U.S. arms to Gulf allies hint of strategy

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In addition, some of the offensive hardware that the Gulf states have received from the U.S. is as good or in some cases better than the U.S. military’s.

Lockheed Martin has been selling the United Arab Emirates an F-16 “Desert Falcon” version known as “Block 60,” for which the country bankrolled the $3 billion development costs. According to DefenseIndustryDaily.com, it is a notch better than the latest Fighting Falcons flown by U.S. pilots.

The Desert Falcons boast extended range, new radars and targeting pods that clearly make the jet an offensive threat against Iran directly across Gulf waters.

The United Arab Emirates has been buying and flying Block 60s since the previous decade. It plans at some point to add other weapons — 2,000-pound bunker-busting bombs used against buried, cemented targets. Obama administration officials said a year ago that they were working to complete the sale.

“It’s perfectly possible the UAE could be asked to try to bomb aircraft shelters, hardened aircraft hangars’ stockpiles, coastal missile sites that are hardened,” Mr. Katzman said. “There are a range of targets that coalition partners like UAE could be asked to take out as part of strike package, if it comes to that.”

The Saudi stockpile

The United Arab Emirates‘ Sunni Arab neighbor Saudi Arabia also is buying more aggressive weapons.

It signed a deal last year to buy 2,000 joint direct attack munitions — a weapon system that turns unguided bombs into guided missiles, and has been used extensively by the Navy and Air Force to destroy targets in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Saudi Arabia also signed a deal to buy 84 F-15SAs and to upgrade its fleet of 70 warplanes.

The F-15s can unleash a wide array of ordnance, including the satellite-guided joint direct attack munitions, Harpoon ship-blasting missiles and anti-tank bombs called the Sensor-Fuzed Weapon.

Such offensive weapons are increasing in importance to the Gulf, given Israel’s reported plans to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities if the West does not stop the Islamic republic’s pursuit of atomic weapons.

The Gulf states “also see the Shiite-dominated Iran as a general destabilizing force in their neighborhood,” said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, who advocates military action against Tehran.

“Clearly, the Sunni Arabs are very concerned about [Shiites] sweeping across the Arabian Peninsula into Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, fueled by Iran’s leadership and resources,” Gen. McInerney said. “The U.S. sale of modern aircraft and weapons is designed to help them cope with this threat.”

He said the Gulf nations also are banking on assistance to which they would never admit publicly. “Covertly, they are supporting the Israelis’ counter [to the Shiites],” he said.

From Iran’s vantage point, the Persian Gulf looks like this: The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, constantly patrols the waterway. To the west and south on land, the Gulf nations are acquiring an increasingly potent arsenal of planes, missiles and bombs.

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