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US Defying Iran by Arming Arabs

The US is challenging Iran’s aim to dominate the Middle East and is arming Gulf States to deter Tehran from attacking. Sanctions are not imminent.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 1/31/2010, 1:39 AM

Israel new photo: US Air Force

The Obama administration is arming Gulf States to be able to defend against an Iranian attack while delaying a push for tough sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Reports of the weapons sales came one day after the U.S. Senate gave unanimous approval for a bill to target American companies that provide refined oil to Iran and would impose new sanctions on Iran’s refined petroleum sector.

Iran responded by saying the legislation would have the opposite effect by motivating Iran to continue its nuclear program.

The State Department on Friday denied that the Obama government has prepared a draft for sanctions and that it would distribute the proposal to the United Nations. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said that the passage of the bill “reflects a shared frustration with Iran’s lack of engagement." Obama administration officials had urged the Senate to wait before passing the bill.

Two major American newspapers revealed Saturday that the Obama administration is moving in the direction of deterring Iran by beefing up Arab countries' defense against Iranian missile attacks, which would be more likely if Israel were to attack Iran’s nuclear reactors.

American officials told The New York Times that, “Our first goal is to deter the Iranians. A second is to reassure the Arab states, so they don’t feel they have to go nuclear themselves. But there is certainly an element of calming the Israelis as well.”

However, Israel is the stated target of Iran, and the Washington Post, reporting on the same topic, stated that the American buildup for Gulf States “has been kept low-key to avoid fueling concerns in Israel and elsewhere about an accelerating conventional-arms race in the region.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at a Tehran conference on Saturday, "The Middle East is the crossroad of relations in the world and anyone who has the last word in the Middle East will have the final say in the world as well. Now the question is who has the last say in the Middle East? Well, of course, the answer is clear to every one."

Although the arming of Gulf Sates was headlined by most Israeli media, it comes as no surprise because it is a follow-up last year’s $20 billion arms program for Arab countries that was announced by the Bush administration.

The implementation of the plans includes unprecedented coordination between the United States and Arab states. "It's a tough neighborhood, and we have to make sure we are protected," a senior government official in a U.S.-allied Arab state told the Times.

The same official called Iran “the number one threat in the region.” echoing President Shimon Peres’ latest warning to the new International Atomic Energy Agency that “nuclear weapons in the hands of a fanatical regime such as Iran's pose a threat not only to Israel but to the entire world.”

American aid is aimed at helping Saudi Arabia defend its oil facilities and beefing up its ground forces three times the current numbers in order to deter Al-Qaeda.

The deals with oil-rich Gulf States will pump billions of dollars into the American military industry, which is selling the United Arab Emirates 80 F-16 fighter jets. Patriot anti-missile systems are to be sold to the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar,

A U.S. army commander said in Bahrain last year that the UAE air force alone "could take out the entire Iranian air force, I believe."