Saudi arms deal

This US arms deal with Saudi Arabia strikes me as a little strange. Leaving aside the fact that the US is bolstering one of the most repressive and generally obnoxiously religious regimes in the region (and then, with delicious irony, lecturing Hezbollah, Hamas, et al…not that their excesses are excusable, but still…), it seems like a somewhat desperate move. The logic is, of course, that strengthening Saudi will provide a regional counterweight to Iran. Yet this presupposes a somewhat curtailed view of the Middle East, in which Saudi Arabia squares off against Iran across the Persian Gulf, Sunni stands up to Shia, and everything else just falls into place. But the two states don’t work like that; their power is dispersed across the region, either through funding like that of Saudi Arabia in Lebanon or through groups of varying degrees of affiliation, like Hezbollah and Hamas with Iran. Both work through soft power and influence, and $60bn worth of arms is a rather unsubtle way of changing the balance of power. Furthermore, as the Arabist points out, what do they need all those helicopters for anyway? Fast roping into Tehran? Probably more likely to be patrolling the Yemeni border…

(Saudi Arabia, of course, is no stranger to delicious ironies either, recently castigating the US for being soft on Israel whilst cheerfully accepting an arms deal that the Israelis, funnily enough, have raised no concerns with…)

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