“Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the proposed U.S. package, estimated at more than $20 billion, ‘will help bolster forces of moderation and support a broader strategy to counter the negative influences of al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran’.”
Are you sure about that, Secretary Rice? And who exactly are the “moderates,” other than the people pretending to like us while we’re useful?
WASHINGTON – The Bush administration said Monday that a new multibillion-dollar military sales package for Arab nations will help secure Iraq and the Persian Gulf while promoting stability and U.S. influence in a Middle East threatened by terrorism and rising Iranian ambitions.
Embarking on a four-day tour of the region with Defense Secretary Robert Gates,
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the proposed U.S. package, estimated at more than
$20 billion, “will help bolster forces of moderation and support a broader strategy to counter the negative influences of al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.”
“We are helping to strengthen the defensive capabilities of our partners and we
plan to initiate discussions with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states on a proposed package of military technologies that will help support their ability to secure peace and stability in the Gulf region,” she said in a statement.
Gates said he and Rice were making the rare tag-team trip to demonstrate U.S.
Gates, who visited Egypt earlier this year to urge greater support for the Iraqi government, said that the leaders will discuss whether there may be interest in finding ways for the Gulf nations to cooperate more on a variety of political, economic and
How about religious freedom and women’s rights? And keeping a few bucks to spend on energy
independence in the U.S.?
He said the key goals of the trip include reaffirming that the United States will continue to have a strong military presence in the region. And, he said, U.S. officials want to “reassure all of the countries that the policies that the president pursues in Iraq have had and will continue to have regional stability and security as a very high priority.”
While Iraq will be a key topic, Gates said he and Rice will also discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Iranian nuclear threat and other regional issues.
The new sales to Arab countries, notably Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states,
will be mainly defensive and be balanced with a more than 25 percent increase in military
aid to Israel over the next 10 years, enabling the Jewish state to keep its qualitative military edge over neighbors with which it has no peace deal.
The weapons package will exceed $20 billion “” possibly for just the Saudi portion and additional money for other countries in the region “” and has not yet been fully developed, according to a senior defense official traveling with Gates. The official said it will include weapons Saudi Arabia will need over the next decade in four categories:
(Cue sad piano music) Did you know that for only about 18 cents a day, you can help keep Saudi Arabia from spending more of its own money on arms, research, and development?
– Missile defense and early warning systems.
– Ships and other maritime needs to help the Saudis build the capability of their eastern fleet.
– Weapons and equipment to deal with unconventional threats, including terrorism, and to help protect their infrastructure.
– Counter-proliferation weaponry.
Specifics of the sales to Saudi Arabia and Gulf nations like Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, will be determined in the coming weeks, according
to Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, Washington’s third-ranking diplomat, who will
travel to the region in mid-August for follow-up talks.
In addition, Israel will receive a total of $30 billion in U.S. military assistance, up from about $24 billion, while Egypt, which along with Jordan has made peace with Israel, will get $13 billion as part of the broader package.
Rice said she and Gates would open discussions on specifics on their trip going through broad outlines of military shopping lists with the governments involved. Any sales would have to be approved by Congress, where some lawmakers have expressed deep concerns about their impact on the region and Israel.