The Danger of Saudi "Blowback"

(Jerusalem Post) - Gerald M. Steinberg The departure of the American forces from Saudi Arabia once the war with Iraq is over will create new and more menacing difficulties for the U.S., Israel, and other countries. If the huge arsenals of the world's most advanced weapons become available to radical groups and Islamic terrorists, this would create a catastrophic case of "blowback." After the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, guerrillas who were trained and armed by the U.S. (including bin Laden) turned their weapons against their former benefactors. The potential blowback from the Saudi arsenal of advanced aircraft and missiles would be many times more devastating. For over 30 years, Saudi defense officials (princes of the royal family) have been converting a significant portion of their oil income into weapons. Multi-billion dollar deals to acquire large numbers of the most advanced combat aircraft, tanks, missiles, and other systems have made Saudi Arabia one of the most highly armed countries in the world. In the early 1980s (and despite strenuous objections from Israel and within the U.S.), the Reagan Administration agreed to sell AWACS airborne battle stations to the Saudis, as well as F-15s (over 150 of these advanced fighter-bombers are now in the Saudi inventory), and tactical missiles such as Maverick and Sidewinder. In addition, weapons purchased from France and Britain should not be overlooked. If the U.S. and other Western forces depart, huge stockpiles of some of the most advanced weapons in the world would no longer be locked away. In the likely event of a major political upheaval in Saudi Arabia, and the replacement of the royal family with an Islamic regime that is closely aligned with Islamic radicals or terror groups, these weapons could become a central element in the war against the U.S. and the West. In addition, the intercontinental ballistic missiles purchased from China many years ago provide the foundation for a Saudi strategic force. Given the scale of these dangers, American post-war planning for Saudi Arabia should neutralize the blowback scenario. If or when the U.S. forces depart, they should be sure to take all their baggage with them. The advanced aircraft, missiles, electronics and other systems can be flown or shipped out (with compensation based on the residual value of these weapons, of course). Whatever cannot be moved, such as the bases, radar antennas, and ground facilities, must be destroyed.

2003-02-21 00:00:00

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