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The Great Global Arms Bazaar
A new, world-wide arms race is underway
Michael Werbowski (minou)     Print Article 
Published 2010-02-04 11:51 (KST)   
We all would do well to read, or re-read perhaps, Anthony Sampson's outstanding anatomical study of the international arms trade: "The Arms Bazaar." It gives us some perspective on how the "defense industry" has grown to what it is now: an unwieldy Golem, that's out of control.

Even in these hard times, "the military-industrial complex" seems to be thriving. There are mammoth weapon sales underway on a global scale. For instance, in Asia, the U.S is bolstering militarily cooperation with its close alley and Chinese foe, by selling a large weapons package to the island of Taiwan.

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A regional arms race seems to be developing. This has riled the Chinese, who have "vehemently" protested by means of all diplomatic channels available to them. The reaction to Washington's planned military shipment to Taipei was swift and strident. "The People's Daily" considers the U.S. move to be a sign of a "preemptive cold-war mentality and moral hypocrisy."

In response to the $6.4 billion deal, Beijing has cut off all "military dialogue" with Washington in the wake of the arms deal with Taiwan. China has also threatened economic reprisals. Beijing is considering sanctions against U.S defense firms involved with Taiwanese the deal, such as Boeing, which has reportedly sold 12 missiles to Taiwan as part of the overall sale. The arms shipment to Taiwan totals, in all, 114 Patriot missiles and 60 Black Hawk helicopters (1).

Analysts are concerned about the growing tensions which could perhaps occur along the strait of Taiwan for instance, which separates mainland China from the "break-away" Island. At a recent meeting meeting of strategic experts in London this week, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) chief specifically referred to a possible stand-off developing, between the U.S. and Chinese navies.

"Defining ways in which the two navies might acceptably operate in areas near to China would be a good subject for the military-to-military talks... that unfortunately can easily be placed in jeopardy when the countries find themselves in a political dispute, especially over Taiwan," the Institute's Director, John Chipman remarked recently (2).

Hence the risk of an armed confrontation between the old (U.S.) and new (rising China) superpower rises each day.

In the middle east, more military tinder is stacked for the pyre or fire to come.

Shifting to the Middle East, there are re-surging tensions with Iran. They are reaching potentially explosive levels. The U.N. plans further and more stringent sanctions against Tehran, as part of the on-going efforts by the West to curb Iranian nuclear ambitions.

In the view of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, "If these sanctions prove incapable of getting Iran to halt its suspected nuclear weapons program, the chances for a U.S. or Israeli military strike against Iran will grow very high before the end of this year. Here in the Persian Gulf, apprehension is off the charts." His words of warning appear to be far from empty rhetoric. They may be a veiled threat of what may happen next.

In addition to the sanction regime against Tehran, arms deals are being done to further intimidate the country. These weapons sales are most likely meant to contain the potential belligerent by rearming the Persian Gulf region. As part of the record $708 billion allocated by Congress for military spending in 2011, the Obama administration is "boosting friendly states' military capabilities."(3)

This military build up is obviously meant to offset Iran's strategic missile threat. Thus, Washington plans to sell a $410 million "Patriot" missile defense system to Kuwait, and another similar system worth $7.8 Billion, to Turkey. And in doing so, further encircling Iran with "defensive" deterrents.

In addition, to re-arming the Gulf region there are also "substantial" armament sales to other regional allies such as Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates in the works according to the Financial Times newspaper (Ibid).

The Russians want to get into the game too.

Russia has signed a deal with Libya to supply with small-arms and other weapons to the value of $1.8 billion, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has announced (4). The Lybian defense minister, Yunis Jaber was in Moscow recently to negotiate this "arms package." Russian media sources have reported the deal includes 20 fighter aircraft and a mobile missile defense system known as the "S-300." It also includes "T-90C" type tanks. Indeed, the world is witnessing an arms sales bonanza, which risks setting volatile regions in Asia, the Persian Gulf and North Africa ablaze.

(1) BBC News , "US slates China's Taiwanese response", (02/03/10)
(2) AFP news agency, "Asia bolsters defences as West feels pinch: IISS", (02/03/10)
(3) "US vows more help for allies in Mideast", The Financial Times, (02/02/10)
(4) BBC News, "Russia announces Libya arms deal worth $ 1.8 bn", (01/30/ 10)
©2010 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Michael Werbowski

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