The American Bear


The Saudis Aren’t Going Anywhere | LobeLog

It may be true that the rulers of Saudi Arabia are unhappy over some aspects of U.S. policy toward Syria, Iran and Egypt, but it does not follow that they will therefore seek to detach the kingdom from its longstanding security alliance with the United States. To understand why, it is useful to review the history of the U.S.-Saudi relationship and examine the reality of the security partnership today to evaluate whether Saudi Arabia would really consider recasting its international security ties. [more]

U.S. Selling Cluster Bombs Worth 641 Million to Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON, Aug 23 2013 (IPS) - Arms control advocates are decrying a new U.S. Department of Defence announcement that it will be building and selling 1,300 cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia, worth some 641 million dollars.

The munitions at the heart of the sale are technically “legal” under recently strengthened U.S. regulations aimed at reducing impact on civilian safety, but activists contend that battlefield evidence suggests the weapons actually exceed those regulations.

Opponents say the move runs counter to a strengthening push to outlaw the use of cluster bombs around the world while also contradicting recent votes by both the U.S. and Saudi governments critical of the use of these munitions.

“Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have recently condemned the use of cluster munitions by the government of Syria – that’s ironic given this new sale, because a cluster munition is a cluster munition, no matter what kind it is,” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a watchdog group here in Washington, told IPS.

He was referring to the May 15 vote before the U.N. General Assembly in which both the United States and Saudi Arabia joined 105 other countries in strongly condemning Syria’s use of cluster bombs.

“To my knowledge, the sale of cluster munitions by the United States is infrequent today, so this sale is surprising in the sense that this is a very sophisticated, controversial system because these are cluster bombs,” Kimball continues.

“Further, that these weapons are used by Saudi Arabia is questionable from a military standpoint. These weapons have not been used by the U.S. in over a decade, so it’s hard to see why it’s in our interest to sell these to Saudi Arabia.”

Cluster bombs are air-dropped munitions meant to open in mid-air and release hundreds of additional “bomblets”, thus significantly expanding the potential damage inflicted in the attack. Yet for years global sentiment has coalesced against the use of cluster bombs due to the fact that some of the bomblets invariably fail to explode, resulting in lingering danger for civilians long after conflicts end. []

Prince Bandar and the Destruction of Syria | Pepe Escobar

Moscow won’t drop Damascus. Period. At the same time, as Bandar threatened, Geneva II seems more unlikely to happen than the Obama administration ceasing to drone Yemen to death.

The name of the game, in practice, remains Syria as the new Afghanistan, with the House of Saud in control of all aspects of jihad (with Washington “leading from behind”). Deadly historic irony also applies; instead of clashing with the Soviet Union, now the Saudis clash with the Russian federation. Bandar is simultaneously the new Weaponizer-in-Chief, as well as Liberator-in-Chief of Syria. The Comeback Spy is not accounting for future, inevitable, ghastly blowback; what’s alarming is that the Obama administration is right behind him.

Stories circulating in the region appeared to indicate that at least from the Egyptian side, the military establishment was not that concerned about the possible cut-off of aid from the U.S., if indeed that was in the cards. The military was not concerned because it was able to play a new hand that it was given by states from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain – the dictatorial group of monarchies that is allied with the U.S. in the efforts to destabilize and dismember the Syrian state. The hand that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) dealt the generals in Egypt was this: if the Obama Administration cut off the annual allocation of aid to the military, Saudi Arabia and the UAE would make up the budget’s shortfall.

Ajamu Baraka, From Egypt to Syria: Is The Gulf Cooperation Council the tail that wags the U.S. Dog?

Also: Arab Aid starts flowing after Morsi’s departure from Jadaliyya.

Groundwork for arming Syrian rebels began before Obama’s announcement | McClatchy

AMMAN, Jordan — The U.S. military began laying the groundwork to arm and support Syrian rebels more than a week ago, using a military exercise currently being held in Jordan as a cover for bringing in personnel and equipment.

Despite official statements by the Obama administration that a decision to arm the rebels was made on June 13, preparations were seen by McClatchy on the ground days earlier. In addition to the 300 U.S. Marines that Jordanian officials said were currently stationed along Jordan’s northern border with Syria, meetings were held between Syrian rebels and U.S. officials more than 10 days ago to establish what type of weapons the White House is willing to provide.

