Is it possible to take back the Nobel Peace Prize? I only ask because the award given to Barack Obama may well go down as one of the dumbest decisions the Nobel Committee has ever made, even worse than the prizes given to Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat for a treaty that effectively enabled Begin the peacemaker to launch an invasion of Lebanon.
Certainly nothing that Obama has done since receiving the award has justified the bizarre and precipitate decision to give it to him in the first place. Today the Wall Street Journal has announced that the US has concluded a $30 billion agreement to sell advanced fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia. The deal includes 84 F-15 fighter jets made by Boeing Co, and forms part of an eventual $60 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia that Obama first announced in November last year that includes 2,000 pound (907 kg) Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) ‘bunker-busting’ bombs.
You don’t exactly need to be an expert in strategic studies to guess which country is most likely to be on the receiving end of Saudi Arabia’s high-tech arsenal. Though the White House has given the sale a veneer of military Keynsianism, claiming that it will boost the US economy, and generate ‘more than 50,000 manufacturing and supplier jobs in 44 states’, the WSJ is undoubtedly correct and to the point in characterising the agreement as ‘ a further push to counter Iranian power.’
The Saudi deal belongs to a wider strategy of arming the Gulf States – a strategy that was once aimed primarily at Iraq but whose priorities have increasingly shifted towards Iran as part of the ongoing attempt to prevent the Iranians from obtaining a nuclear capability. In November, the Wall Street Journal revealed that the Obama administration was drawing up plans to equip the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with 4,900 Boeing-manufactured JDAM bombs and other munitions. According to the WSJ
The proposed sale to the United Arab Emirates would vastly expand the existing capabilities of the country’s air force to target fixed structures, which could include bunkers and tunnels—the kind of installations where Iran is believed to be developing weapons. The move represents one way the Obama administration intends to keep Iran in check, as it struggles to find adequate backing for new United Nations sanctions.
The UAE deal also includes a missile defence program built by Lockheed Martin, in what Reuters has described as part of a broader attempt ‘to build up the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, UAE, and Kuwait, as a unified counterweight to Iran.’
Behind this talk of ‘countering’ and ‘deterring’ Iran, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the US is preparing to use the Gulf states as proxies in an eventual war. Saudi Arabia’s willingness to participate in the recent ludicrous pseudo-assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador to the United States suggests that it is more than willing to play this role.
The idea that Iran will be ‘deterred’ from whatever nuclear ambitions it may have by a cluster of hostile US-armed states (that already include a nuclear-armed Israel) is not feasible. On the contrary, these developments are more likely to spur the Iranians to do whatever they perceive necessary to ensure their security, including the pursuit of a ‘deterrent’ of their own.
For decades the Middle East has been awash with weaponry, much of it supplied by Western states, with disastrous consequences for the region. Obama himself recognized this in his alarmingly bellicose Nobel acceptance speech, in which he declared that
Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.
This thinly-veiled-threat against Iran suggested a strategic continuity between the Obama and Bush administrations that has become more glaringly apparent in the last two years. Now Obama – the Peace Laureate and faithful servant of the corporate war machine – is effectively promoting a new arms race in the Middle East, using the same utterly dishonest pretext that Iran represents a threat to US ‘security’ as his predecessor – a competition that is more, rather than less likely to unleash another catastrophic regional conflagration.