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The Middle East Arms Bazaar after the Gulf War Author(s): Joe Stork Source: Middle East Report, No. 197, Vulnerabilities in the Gulf (Nov. - Dec., 1995), pp. 14- 17+19 Published by: Middle East Research and Information Project, Inc. (MERIP) Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3013311 Accessed: 07-12-2017 01:25 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use inform
    The Middle East Arms Bazaar after the Gulf WarAuthor(s): Joe StorkSource: Middle East Report,  No. 197, Vulnerabilities in the Gulf (Nov. - Dec., 1995), pp. 14-17+19Published by: Middle East Research and Information Project, Inc. (MERIP)Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3013311Accessed: 07-12-2017 01:25 UTC   JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a widerange of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity andfacilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available athttp://about.jstor.org/terms Middle East Research and Information Project, Inc. (MERIP)   is collaborating with JSTORto digitize, preserve and extend access to Middle East Report  This content downloaded from on Thu, 07 Dec 2017 01:25:57 UTCAll use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms   USAF's SR-71 Blackbird on display in Lakenheath, England  Orde Eliason/Impact Visuals  lt was much easier for George Bush to sell tanks to Kuwait and jets to Saudi Arabia than to persuade the Japanese to import more American cars. Weapons are a significant export earner, says a Clinton administration official,  and one where the United States remains quite competitive. In the course of a March 1991 victory tour of the Middle East after the US-led defeat of Iraq, James Baker, then-secretary of state, piously proclaimed the hope that Desert Storm might be the last great battle in the region. Whatever credence this forecast may get from recent agreements between Israel, the PLO and Jordan, it is hard to reconcile with the mind-boggling  pace of militarization that continues, especially in the  Persian Gulf. According to a March 1994 US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) report, the  first to cover world military spending patterns since  Desert Storm, the Middle East still ranks highest in  military expenditures as a percentage of gross national  product (20.1 percent) and of total government  expenditures (54.8 percent). Middle East force ratios the number of persons under arms per thousand  population ?stand at 13.5, compared with 7.4  for the industrialized countries and 4.1 for the rest  of the South.1  As before the 1990-91 Gulf war, arms imports are a  significant piece of military expenditures in the region,  and serve as a window on the role of outside powers i  modulating the pace and extent of militarization in the Middle East. Arms export markets have declined  14 Mddle East Report ? November December 1995 This content downloaded from on Thu, 07 Dec 2017 01:25:57 UTCAll use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms   overall, including in the Middle East, with the end of  the Cold War and the impact of global economic  recession. And the United Nations' embargo on Iraq has,  for now at least, deleted that country from the list of importers of major weapons systems. According to the ACDA, the Middle East's share of the world arms market had risen from 35.9 percent in  1981 to 41.4 percent in 1991.2 In the Third World arms  market, Middle East countries have steadily accounted for 56 percent of total transfers.3 The impact of these  sales is being felt only now, as deliveries commence for  weapons systems contracted in the wake of the Gulf war. It was only in late 1994, for example, that Kuwait took delivery of the first of 218 M1A2 Abrams main  battle tanks ordered in 1992 from the US firm of  General Dynamics?at a price tag of $5 million per tank.  