Jordanian officials also have said that those Marines had no connection to the exercises currently being run by the U.S. and Jordanian militaries, though they were brought into the country under the guise of being part of the “Eager Lion” exercises. Regional analysts and officials have said that while those exercises are touted as a “multilateral relationship-building” measure, on the ground they are widely seen as the U.S. “flexing its muscles” and laying the groundwork for future maneuvers.

“The U.S. has been preparing this for some time. So it is very clear to us, here on the ground in Jordan, that the Obama decision to arm the rebels was made weeks ago rather than days ago,” a Jordanian diplomatic official told McClatchy in an off-the-record briefing. Other diplomats, also interviewed in Jordan, said that there was widespread consensus that the U.S. was preparing to arm the rebels, though the gesture was often called “too little too late.”

Like the Jordanian official, the various officials, rebel leaders and others who spoke to McClatchy did not want to be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Syrian rebels, said one European official, had repeatedly traveled to Jordan to try and plead their case with the diplomatic community and had pressed the need for a no-fly zone and heavy weapons. The official added that there was “very little appetite” left to arm the rebels at this stage, especially given what he called the “increasing presence of radical Islamist groups in Syria.”

“The assessments being made are that at this stage, the arming of the rebels only ensures one thing – that the fighting will drag on for years to come,” said the European official.

Syrian rebels, meanwhile, have said that it is still unclear if the U.S. will provide what they call “a high-enough impact weapon.”

“They made it clear that the sophisticated weaponry, the sort of items we have been requesting for more than a year, is off the table. We are thankful for what they are giving us, but our arsenal will remain very limited compared to what the Syrian army is using against us,” said one Syrian rebel leader in Amman. He said that shoulder-launched anti-tank missiles were under discussion, as were command-and-control systems, but that anti-aircraft weapons were clearly “off the table.”

(Enter Saudi Arabia and France: Saudi Arabia, France sending Syria rebels anti-aircraft guns: source)

A possible U.S.-led no-fly-zone near Jordan’s border with Syria has also been under discussion, though officials in Jordan insist no final decision has been made. The Patriot anti-aircraft missile system that the U.S. military brought to Jordan as part of the Eager Lion exercise already has been approved to stay in country once the exercises are completed. The system, which has a range of 62 miles, would easily enforce a limited no-fly zone along Jordan’s border if it were left behind. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s announcement over the weekend that he had approved both the Patriot missile system and F-16s to remain in Jordan was seen by many as an indication that the Eager Lion exercise was an excuse to bring both into the country.

Saudi Arabia, France sending Syria rebels anti-aircraft guns: source | Al Akhbar English

Saudi Arabia, with some French funds, began supplying anti-aircraft missiles to Syrian rebels “on a small scale” about two months ago, a Gulf source familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The shoulder-fired weapons were obtained mostly from suppliers in France and Belgium, the source told Reuters. France had paid for the transport of the weapons to the region.

The supplies were going to General Salim Idriss, leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), who was still the kingdom’s main “point man” in the opposition, the source said.

Speaking to Reuters on Friday, Idriss urged Western allies to supply anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles and to create a no-fly zone, saying if properly armed he could defeat the Syrian army within six months.

The Gulf source said without elaborating that Saudi Arabia had begun taking a more active role in the Syrian conflict.

The remarks come one day after German news weekly Der Spiegel reported that that Saudi Arabia was looking at sending European-made Mistral-class MANPADS, or man-portable air-defense systems.

The article, citing a classified report received by the German foreign intelligence service and the German government last week, said the shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles can target low-flying aircraft including helicopters and had given mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan a decisive edge against Soviet troops in the 1980s.

It wasn’t immediately clear if these were the same anti-aircraft guns that the kingdom has already allegedly sent.

The United States vowed last week to send military aid to rebel forces after accusing the government of using “small amounts” of chemical weapons. Washington has also sent F-16 jets and anti-aircraft guns to Jordan with talk of possibly enforcing a no-fly zone on Syria.

Russia has repeatedly said that a unilateral US-imposed no-fly zone on Syria would violate international law, and on Monday said it would “not allow” such a scenario.

"I think we fundamentally will not allow this scenario," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told a news briefing Monday.

