Two major arms sales were announced over the weekend. First, the US announced that it is planning to sell Saudi Arabia $20 billion in advanced weapons systems, including Joint Direct Attack Munition kits or JDAMs that are capable of transforming regular gravitational bombs into precision-guided "smart" weapons.
Largely in an attempt to neutralize Congressional opposition to the proposed sale, the Bush administration also announced that it plans to increase annual military assistance to Israel by some 25 percent next year and that it hopes that next year's increase in assistance will be maintained by the next administration.
The second arms sale was the reported Russian agreement to sell Iran 250 advanced long-ranged Sukhoi-30 fighter jets and aerial fuel tankers capable of extending the jets' range by thousands of kilometers. Russia's massive armament of Iran in this and in previous sales over the past two years make clear that from Russia's perspective, all threats to US interests, including Shi'ite expansionism, work to Moscow's advantage.
On the face of it, these contrasting US and Russian announcements seem to signal that geopolitics have reverted to the Cold War model of two superpowers competing for global power by, among other things, assisting their proxies in fighting one another. Yet, today the situation is not the same as it was before.
Today, the US finds itself competing not only against an emergent Russia, but against Iran, and the Shi'ite expansionism it advances. Moreover, it finds itself under attack from Sunni jihadism, which is incubated and financed by Saudi Arabia, America's primary ally in the Persian Gulf.
The US's proposed arms sale to Saudi Arabia has raised pointed criticism in Israel and among Israel's supporters in the US. As senior defense officials told The Jerusalem Post Monday, the JDAM sale to Saudi Arabia constitutes a strategic threat to Israel which has no way of defending itself against JDAM capabilities.
To assess the reasonableness of Israel's opposition to the proposed sale, and to understand the sale's significance against the background of emerging regional and global threats to US national security interests, it is worthwhile to revisit US actions toward Israel and Saudi Arabia during the Cold War when checking Soviet expansion worldwide was the main goal of US foreign policy.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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