The most startling change in the overall Middle East  arms trade picture since the Gulf war is on the supplier  side. The latest reports on conventional arms transfers by the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) show  that the US share of arms agreements with Third World  countries had climbed, with increasing momentum, from 10 percent in 1986 to an astounding 60.5 percent in 1993 before dropping to just over 24 percent of the  total in 1994.4 In dollar terms, the drop was from $15.4  billion in 1993 to $6.1 billion in 1994. France, in a  performance the CRS termed extraordinary, sold $11.4  billion worth of arms to Third World markets, for nearly  45 percent of the total. Not surprisingly, French totals  were boosted by a strong showing in the Middle East? $3.5 billion sale of two frigates to SaudiArabia, Mirage  fighter-bombers to Qatar for $1.3 billion, and three  submarines to Pakistan worth $950 million. Russian sales also rebounded in 1994, nearly tripling over the  year before to $4.6 billion mainly to China and  Malaysia. The CRS reckoning is summarized in Chart I, which bears some explication. The end of the Cold War affected demand for major  weapons, as wars in the Third World wound down from  exhaustion and from an end to superpower patronage. It also affected the market from the supply side, with  the collapse of the Soviet Union. US analysts, of course,  have historically tended to inflate the dollar value of  Soviet transfers, so that the US percentages for the late  1980s may be exaggeratedly low. Nevertheless, the  overall trend is unmistakable. Russia and China  ( others ), have been relatively negligible players in the  larger arms market in the 1990s, both globally and in the Middle East. Their importance resides solely in the fact that their one remaining Middle East market of  any significance is Iran, which has been shut out of Western arms supermarkets under Washington's dual containment policy. Iran's economic troubles, though,  have reduced its military procurement to a fraction of what they wanted. 5  Joe Stork is editor of Middle East Report. An earlier version of this article  appeared in Le Monde Diplomatique, January 1995.  France's eclipse of US sales in 1994 is especially noticeable because it goes against a trend of significant  decline in the share of major Western European  suppliers. One ingredient here was the end of the Iran-  Iraq war in 1988. Iraq in particular had been an enormously important market for French and other  European manufacturers. A second factor was the relative availability to Britain and France of Saudi and  other Arab arms buyers at a time when US sales to  those countries were increasingly hampered by opposition from partisans of Israel in the US Congress.  The 1990-91 Gulf war has almost completely transformed  those dynamics, with the result that the Arabian  Peninsula has now become an almost exclusively  American preserve in the domain of military sales.  Brief Restraint  The rush to war in the fall and winter of 1990-91  brought with it occasional acknowledgment by US other Western policy makers that the unrestrained  supply of arms-on-demand to the countries of the Middle  East bore some relation to the unfolding crisis. The  time has come to try to change the destructive pattern of military competition and proliferation in this region and to reduce the arms flow into an area that is already  very over-militarized, Secretary of State Baker told the  House Foreign Affairs Committee in early February 1991. The Congressional Research Service reported in July 1991 that no less than 30 bills relating to arms  control had been introduced into the House and Senate  during and immediately after Desert Storm. The most far-reaching of these proposed a temporary unilateral  moratorium on all US arms sales to the Middle East.  The Bush administration and the arms industry  vigorously opposed any such measure. The administration countered with a proposal of its own on May 29, 1991, in  a commencement speech by President George Bush at the US Air Force Academy. In addition to provisions  directed at nuclear and chemical weapons, the Bush speech proposed freezing the purchase, production and testing of surface-to-surface missiles. Acknowledging that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council were also by far the largest purveyors of the  most dangerous and destructive conventional weapons  systems, Bush proposed talks among the Perm Five  to reduce the flow of arms into the region.  The Perm Five met three times?in July 1991 in Paris, in October 1991 in London, and in May 1992 in Washington, but they failed to move beyond insipid  communiques about the need to curb sales. Practical steps eluded them completely, and the talks fell apart when the Chinese withdrew to protest Washington's September 1992 decision to sell 160 F-16 warplanes to  Taiwan. The only concrete measure from the Perm Five  talks was an agreement out of the London session to notify one another of major sales to the Middle East,  Mddle East Report ? November December 1995 15 This content downloaded from on Thu, 07 Dec 2017 01:25:57 UTCAll use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms   CHART I: ARMS TRANSFER AGREEMENTS WITH DEVELOPING NATIONS, 10S7-1004  (BILLIONS OF CONSTANT 1994 DOLLARS)  SO  4 8 2 1 23.1% 51.7%  lill  1087  18.8% 11.8% 14%  -, 154 20.9% T  T '? * 81.7% I 111.2% |-1  42 6% L 38.3% _L ?