In chess terms, it can be said that the recent US arms sale to Saudi Arabia has put Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmajinedad in “check” militarily. The US$68 billion sale of the latest land and air force equipment is one of, if not the largest arms deal in history. This latest strategic development will surely cause great concern to the Revolutionary Guards movement and the Iranian hierarchy, which should prompt them to reconsider their provocative and aggressive posture to Israel and the rest of the outside world.
Strengthening Saudi Arabia’s security forces creates a formidable deterrent to Iran, should it consider a pre-emptive strike against Israel, that would ignite a much feared Middle East confrontation. A strongly equipped army and air force stationed just a few kilometres from Iran across the Strait of Hormuz should have a restraining and re-thinking effect on the Iranian leadership.
A clear and parallel threat exists with Hamas that is a satellite organisation of the Persian regime. They are reported to be equipped and trained by the Revolutionary Guards, with a mission to infiltrate and adversely influence the outcome of the fragile negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis.
Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, is seldom wrong in the quality of their findings. Consequently, the Israelis have reported that the 13 shipping containers of arms interdicted at Apapa in Lagos, Nigeria, were destined to Hamas and supplied by Iran. A large part of the shipment is reported to have instructions for use recorded in English, but the origin of the weapons and ammunition have not yet been released.
The alleged shipment of arms to Hamas by Iran and the arming of Saudi Arabia by the US bear testimony to the existence of a Middle Eastern arms race, in preparation for any hostile pre-emptive action Iran may contemplate.
The changing and changed nuclear security environment reported in the US Nuclear Posture Review Report of April 2010 has this to say: “Today’s other pressing threat is nuclear proliferation. Additional countries – especially those at odds with the US, its allies and partners, and the broader international community – may acquire nuclear weapons. In pursuit of their nuclear ambitions, North Korea and Iran have violated non-proliferation obligations, defied directives of the UN Security Council, pursued missile delivery capabilities, and resisted international efforts to resolve through diplomatic means the crises they have created. Their illicit supply of arms and sensitive material and technologies has heightened global proliferation risks and regional tensions. Their provocative behaviour has increased instability in their regions. Continued non-compliance with non-proliferation norms by these other countries would seriously weaken the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with adverse security implications for the US and the international community at large.
“The US nuclear posture has a vital role to play in regional security architectures. Proliferating states must understand that any attack on the US, or our allies and partners, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons will be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming. The president, as commander-in-chief, will determine the precise nature of any US response. But by pursuing nuclear weapons, such states must understand that they have significantly raised the stakes of any conflict.”
A key US initiative is to “retain the capability to forward-deploy US nuclear weapons on tactical fighter-bombers (in the future, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter) and heavy bombers (the B-2 and B-52H), and will proceed with full scope life extension, including surety-safety, security, and use control-enhancements, for the B-61 nuclear bomb, which will be able to be carried by the F-35 and B-2”.
Meanwhile, it was reported that Palestinians continue to cross over to Egypt, through the existing tunnels, go on to Iran for training by the Revolutionary Guards and return to Gaza to join the ranks of Hamas, and this is proving to be a major stumbling block for a negotiated peace. The conundrum exists that having been democratically elected but banded a terrorist organisation, the possible presence of Hamas at the negotiating table is unacceptable to the Israelis and the quad negotiators that comprise the US, Canada, UK and Russia. The answer to the current impasse is yet to be determined and the status quo continues to present Iran with an opportunity to adversely meddle in the peace process.
Pessimists believe the only solution to the problem is to redraw the national boundaries between the Israeli and Palestinian states asymmetrically, including the expanding Israeli settlements being constructed in some cases with Palestinian labour, which of necessity seek such comparatively well-paid jobs that are unobtainable in Gaza. The Palestinians point out that if such re-formation of contemporary boundaries was undertaken, their territory would be compressed due to the expansion of Israeli settlements, and is therefore inequitable. It is reported that Israel has consequently offered to construct a new city on unoccupied space in an attempt to rebalance such diminution of Palestinian lands. No decision is yet forthcoming.
The Israeli-Palestinian situation remains the most dangerous threat to Middle East peace as long as it exists. However, the escalation of the arms race, and the forward deployment of the US land, sea and air triad, is indicative of the seriousness with which this highly flammable situation is viewed, resulting in a heightened level of security in the region. Meanwhile, the world waits with bated breath for a result that would avoid military confrontation. Shalom!