Sunday, October 10, 2010

US defense industry gets a new lease of life, thanks to Iran....

Wars going on in various parts of the world are generally detested by people due to their sheer destruction power. Wars are often more catastrophic than natural disasters. Those who are not engaged in active conflict keep themselves ready for the war. Some make preparations to avert the wars. It is estimated that the capital investment in either of the conditions does not exceed each other. This effectively means that from the standpoint of the Realist School of Thought, nations will always remain engaged in balancing their destructive powers vis-à-vis their adversaries. The ultimate beneficiary of the conflict or the efforts to avert these conflicts is the American economy. It will always have customers like rich oil countries which will keep its economy work overtime. For the United States, countries like Saudi Arabia are not only pliant allies; their oil wealth also represents a lot of business for the American defense industry, irrespective of the requirement or the capacity.

Saudi Arabia is one of those Arab countries who are wary of Iran’s rising power and its nuclear ambitions and assesses Iran-related developments very carefully because in its opinion, the rising power of an ajami regime can be destabilizing for the Arab countries in the region.  It may have its roots in history but after 1979 Iran revolution, it is feared that Iran will export its shia-Islamic revolution to other countries. It is often said that Arabs are not as afraid of Israel nuclear bomb as they are of Iran bomb. A militarily strong Iran is perceived as a threat by Arabs ruled by monarchies.

The USA is trying to exploit the Iran-phobia of Arabs led by Saudi Arabia and as per a report published in Foreign Policy magazine, the Obama administration is about to propose the sale of more than $60 billion worth of advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia. Apart from providing an obvious boost to the U.S. defense industry, the clear purpose here is to send a message to Iran. As an unnamed U.S. official stated a few days ago, "We want Iran to understand that its nuclear program is not getting them leverage over their neighbors, that they are not getting an advantage.  We want the Iranians to know that every time they think they will gain, they will actually lose." In short, the sale is "mainly intended as a building block for Middle East regional defenses to box in Iran."

It seems like an awful lot of weaponry to "contain" a country whose entire defense budget, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, is only $10 billion. But the real question, according to the magazine, is this: if USA’s primary goal is to discourage Iran from developing nuclear weapons, then might this new initiative be counter-productive? Doesn't it just give Iran an even bigger incentive to get a nuclear deterrent of its own? Think about it: if you had a bad relationship with the world's most powerful country, if you knew (or just suspected) that it was still backing anti-government forces in your country, if its president kept telling people that "all options were still on the table," and if that same powerful country were now about to sell billions of dollars of weapons to your neighbors, wouldn't you think seriously about obtaining some way to enhance your own security? And that's hard to do with purely conventional means, because your economy is a lot smaller and is already constrained by economic sanctions. Hmmm....so what are your other options?

Of course, it's possible that Iran's leaders have already made that decision, and if so then these moves won't have much effect on their calculations. And I'm all for maintaining a favorable balance of power in the Gulf. But if we are still hoping to convince Iran that it would be better off without some sort of nuclear weapons capability (even if only of a "latent" sort), this move strikes me as a step in the wrong direction. 

In addition to Iran, the USA is also trying to contain China through India. Dawn has reported that India and the United States are likely to sign a 3.5-billion-dollar defense deal, the biggest ever between the two countries. The agreement will see the Indian Air Force buy 10 C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft that are expected to replace the ageing fleet of Russian Ilyushin IL-76, the The Economic Times newspaper said, without citing sources. The deal, which is in its final stages, is likely to be signed in November when US President Barack Obama visits India.

In February, New Delhi announced a 32-billion-dollar defense budget, a four per cent increase on 2009, when spending was hiked by a quarter as the country seeks to modernize its armed forces. A top air force official earlier stated that India's air force is just a third the size of rival China's and far short of the aircraft required to meet the security challenges facing the country. The USA is serving twin purposes of containing the influence of its two challengers but not at its own cost.

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