>22.1% fill  H12-6% ? ?.i% B28'6*  ie.5% Jp; [^ [- [?  28.2  I 60.5%  1888 1880  1801  1882  UNITED STATES  MAJOR W. EUROPEAN ? RUSSIA  1884  D ALL OTHERS  Russia to the Third World  in 1991 7  Cashing in the  Chips of War  Chart I graphically por?  trays the contraction  of the Third World arms  market over the last eight years, from a high of $62 billion in 1988 to just over  $25 billion in 1993 and  1994. In the face of this  radical shrinkage, the United States, until 1994,  had been able to maintain its absolute dollar amount  of weapons sales at a level of around $15 billion each year, an amount that  is annroximatelv double  though there was no agreement as to whether notification should proceed or could follow the actual  sales agreements. Meanwhile arms sales continued,  with the US well in the lead. Over the brief period when  arms trade restraint was politically correct in  Washington, from the end of Desert Storm through the  beginning of June 1992, the US Congress cleared arms sales to the Middle East (including Turkey) worth some  $18 billion.6 In 1992, the only new law passed by  Congress relating to arms exports was the Iran-Iraq Arms Non-proliferation Act, banning all sales to those two rogue states.  The arms trade restraint effort collapsed completely  as the 1992 US presidential campaign got underway, around a longstanding proposal to sell three squadrons of F-15s to Saudi Arabia. Candidates George Bush and  Bill Clinton both agreed that the sale of the 72 F-15s to  Saudi Arabia should go through. The question had been refrained politically to one of domestic economy and employment. McDonnell-Douglas, prime contractor for the F-45, launched an unprecedented lobby campaign which it packaged as the Jobs Now Coalition.  The Saudi F-15 deal was initially estimated to be  worth between $4 and $5 billion; when the Bush ad?  ministration sent sale notification to Congress on September 14, 1992, the price tag?including spare en?  gines, targeting pods, 1500 missiles, 600 cluster  bombs, 700 laser-guided bombs, technical documen? tation and logistics training?had climbed to $9 billion. That same day, the administration also formally noti?  fied Congress of its intent to sell the F-16s to Taiwan, a  mammoth $5.8 billion deal in its own right. In one day, the Bush administration sold nearly $15 billion in arms  to just two countries?three times the total sales of  what it was in the late 1980s. (These values are cited  in constant dollars, but proportions are substantially  the same when reckoned in current dollars.)  In regional terms, the Middle East comprises the major Third World market for the arms producers ?  about 56 percent of total transfers. Many observers see  Asia?with increasingly affluent states like Taiwan,  South Korea and Singapore ?as the major growth market. But for now the biggest market remains the  Middle East. The Middle East accounted for more than  72 percent of total US arms transfers to the Third World  from 1990 to 1993 ?up from 61 percent over the previous four years, while the position of every other  major arms supplier dropped significantly. In 1994, even without major purchases from the US, Saudi Arabia  was the leading buyer by far, at $9.5 billion. China was  a distant second, at $2.5 billion, followed by Israel,  Qatar and Pakistan.  From Washington's point of view, a dominant position as arms supplier in a strategically important  region is important for reasons that go beyond commercial considerations. First, arms sales represent  an aspect of political alliance, particularly with the  military leaderships in buyer countries. Such  relationships can have consequences that also go beyond the military realm. This works for buyers as  well. Kuwait, for example, has done most of its postwar  arms shopping in the US, but has ladled out occasional  contracts to the French and even the Russians with  the aim of securing their participation in any futu  coalition defense against Iraq. Protection is the friends you have, commented Kuwaiti Defense  Minister Ali Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah, not the  weapons you have. 8  16 Mddle East Report ? November December 1995 This content downloaded from on Thu, 07 Dec 2017 01:25:57 UTCAll use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
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