The provision of arms to Saudi Arabi and Egypt is being marketed to the public as a means to enable these countries to counter a threat from Iran, but as is always the case, the truth is less egalitarian.
Thus, in the name of “working with these states to fight back extremism” (as secretary of state Condoleezza Rice put it), the US is arming two of the Arab world’s leading human rights abusers: Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Naturally there are obvious interests being served by such lucrative deals.
If you want to know the meaning of a new policy initiative, especially one involving such substantial sums, ask yourself, cui bono? The first answer, in this case, is the American armaments industry: those U.S. “aid” dollars are poured into the coffers of major U.S. military contractors and a host of minor ones, and the money stream flows, in turn, in the direction of certain political candidates. Palms are greased, politicians are bought, and the military-industrial-neocon complex marches on. The War Party is always feeding itself: that’s why we have the most bloated military establishment in the world, with “defense” expenditures exceeding the combined military budgets of the next 30 spenders.
But ultimately, the goal here is to protect the tyrants in the Middle East from threats to their leadership.
In Egypt, the tiny Shia population is already harassed by the authorities and treated with suspicion. Some of this has been documented by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. Its report talks of Shia Muslims being arrested – ostensibly for security reasons – but then being subjected to torrents of abuse by state security officers for their religious beliefs.
In Saudi Arabia, where Shia account for 20% of the population (and, more critically, 75% in the oil-rich region), the official policy, as Matthew Mainen of the Institute for Gulf Affairs noted recently, is to treat them as polytheists, idol worshippers, and as part of a vast Jewish conspiracy against Islam.
What more evidence does one need to appreciate that spreading democracy in the Middle East is the last thing that Washington is interested in?