With F-35 Jets, Armed Drones In Pipeline For The UAE, Why Another Massive War Awaits The Middle-East?

Israel recently signed a string of re-conciliatory deals with many Arab nations, with the divine blessings of the US and Saudi Arabia. US President Donald Trump described the normalization deals as being the “dawn of a new Middle East”, which he said was happening “without blood in the sand”.

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The peace agreements, ostensibly to establish diplomatic and trade ties between Israel and three Arab states, were a historic shift in the relations between the old adversaries.

But the “circle of peace”, as the Israeli prime minister describes it, was hiding an insidious sign of the military weapons trade, destined to disturb the strategic balance in the Middle-East.

Just days after establishing full relations with Israel, UAE, the first Gulf state to do so, edged closer to getting a prized fighter jet from the US. The Gulf state, which has been trying to acquire the world’s most advanced multi-role warplane without success for years, was promptly assured that it will soon get possession of the F-35 fighter jet.

The US media reported days after the ‘peace deal’ that the Trump administration had informally notified the Congress of its plans to sell 50 of the fighters to UAE for up to $10.4 billion.

Israel celebrated the landmark of making normalization deals with Arab nations as it will help the Jewish state in gaining regional acceptance and new ‘trade avenues’ for its businesses. For the UAE and other Arab nations signing the deal, the step will usher in economic progress and access to the region’s security and cyber superpower.

File:MQ-9 Reaper ILA2016-2.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
MQ-9 Reaper – Wikimedia Commons

UAE has also been eyeing the US-made armed MQ-9 Reaper drones but was never able to buy it due to an arms export control treaty. Now that those hurdles have been removed, Reuters is reporting that the US State Department has informed Congress of its plans to sell 18 sophisticated armed MQ-9B aerial drones to Abu Dhabi, in a deal worth as much as $2.9 billion.

Another Gulf nation to sign the normalization deal with Israel, Bahrain, is also hoping to purchase advanced military technology from the US and Israel. Reuters also reported that Qatar had submitted a formal request to buy F-35 fighters from the US, but has not signed the ‘peace deal’ with Israel yet.

The Trump administration also announced it was taking Sudan off a list of countries that sponsor terrorism, a move expected to allow the East African nation’s government to seek international financial aid. The move was rightly seen as Trump trying to get Sudan to recognize Israel, after getting UAE and Bahrain to normalize their relations with the country.

“The carefully choreographed sequence was intended to soften likely criticism of the Israel deal inside Sudan,” New York Times quoted US officials as saying. The deal has been brokered with the condition on Sudan agreeing to pay $335 million in compensation to the victims of Qaeda attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the Navy destroyer Cole in 2000.

The possession of advanced weapons along with the support from the US and Israel will further divide Arab states and foment hostility among them. This will also destroy any bonds the Arab states have left between each other at the moment, making them more weak than strong.

Israel has for decades dreamed of a weak Arab coalition, and the Jewish state is very close to seeing that coming true. The US administration’s selective sale of advanced weapons to only ‘normalized’ states will mean those Arab states will stand with Israel in any confrontation with Iran. That is again a win for Israel.

The other Gulf nations given the green light to buy the advanced US weapons include Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, in a step towards worsening the arms race and pitting the Arab states against each other. Although no matter how close the relations of these states get with Washington, they must realize the US will always ensure Israel has the qualitative and quantitative military edge in the region. The Arabs surely cannot win this race.

The Middle East Monitor observes that arming the Arab states in this way demonstrates that these are far from the “peace agreements” that the various governments claim; they are intended to equip them to wage war and suppress the human rights of their own citizens.

The unfolding events suggest that these “peace” deals are, in fact, little more than a fig leaf for arms deals which will make the region more dangerous for everyone.

“The United States is running an arms race with itself in the Middle East at the moment,” according to William Hartung of the Center for International Policy in Washington, a left-leaning think tank founded by peace activists after the Vietnam War, told the BBC.

He dubs the officially-titled Abraham Accords an “arms sale accord”, believing that if other countries like Saudi Arabia join the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan in normalizing relations with Israel they could expect even more access to the US arms industry.

Meanwhile, the growing weapons purchases by the Arab coalition is worrying human rights groups about its impact in Yemen, which has been devastated by a war between the rebel Houthi movement and pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE.

Justin Bronk of the UK-based Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) was quoted by the BBC saying that there was a long-running attempt by the UAE to get American armed drones for use in Yemen because they are able to operate at high altitudes where they are usually out of reach of Houthi anti-aircraft fire. The global military analysts are dubbing Yemen as the “test-bed of drone warfare.”