Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 15, 2008

The 'Gift' of Weapons for Saudi Arabia

Timeo Danaos et dona ferente

While channel surfing last night I stumbled across CNN international. Wolf Blitzer announced the topics of his following Situation Room show.

'Bush arrived in Saudi Arabia with a huge gift of $20 billion,' or so he said.  I didn't feel well enough to sustain his babbling so I immediately zapped away.

But today I checked the transcript and, as expected, Blitzer was as fact-free as it gets. "a pricey gift ..." he said.

This is not a gift, but, in the benign version, an offer to sell some very expensive and useless stuff. As the Saudis depend on U.S. defense, (and are deliberately kept in that state), they are required to pay tribute. Since the first U.S. war on Iraq, Saudi Arabia purchased U.S. weapons for about $40 billion. One is tempted to call these sales camouflaged extortion.

The $20 billion Blitzer talked about is the amount for which the U.S. hopes to sell weapons to six Gulf countries. The United Arab Emirates are offered to buy for some $10 billion and Kuwait for $1.7 billion. The current total deal with Saudi Arabia will likely stay below $1 billion.

The most imminent sell to SA is of 900 JDAM kits for a price of $123 million. JDAMs are strap-on guidance system for dumb gravity bombs. They depend on GPS satellite signals, something the U.S. can disable anytime. The weapons SA will purchase for a horrendous price are less capable than those Israel gets for free. (Sidenote: the NYT link above nearly beats the quality of Blitzer's reporting by confusing the bombs in question with missiles. Missiles can be launched from a distance - bomb droppers are exposed to adversarial air defense.)

The price of the JDAM deal is some $137,000 per guided bomb. But the pure JDAM strap-on kit is listed by FAS as costing about $20,000. The dumb bombs these guidance-kits are strapped to are less than $4,000 each.

The market price for the deal should thereby be around $22 million, not $123 million. The extra $100 million on the bill are bribes, profits and funds for the Republican party.

Did I mention extortion? That's the only real issue these Gulf weapon deals are about.

The Saudi military buys a lot of USuk hightech, but never manages to integrate the stuff. The more complex systems are maintained and run by Saudi payed U.S. contractors. Some fun stuff is used for training games, like competitive tank-gunning with live ammunition. A few Saudi princes are allowed to show off in modern jets to impress their peers and girl friends. The Saudi military is essentially a deliberate hoax.

If the Saudis would ever take their national defense seriously, they immediately would be in danger to lose their oil fields to a U.S. marines onslaught. Such plans exist since 1973 and continue today as visible in Lt.Col. Ralph Peters' map.

The only 'gift' the US is offering SA is to keep the status quo intact. This as long as the Saudis pay their tribute.

Timeo Danaos ...

Note: Beating CNN anytime, Asia Times has a good piece on the deal: Smart bombs, dangerous ideas

Posted by b on January 15, 2008 at 03:36 PM | Permalink



So am I being blocked? I have posted several posts in the last few days, yet, none have shown.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jan 15, 2008 8:45:10 PM | 1

from a segment on tuesday's democracy now, featuring an interview w/ craig unger

AMY GOODMAN: And this military package that he is bringing, talking about $120 million in sophisticated bombs, part of a $20 billion military package to the region, the lion share of it going to Saudi Arabia?

CRAIG UNGER: Right. Well, theoretically, that’s supposed to be used to ward off the Iranian threat. You know, interestingly enough, there was a press conference in Israel this week in which they said the smart bombs they were getting were smarter than the smart bombs we were selling to Saudi Arabia.

ironically, the only truly smart bomb is the suicide bomber, who has, as françois géré put it, "the flexibility of adaptive intelligence and situational awareness that make it possible to see an action through -- or if necessary to modify the original plan or even to abort the operation and try again another time."

Posted by: b real | Jan 15, 2008 9:30:04 PM | 2

Northern Rock investors voted DOWN managements' plan to hold off on auctioning their mortgage portfolio.

Tomorrow the global mark-to-market freefall begins, however else the talking heads spin it up their skirts.

Making the Saudi arms story like day-old fried rice.

Posted by: Tom Terrific | Jan 16, 2008 1:14:17 AM | 3

Remember when the British had nothing they could sell the Chinese to pay for their tea habit until they introduced the opium trade?

The US is financing its oil habit by selling arms.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Jan 16, 2008 2:28:11 AM | 4

One should be clear: the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, by the US, Britain, and no doubt many others, is just a way of recycling into the western economies the money paid for oil. The arms are not used for anything, they cannot be, and are not intended to be. The only time the Saudi army went to war since the conquest of the Hijaz in 1924 was the reconquest of Kuwait in 1991. It was not a great performance.

Posted by: Alex | Jan 16, 2008 4:48:34 AM | 5

Oh, I forgot: you have a spelling mistake in your Latin (!). Virgil's latin is "Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes" I fear the Greeks even when bringing gifts. Though of course as you rightly argue, in this case, they are not gifts, but sales at a high price.

Posted by: Alex | Jan 16, 2008 4:56:04 AM | 6

There was a comment yesterday over at rigint from someone who apparently knows costs etc. of the "smart bombs".

According to him/her, the smartness is attached to a cheap drop-it-and-hope-it-hits bomb, which the Saudis apparently have already. Price is a LARGE multiple of the cost, and as you (Alex) say, they won't use em anyway.

Posted by: rapt | Jan 16, 2008 11:09:09 AM | 7

CRS report for congress - The Gulf Security Dialogue and Related Arms Sale Proposals, January 14, 2008

In recent months, some Members of Congress have expressed concern regarding an Administration proposal to sell satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) kits to Saudi Arabia. In the Middle East region, to date, the United States has sold JDAM kits to Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. Since August 2007, the Administration has notified Congress of proposals to sell 10,000 JDAM kits to Israel and 200 JDAM kits to the United Arab Emirates. On January 14, 2008, the Administration formally notified Congress of a proposal to sell 900 JDAM kits to Saudi Arabia.

This report describes the structure and objectives of the Gulf Security Dialogue; briefly assesses its regional implications; summarizes related proposed arms sales; provides an overview of congressional notification and review procedures; and analyzes recent related activity in the Administration and Congress. It will be updated as events warrant.

Posted by: b real | Jan 16, 2008 5:55:47 PM | 8


Saudi @ 8Mbbl/d x us$100 almost us$1 billion a day, so likely they can pony up 20, 40, even 60 billion without a second thought.

Posted by: bu | Jan 19, 2008 3:58:58 PM | 9

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