By Jan Oberg
Today, I am proud to say that NATO has a new home in the Gulf region. And that we have opened a new chapter in our deepening partnership.
NATO S-G, Jens Stoltenberg, in Kuwait on January 24, 2017
The Secretary-General also said this new home’s “potential is enormous”.
President Trump arrived on his first trip abroad to Saudi Arabia on May 19, 2017 and big things are supposed to happen, including Saudi Arabia presenting itself as a innovative, visionary leader of the region.
His visit must be seen in the light of a number of events and trends, and in what follows we do like the military when it scans the horizon for enemies: we look for patterns – not the least Saudi Arabia’s “surprising new military goals” as Forbes’ Ellen Wald appropriately calls them.
Or, as they say – we connect some dots that, invariable, Western mainstream media have no capacity and probably also no interest in connecting.
This pattern consists of at least these events and long-term trends:
1. The broadening of NATO cooperation with Gulf countries – one may even see a Middle Eastern NATO branch emerge.
2. Saudi Arabia’s evident leadership in building a new multi-national army announced a couple of years ago and allegedly having 100.000 troops as a goal. This is an extension of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s and its old to-be-replaced military arm, the Peninsula Shield Force
3. The intensified image in the US under Trump of Iran as a threat and a ‘ganging up’ against it.
4. The war on Syria’s territory with hundreds of foreign conflict participants including NATO country Turkey and allies such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and NATO members such as England and France – all in support of anti-government/regime change and pro-terrorists.
5. The second Cold War – very different from the first – between NATO and Russia which also has a Middle East dimension in that Russia is a vital partner of the Syrian government and the Syrian Arab Army.
6. The conflict formation that has Israeli as it’s centre – Hezbollah, Iran, Syria (the Golan Heights), etc. If you want to know what Israel wants to use Trump’s visit for it’s clear from this analysis: More confrontation with Iran and cooperation with Saudi Arabia, also concerning Syria.
7. NATO’s obvious crisis – the new Cold War around Ukraine; its second largest military member, Turkey, working closely with arch enemy Russia, ongoing trans-Atlantic conflicts about burden sharing etc.
This will suffice as an illustration of the complex web of inter-connected issues. There are surely more and we can’t go through them all in this short article.
By way of introduction it should be mentioned that NATO has, as alliance, been engaged in the Middle East for a long time – through the Mediterranean Dialogue begun in 1994 and “elevated” to the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative ten years later in 2004.
What’s going on now is, however, on a quite different scale.
The US-Saudi Arabia arms deal
The US and Saudi Arabia are to sign a huge – yet another – arms deal, valued at US$ 110 billion and, over a ten-year period perhaps mounting to as much as US$ 300 billion. It’s been facilitated by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner in a rather unconventional way.
Given that Saudi Arabia is the world 3rd largest military spender – i.e. directly after the US and China and, thus, bigger than Russia – this project must be seen in the realm of irrational militarism outside any domain of policies for peace in the Middle East.
And it’s important to keep proportions and priorities clear in these affairs. OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) spent more than $135bn (£90bn) in 2015 – i.e. the world’s richest countries give about half of the value of this single arms deal to help poor countries manage and eradicate poverty.
It is a clear example of the vested interests of the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex (MIMAC) that threatens the very survival of humanity and is way beyond democratic control. Western mainstream media’s very subdued coverage of this – extreme – dimension of US foreign policy in general makes them complicit and justifies their inclusion in the MIMAC concept.
It goes without saying that this deal is marketed to the world as promoting stability, security and peace and as an important element in the global War On Terror. Given all the other weapons that have been pumped into the Middle East region the last 4-5 decades and all the countries that have been more or less turned into ruins – it’s quite obvious why, as usual, there is no intellectual connection between this deal and the said goals.
For NATO and the mantras, media and marketing is everything.
Russia Today has done a rather decent piece of research on this (see below). Among other things, it makes clear that the deal includes weapons that have little, if anything, to do with fighting terrorism. One of them is the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system from Lockheed Martin that the US is also stuffing down the throat of South Korea.
To be able to win war, not to prevent them.
If for a moment one applies some kind of security political logics to this deal, it’s obvious that this build-up is directed – in the longer term perspective and with Israeli support, one must assume – against Iran and Syria. Israel’s official view is expressed here – official because otherwise this minister would have been fired for such statements.
The military expenditure “correlation of forces”
Military expenditures is not the only measure of military might. Neither is it an indicator of who would win a war; contemporary history is full of examples of big spenders losing wars when attacking countries with smaller military budgets.
That said, if you do a search on “world military expenditures” you’ll get a sense of who is willing and able to invest in the military and, also, a rough measure of both proportional allocation to the military sector and, above a certain level, an index of on dimension of militarism.
There are indexes by SIPRI and by the IISS and others – and here are the rough ‘correlation of forces’ pertaining to the countries we talk about here:
• Saudi Arabia is the 3rd or 4th largest military spender on earth after the US, China and perhaps Russia.
• Saudi Arabia spends about between US$ 64 and 82 billion annually (depending on source you consult), growing 20% per year and that is the extremely high 10 % of its GDP.
• Iran spends around US$ 12 bn which is 3% of its GDP.
• This means that Saudi Arabia military expenditures is already at least 5 times higher than Iran’s.
• Add to Saudi Arabia Bahrein with about US$ 1 bn, Oman 9, Qatar 4, United Arab Emirates (UAE) 23 and Kuwait 6 – sum total US$ 43 bn – and include Saudi Arabia and you land at US$ 100-120 billion or
10 times Iran’s.
• In a future war, it is obvious that Israel – if it joins anyone – would join an anti-Iran and anti-Syria – so add US$ 17-18 bn (Israel alone with 1/10 of the population of Iran has 1,5 times larger military budget and is a nuclear weapons power).
• Figures for Syria’s military expenditures seem to be very complicated and unrealiable but most sources estimate it in the order of US$ 3 bn.
The conclusion based on facts, not marketing and mantra, is rather obvious: the military expenditures of Iran and Syria are max about 1/10 of a Saudi-lead regional coalition should there be a war between them in the future. And, if so, you’d find Israel, ISIS and other terrorist groups safely in this Western-dominated camp.
Iran, for instance, has not committed aggression against any neighbour the last 250 years. It is militarily engaged with Syria and Hezbollah but that is a basically defensive mutual-benefit cooperation cannot be seen as an indicator of future attacks, invasion or occupation of other states.
The Syrian Golan heights are occupied by Israel.
With the figures presented here it should be quite obvious that Iran and Syria would have to have suicidal or mentally sick leaders to start a war against the mentioned countries in this region.
In spite of these facts, Western media and politicians do not refrain from painting the image of Iran and Syria as dangers to the region and the whole world. Neither do they tell what the rough correlation of forces is, as stated here.
Since the above data are readily available to anyone who cares to look them up at the Internet, the reason for that omission must be either lack of research and competence, political self-censorship or, worse, having been told that such information shall not be part of the report on issues pertaining to, say, Iran, the Syria war or arms deals such as the one with Saudi Arabia.
Fake news are not only – or even predominantly – about lies, slant, planting of invented stories, framing and perspectives. It is as much about omissions. And invented narratives disseminated by PR and marketing companies to an extent not seen in the past.