The Republican plan to sell $20 Billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia and its persian gulf allies is running into strong opposition from Democrats in the House, and strong criticism from human rights organizations and arms-control activists.
Members of Congress vowed yesterday to oppose any deal to Saudi Arabia on grounds that the kingdom has been unhelpful in Iraq and unreliable at fighting terrorism. King Abdullah has called the U.S. military presence in Iraq an "illegitimate occupation," and the Saudis have been either unable or unwilling to stop suicide bombers who have ended up in Iraq, congressional sources say.
Human rights groups warned that new U.S. arms meant to contain Iran's rising influence could backfire, allowing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to rally greater support for his hard-line faction in the run-up to parliamentary elections next spring.
And arms control groups said Bush's strategy would accelerate an already-dangerous trend that could increase tensions rather than generate a greater sense of security.
There's no question that profiteering off of the War in Iraq has always been a strong motive behind the Republican neoconservative push for
instability stability in the Middle East (as was documented in my earlier post announcing the sale).
The administration plans to sell advanced satellite-guided bombs, fighter aircraft upgrades and new naval vessels to six Gulf Cooperation Council countries, including Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, U.S. officials say.[...]
Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) said yesterday that they will introduce a joint resolution of disapproval to block the deals when Congress is formally notified. They have seven Democratic co-sponsors.
In an interview, Weiner said any arms proposal would find broad bipartisan opposition on the Hill. "The reputation of the Saudis has taken quite a beating since 9/11, and despite the fact that the administration has done everything to portray them as part of the moderate Arab world, members of Congress of both parties are increasingly skeptical."
Under the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, Congress must approve major arms sales. In 1986, the threat of a joint resolution of disapproval played a role in persuading the Reagan administration to cut back an arms package to Saudi Arabia.
Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), a senior member of the House Foreign Relations committee who was also briefed last week, said a pivotal issue will be whether Israel maintains the "qualitative military edge" in the region.
The Republican rush to profit off of the war now -- before the Bush administration loses more red-state supporters in Congress -- is driving bad policy decision-making in the White House.
Arms experts called for a serious debate on the quality and quantity of weapons going to the Gulf states. "This administration does not have an arms sales policy, except to sell, sell, sell," said Daryl G. Kimball of the Arms Control Association. "That approach in the Middle East can be like throwing gasoline on a brush fire."
Human Rights Watch said the arms deals would undermine long-term U.S. goals in the Middle East. "This will reduce pressure on Egypt and the Arab states to reform their politics. It's another case of trying to purchase stability at the expense of liberty," said Washington director Tom Malinowski.
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