OpinionIran in the World PressArming Iran's enemies

Arming Iran’s enemies

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TIME: Twenty billion dollars in new U.S. arms shipments for Saudi Arabia and neighboring gulf states like Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the U.A.E. Another $13 billion in weaponry for Egypt. And Israel, ever mindful of maintaining an edge over its Arab neighbors, could get $30 billion worth of new U.S. equipment. TIME

By ADAM ZAGORIN

Twenty billion dollars in new U.S. arms shipments for Saudi Arabia and neighboring gulf states like Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the U.A.E. Another $13 billion in weaponry for Egypt. And Israel, ever mindful of maintaining an edge over its Arab neighbors, could get $30 billion worth of new U.S. equipment.

The onslaught of prospective weapons deals is part of a new Bush Administration initiative to contain Iran–and underscore America’s long-term involvement in the Middle East, regardless of setbacks in Iraq. Even though U.S. and Iranian diplomats recently held a pair of historic, face-to-face meetings, no new era of friendship with Tehran appears in the offing. Instead, both the White House and its conservative Arab allies are locking and loading in a new effort to counter Iran’s growing power.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unusual joint visit to Saudi Arabia and Egypt this week. In Saudi Arabia, Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal welcomed the visitors and promised to “explore how we can start an embassy” in Baghdad, giving a boost to the U.S.-backed Iraqi government. Al-Faisal also opened the door to another longtime U.S. goal by agreeing to consider Saudi attendance at a new Arab-Israeli peace conference.

Iran, which got a major security boost when the U.S. took out two of its biggest enemies in Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, is nonetheless feeling the pressure. It hopes to acquire several billion dollars worth of Russian military aircraft and is pressing ahead with what it insists is a peaceful nuclear program, which critics say can be diverted to atomic weapons. Welcome to the newest twist of the Middle East arms race.

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