Gulf’s strategic balance

THE $20 billion worth of US arms sale to Saudi Arabia over the coming decade was bound to agitate sections of the American Congress, not to mention a very vocal Israeli right. But a seemingly concerned Jewish media fearing a permanent shift in the Middle East’s strategic balance is clearly over playing its card, especially in betraying anxiety over a possible extremist-takeover of the House of Saud that could leave the hardware ultimately in Al Qaeda’s hands.

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Published: Tue 31 Jul 2007, 8:46 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:56 AM

And while the 25 per cent annual rise in US military aid to Israel (amounting to $30 billion over the next 10 years) pushed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to soothe cabinet sentiment, Washington’s pro-Israel lobby had already put the spanner in the Saudi-deal works. Two Democratic congressmen have been quick to tap the House’s scepticism, vowing to derail the planned deal.

Therefore, historical precedent seems to hold for the time. Ditto for the Middle East military/strategic balance. Israel continues to be America’s number one partner in the region, and developments with the potential to raise concern in Tel Aviv will remain on a very tight leash, at least for the foreseeable future.

Interestingly, reaffirmation of Washington’s pronounced bent towards the Jewish state comes just as Washington is apparently spearheading renewed efforts at kick-starting the stalled Middle East peace process. Therefore the politics of the coming days has been painted clearly, even though pundits had little optimism about the decades-long trend being modified.

Already Hamas’ isolation in Gaza raised near insurmountable doubts about the success of any plan that would not feature the Strip along with aspirations of the majority of its inhabitants. In all likelihood, the US-Israel nexus will further bolster Fatah’s ranks – the most ready Palestinian party to do business with the West.

Those familiar with the region’s history rightly worry about the outcome of such developments. If the purpose is finally ushering in peace, a greater regional involvement will be required, one which will see a departure from past practices. Till then, much in the Middle East will remain unaltered.

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