Armament in Mideast: Turkey’s immediate concern is regional instability

by editor | 26th September 2010 7:58 am

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Armament in Mideast: Turkey’s immediate concern is regional instability

Renewed arms sales recently in the Middle East have triggered fears that a conflict with Turkey’s neighbor Iran may be imminent.

LALE KEMAL

A former Turkish ambassador, however, is confident that a war in the region to prevent Iran from furthering its alleged nuclear arms program is not likely — at least in the near future. US President Barack Obama is a clever man and would not risk triggering a war with Iran just before the Nov. 2 midterm congressional elections, said the retired ambassador.
Professor Mustafa Kibaro?lu of the Ankara-based Bilkent University and an expert on armament issues informed Sunday’s Zaman that obviously Turkey would not welcome a renewed arms race in the neighboring region.
“However, I do not believe that the large number of arms deals struck by Saudi Arabia will prompt Turkey to increase its arms purchases,” he said. Turkey does not perceive the Saudi arms deals with the US and increased armament as a direct threat to itself in the short term. However, Turkey would obviously not be pleased with the region’s continued arms buildup.
“But if the arms race continues unabated, this may spark Turkey to increase its arms purchases in the medium and long term [in the coming 10 years],” warns Professor Kibaro?lu.
The Gulf countries have embarked on one of the largest re-armament exercises in peacetime history, ordering US weapons worth some $123 billion as they seek to counter Iran’s military might, with US arms worth more than $67 billion going to Saudi Arabia, accounting for the largest single component of this military buildup and providing a huge boost to the American defense industry, reported the Financial Times on Sept. 21.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed contracts to buy military equipment worth $35 billion to $40 billion from the US. The UAE has received clearance to buy Thaad, a high altitude missile defense system being developed by Lockheed Martin.
The UAE and Kuwait have each signed contracts for upgrades to their Patriot missile defense systems, developed by Raytheon, which cover lower levels of an air defense curtain. Oman is expected to spend $12 billion and Kuwait $7 billion through the end of 2014 on replacing and upgrading warplanes and new command and control systems.
All these arms buys will enormously benefit US defense giants such as Boeing, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.
The prospective sale of $60 billion in advanced weapons systems and aircraft to Saudi Arabia is of both strategic and economic value to the US, aiming to counter the rising threat of a bellicose and potentially nuclear-armed Iran and purporting to create badly needed jobs, the UK based Jane’s Defence Weekly (JDW) reported in its Sept. 17 issue.
Iran factor irks Turkey

Commenting on the new arms deals, Kibaro?lu said there are already too many armaments in the region and that what is actually required for the region is obviously to focus on efforts to promote peace. Further arming of the region will not help stabilize an already fragile Middle East, he added.
The large arms deals struck recently by some Gulf countries, particularly the Saudis, are of concern to Turkey since the agreements are intended to be an answer to Iran’s nuclear arms ambitions.
Turkey has differed with its close ally the US as well as with European countries with regard to policies to be pursued against Iran in the ongoing standoff between the international community and Tehran over its alleged nuclear bomb development program. Turkey’s veto of the latest UN sanctions against Iran has irked the US.
The Turkish veto stemmed from its intensive efforts to find a compromise between Iran and the international community over the nuclear stalemate.
The Americans’ negative response to a deal struck between Iran, Turkey and Brazil in early May to ship Iran’s low enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for nuclear fuel for a Tehran reactor has seriously annoyed Ankara.
Turkey, in the meantime, reiterated its policy on nuclear arms, when Turkish President Abdullah Gül stated in New York this week that Ankara does not want Iran to have nuclear arms. Against this background, Turkey is of the opinion that the latest acceleration of arms purchases, mainly by the Saudis, will increase regional instability and will discourage Iran from talks.
For some Western experts, the Saudi deal is an attempt to contain a nuclear-armed Iran. But according to Turkey, on the contrary, this will have a negative effect on efforts to persuade Iran to come in line with the international policy on the nuclear issue. According to Professor Kibaro?lu, meanwhile, the latest arms deals will further reduce the trust felt in the region and will reduce the chances of a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff with Iran.
Nuclear swap deal falls victim to Obama-Clinton jealousy

Professor Kibaro?lu is of the belief that using Iran as a pretext, the Saudis have been arming themselves conventionally. “Saudi arms purchases will obviously trigger Iran to buy more arms, and Iranian diplomats will use this cleverly. The Saudi arms deal has given Iran an important bargaining chip in nuclear energy talks. I am not of the opinion that Saudi Arabia’s latest arms buy happened because Jeddah perceives Iran as a threat, but rather to strengthen itself militarily,” he said. Kibaro?lu also believes that the nuclear swap deal between Turkey, Iran and Brazil fell victim to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s jealousy of Obama, who was her rival during the presidential race.

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