May 18, 2015
The two-day Camp David Summit evolved into a face-saving attempt by Washington after four of the six Middle East leaders skipped the US summit. Most humiliating of all was the decision of the Emir of Bahrain to attend a horse show with the Queen of England rather than attend the Camp David Summit.
Last week President Obama tried to walk a Middle East tightrope for peace at Camp David by hosting the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) nations in a causal environment to placate growing fears about a nuclear-armed Iran. Unfortunately, the photo-op President Obama was looking for with the Middle East dictators, monarchs and kings evaporated by the no-shows, including the king of Saudi Arabia. That left an embarrassed, but ever resourceful, Mr. Obama, who decided to open up a military weapons’ bazaar bolstered by a renewed commitment to expand democracy in the Gulf region, but that request was so detached from reality that there appeared to be few takers.
The irony of the weapons’ bazaar the president was operating at Camp David is that the US military weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar does little more than strengthen the oppressive regimes that dominate those countries. It appears the only folks happy with the White House foreign policy are the ever-growing defense industry.
Chief concerns of the GCC countries culminated in Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and what it means to them when the world lifts UN approved sanctions. Opponents argue the influx of cash will inevitably give Iran significant economic benefits that would help Iran’s “regional ambitions” instead of rebuilding its infrastructure as the White House has suggested.
The arms bonanza also raises the other side of the coin that it’s just as dangerous to place such weapons in the hands of America’s “partners “as it seems likely American forces may one day confront these very weapons vis-a-vis the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who just routed the newly retrained Iraqi soldiers from Ramadi, who again left their US arsenal behind for the ragtag terrorists.
President Obama explained, “The United States is prepared to work jointly with the GCC states to deter and confront an external threat to any GCC state’s territorial integrity that is inconsistent with the UN Charter. In the event of such aggression or the threat of such aggression, the United States stands ready to work with our GCC partners to determine urgently what action may be appropriate, using the means at our collective disposal, including the potential use of military force, for the defense of our GCC partners.”
In return for the GCCs cooperation, the US has promised to enhance security cooperation, especially on fast-tracking arms transfers, increasing support of counter-terrorism, reinforcing maritime security, cyber security, and ballistic missile defense. The summit participants “reviewed the status of negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran, and emphasized that a comprehensive, verifiable deal that fully addresses the regional and international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program is in the security interests of GCC member states as well as the United States and the international community.”
Yet, the Iranian threat remains more asymmetric and ideological than ever.
Despite the disintegrating conditions in Syria, Iraq and Libya (Yemen was left to the Saudis), the joint US/GCC statement by President Obama offered no specifics other than the Camp David group “decided on a set of common principles, including a shared recognition that there is no military solution to the regions’ armed civil conflicts, which can only be resolved through political and peaceful means; respect for all states’ sovereignty and non-interference in their internal affairs; the need for inclusive governance in conflict-ridden societies; as well as protection of all minorities and of human rights.”
Now that Ramadi, Iraq has again fallen to ISIS, leaders in the region agreed to enhance “their counter-terrorism cooperation on shared threats,” particularly ISIL/DAESH and Al-Qaeda. In an effort to deter and disrupt ISIS terrorist attacks, allies will focus on protecting critical infrastructure, strengthening border and aviation security (more arms sales), combating money laundering and terrorist financing (even though billons will be released for use in Iran), interdicting foreign fighters, and countering violent extremism in all its forms.
The GCC leaders also committed to solving the four-year civil war in Syria. The former secular country fell into chaos after the US supported the Syria Free rebels that turned out to be affiliated with al-Qaeda. Somehow the West and GCC nations believe they have the solution by installing a new government, one that that ends war and “establishes an inclusive government that protects all ethnic and religious minorities, and preserves state institutions.”
The Camp David attendees also “reaffirmed that Assad has lost all legitimacy and has no role in Syria’s future. They strongly supported increased efforts to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL/DAESH in Syria and warned against the influence of other extremist groups, such as Al-Nusrah, that represents a danger to the Syrian people, to the region and to the international community. They expressed deep concern over the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria and condemned the prevention of aid distribution to the civilian population by the Assad regime or any other party.”
It must be noted Human Rights Watch and UN Refugee Agency has confirmed that the latest unrest in the Middle East region has left millions of displaced refugees and more than 200,000 deaths in Syria.
As the summit drew to a close Obama said Gulf leaders hadn’t been asked to “sign on a bottom line” and the conference was more of a work in process. However, he did say they agreed, “that a comprehensive, verifiable solution that fully addresses the regional and international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program is in the security interests of the international community, including the GCC partners.”
Meanwhile, the Middle East boundaries are about to undergo their largest transformation since World War I, but who will draw those lines and is there any way to stop Iran or ISIS’ rise to preeminence. The latest Camp David conference offers few specifics and raises many questions.
