Tomgram: Michael Klare, A Future in Arms

Imagine for a moment that in 2010, China's leaders had announced a long term, up to $60 billion arms deal with an extreme Islamic fundamentalist regime in the Middle East, one that was notoriously repressive to women, and a well known supporter of the Taliban. Imagine as well that the first $30 billion part of that deal, involving 84 advanced jet fighters, was sealed in 2011, and that, since then, the sales have never stopped: Several kinds of helicopters, artillery, armored personnel carriers, upgraded tanks, surface to air missile systems, even possibly a littoral combat vessel, among other purchases. Then include one more piece of information in the mix. In 2013, China added in an advanced class of precision standoff munitions missiles that could be fired from those previously purchased advanced jet fighters. Given all this, we would know what to think. It would be just the sort of thing you might expect from an unscrupulous, retrograde communist regime with no values whatsoever, one willing above all else to keep the production lines of its weapons makers humming. Washington would long ago have denounced such dealings in no uncertain terms. In fact, such a scenario is utterly fantastic and essentially unimaginable, for China. But it happens to be a perfectly accurate description of the lucrative relationship that American arms makers and and the Pentagon have with Saudi Arabia, a country Washington has promoted and sold weaponry to as if there were no tomorrow. And that's just to dip a toe into the strange world of the global arms trade, though in recent years it's becoming something closer to a US monopoly in straightforward dollar terms. Now, Tom Dispatch regular Michael Klare, author of The Race for What's Left, and an expert on energy and also on that bizarre trade, offers a glimpse into its latest grim set of wrinkles, new sales that might signal a twenty first century revival of the Cold War: Are Washington, Moscow, and Beijing Using the Global Arms Trade to create a New Cold War? Did Washington just give Israel the green light for a future attack on Iran via an arms deal? Did Russia just signal its further support for Bashar al Assad's Syrian regime via an arms deal? Are the Russians, the Chinese, and the Americans all heightening regional tensions in Asia via arms deals? Is it possible that we are witnessing the beginnings of a new Cold War in two key regions of the planet, and that the harbingers of this unnerving development are arms deals? International weapons sales have proved to be a thriving global business in economically tough times. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), such sales reached an impressive $85 billion in 2011, nearly double the figure for 2010. This surge in military spending reflected efforts by major Middle Eastern powers to bolster their armories with modern jets, tanks, and missiles, a process constantly encouraged by the leading arms manufacturing countries, especially the US and Russia, as it helps keep domestic production lines humming. However, this familiar if always troubling pattern may soon be overshadowed by a more ominous development in the global arms trade: the revival of undermining rivals and destabilizing regional power balances. The result, inevitably, will be a more precarious world!

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