Lukashevich spoke before planned talks between President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of a G8 summit in Northern Ireland which were expected to focus on the conflict in Syria that has killed at least 93,000 people according to the UN.

"All these manoeuvres about no-fly zones and humanitarian corridors are a direct consequence of a lack of respect for international law," Lukashevich said.

He said Russia did not want a scenario in Syria that resembled the events in Libya after the imposition of a no-fly zone which enabled NATO aircraft to help rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.

Merchants of Death

From Tom Engelhardt:

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 litoral 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 the Pentagon have with Saudi Arabia, a country Washington has promoted and sold weaponry to as if there were no tomorrow.

Obama’s new drone policy leaves room for CIA role | The Washington Post

About that shift to DoD…

As Marcy Wheeler put it, days before Obama’s speech:

In other words, nothing will change anytime soon. As has been clear in every single piece that simultaneously said DOD would be taking over drone killing even while admitting there would be exceptions tied to Brennan (CIA) for quite some time.

Surprise: Obama’s National Security people are going to keep saying they’re moving drones to DOD, even while admitting they don’t mean that’s happening right now.

See also: Obama speech suggests possible expansion of drone killings by Jonathan Landay (on all that buzz about “reining in” the drone program)

U.S. to Announce $10 Billion Arms Sale in Middle East - Bloomberg

Through the gun show loophole:

The Obama administration plans to announce an arms package to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates worth as much as $10 billion — the centerpiece of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit to the countries next week, according to U.S. officials.

The arms sold to Israel also will include an unspecified number of V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft, air defense radar and KC-135 refueling tankers; the U.A.E. will probably buy 26 F-16 jet fighters, and the Persian Gulf nation as well as Saudi Arabia will each buy precision missiles, said the official who provided details on condition of not being named before the deal is announced.

The missiles being discussed include an unspecified number of the U.S. Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile, a new weapon being bought by the U.S. Navy, the official said. The missile, made by Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK), is capable of attacking ground radar used by countries fielding sophisticated integrated air defenses, such as Syria and Iran.

If the transaction goes through, it will be the first foreign sale of the V-22 tilt-rotor made by Boeing Co. (BA) and Textron Inc. (TXT)’s Bell Helicopter unit. The U.A.E. already ordered 80 F-16s made by Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) in the late 1990s, and Saudi Arabia operates a fleet of Boeing-made F-15 jets.

I like how Bloomberg gives links to the stock index just in case you want in on that action.

(Source: braddogott)

Saudi Arabia buying South African armed drone

Saudi Arabia is buying an armed drone from South Africa after the Obama administration declined to sell the oil-rich kingdom U.S. Predator or Reaper missile-firing unmanned aircraft.

The state-owned South African company Denel Dynamics is working covertly with the Saudis to develop the Seeker 400 drone into an armed combat system for the Saudi military, the Paris-based newsletter Intelligence Online reported March 27.

The Seeker 400 is an advanced version of the company’s Seeker II unarmed surveillance aircraft.

The newsletter stated that the Saudi military would be the first customer to purchase the Seeker 400 armed drone and engineers from Denel are in the kingdom as part of the secret program.

If completed, the sale would allow Saudi Arabia to join the growing number of militaries that operate missile-firing drones.

It has now become clear that, in the next few days, the Syrian regime will be facing more political and military pressures on the Arab, regional, and international levels, as a result of the Turkish-Israeli-US alliance and its Qatari and Saudi extensions. Erdogan will attempt to include Syrian Kurds in the mix, based on his deal with Öcalan, whose terms of agreement are still unknown. Turkey and Israel Reconcile Amid PKK Peace Promise


The Airlift.

On the NYT, a sketch of the C.I.A.-assisted aerial pipeline moving arms and other military goods to antigovernment fighters in Syria, via Jordan and Turkey.

More than 160 cargo flights have been made to Jordan and Turkey by Saudi, Qatari and Jordanian planes; most of the flights have occurred since late last year. The most recent flight was last night. In a few minutes we’ll post more data on one of the many legs.  


Photo of Ilyushin-76MF bearing logo of Jordanian International Air Cargo  taken by a plane spotter in Zagreb, Croatia on Dec. 23, 2012. Bottom, overview of the flights, Sergio Pecanha, NYT.