If you still think of the Middle East as an obscure backwater, read the figures posted by the Congressional Research Service for recent U.S. arms sales as reported by Stieven Ramdharie, a political writer in Brussels.
Thanks to the the so-called ‘threat’ from Iran, the U.S. took in an unprecedented 66.3 billion dollars selling arms in 2011, three times more than in 2010. By selling record numbers of F-15s, Apache helicopters and Patriot missiles, Boeing and Lockheed Martin made up for cuts in military spending in the U.S. and Europe.
Qatar, which played an important role in the Libyan conflict, is about to sign an agreement for 58 latest model Apache helicopters, while Oman, whose crucial role is in the Straits of Hormuz, bought twelve F-16 fighter jets last December that can neutralize their aging Iranian counter-parts. Qatar will spend 2.5 billion to buy 200 German Leopold tanks, and Saudi Arabia is expected to put out 12.6 billion for 600 or 800 of these beasts. Together with Israel, the Kingdom has the most modern planes in the region. Having added 7.2 billion dollars forth of European fighter jets to its Air Force in 2007, Riyadh recently purchased another 84 Boeing F-25 fighter jets while modernizing another seventy. Last year it spent nearly 33 billion in the U.S., helping to shore up the American export balance.
As for the Emirates, their 2010 defense budget of 16 trillion put them in second place in the region, ahead of Israel, and they recently acquired American antimissile defense systems and transport helicopters worth 4.5 billion.
The battle for the future of Syria is recognized primarily as the first step in a campaign to neutralize Iran, and the players are identified as Israel and the United States. However, it is a mistake to think in terms of a neatly contained “surgical strike” that would leave neighboring countries intact.
The Middle East has never experienced a regional-wide war comparable to those that have devastated Europe time and again. But the fact that Persian, Shi’ite Iran has never attacked another country and would have everything to lose by doing so, is obviously irrelevant in the present situation: As the American economy declines perhaps terminally, the ruling military-industrial complex, remembering the economic benefits it reaped from the Second World War, is going all-out to bring conflict to an area whose wealth is counted not in factories and farmland, but in barrels of oil preserved underground.