Obama outpaces Bush in weapon sales five years
It took President Obama just five years to outpace former President George W. Bush when it comes to foreign military sales (FMS). The military industrial complex is coming up “triple 7s” in the FMS jackpot with the majority of the wartime arsenal finding a home in the war torn Middle East.
According William Hartung, the director of Arms and Security Project for the International Policy, and the FMS website, “In President Obama’s first five years in office, new agreements under the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales program—the largest channel for U.S. arms exports—totaled over $169 billion. After adjusting for inflation, the volume of major deals concluded by the Obama administration in its first five years exceeds the amount approved by the Bush administration in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion.”
He further noted that the Nobel Peace Prize recipient, President Obama, has overseen the transfer of more military weapons than any other president since World War II.
After more than 14 years of continuous war in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention supporting insurgencies in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Syria, the U.S. departs in a zero sum game that has cost tens of thousands of lives (both military and civilian), trillions of taxpayer dollars and leaves the Middle-East completely destabilized.
The U.S. and its band of misfit coalition partners have implemented a massive military build-up on the Arabian Peninsula and Israel. Let’s take a look at the military arsenal provided a few coalition partners, most of whom are also classified as human rights violators according to the State Department.
For the last three years, the U.S. has provided tens of billions of dollars in military weaponry through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) to the United Arab Emirates (UAE); population 5.6 million, Qatar; population 2.1 million, Kuwait; population 2.7 million and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA); population 27.3 million.
The U.S. has delivered both offensive and defensive weapon systems – some are designed to protect against airborne missile retaliation and air attacks. For example, the U.S. supplied Qatar ($9.9B), Kuwait ($4.2 billion), and UAE ($1.1B) with Patriot anti-missile systems and UAE also acquired a $6.5B theater anti-air defense (THAAD) system. This type of weaponry typically protects against missile attacks from such weapons as the MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket Systems) like the 880 launchers the Islamic Republic of Iran operates. The MLRS has a range of approximately 300 kilometers, making it easily capable of reaching any of the Gulf States of Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, and even KSA.
America also sold KSA $6.7 billion worth of KC-130 aerial refueling tankers, the UAE $4 billion and KSA $6.8 billion of munitions including “bunker buster bombs,” (typically used to attack harden targets like nuclear facilities); Qatar a $1.2 billion early warning radar suite; KSA $1.3 billion for 30 patrol boats presumptively for use in the Gulf of Hormuz; KSA $4 billion to upgrade its national guard; Qatar spent $3 billion on Apache Longbow attack helicopters. The list also includes the Globemaster long-range air transport planes, Javelin missiles, F-18’s and F-16’s, and Sidewinder anti-aircraft missiles.
The four-year Syrian civil war has also witnessed the rise of many jihadist and terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda spin-off, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which now attracts “fighters” from all over the Islamic world. The mirage-like arrival of ISIS on the scene looks to tighten the noose around non-believing governments (Iraq, ISIS and Obama’s trained insurgents: Link to PART ONE & PART TWO).
Just a few months ago the Assad regime was defeating the insurgency in Syria, but the equation changed when ISIS charged into Iraq where it unleashed its wrath and captured U.S. weapons from the U.S. trained Iraqi soldiers that sought flight rather than fight. Buoyed by the US government released of the “Taliban Five” from GITMO prison for alleged-US Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl ISIS has parlayed its unprecedented carnage (something al-Qaeda has denounced) into the seizure of Iraqi and Syrian oil fields, banks, and water supplies, $500,000,000 in weapons US Special Operators left in Yemen which they collectively fund their self-proclaimed “Caliphate.”
Enter Iran and Russia
The Iranians have been celebrating in the streets after the latest nuclear talks produced the possibility of lifting depressive sanctions. Countries like China and India lined up for the opportunity to work with the Islamic Republic of Iran to build oil and gas pipelines.
That nuke agreement freed the long delayed transfer of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles sales to Iran by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian Defense Ministry suggested the sale would happen quickly, signaling their support for Tehran’s nuclear program. Plus, Putin couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stick it to President Obama, whose foreign policy continues to demonstrate worldwide weakness.
The defensive missile sales to Iran also took the administration by surprise and allows the Iranians additional security around its nuclear facilities therefore making an air attack much more difficult. The added protection gives Iran increasingly more bravado in a region already emeshed in a Sunni verses Shia sectarian war.
Jumping into the fray was State Department spokesperson Marie Harf who said Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, debated the missile sale over the phone. “We don’t believe it’s constructive at this time for Russia to move forward with this,” Harf reported. However, she suggested the Russian military sale will have no bearing on the current P5 + 1 nuke talks.
With falling oil prices, weapons galore, and deep-seated sectarian hatred, the US “arms-for-peace” program puts the Mid-East just one missile away from lift-off.
Read the previous story: Yemen moves to join Libya and Syria league of dysfunction
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