Force training personnel, and would not be used without consultation with the US.

The latest deal also follows the decision in recent years by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, to purchase a range of the latest US air-defense missiles optimized for intercepting ballistic missiles.

Nadine Makarem


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