Category Archives: Weapons deals

IDEX and MAGA in MENA: How Arab Regimes Buy More Weapons to Kill Other Arabs……

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Arab kids in IDEX candy store…

“The world’s largest military fair is wrapping up in the United Arab Emirates. The IDEX exhibition attracts mainly African, Arab and Asian officials who are shopping for weapons. For defence companies at the fair, it’s a highly lucrative market. Never since the end of the Cold War have countries spent so much on defence, with deals worth a total of 100 billion dollars signed worldwide last year. Our correspondents report from Abu Dhabi…….”

They call it IDEX (the International Defense Exhibition), but much of it is not defensive. It is a new form of Newspeak. Most of those Arabs who buy the weapons have not been attacked by anyone in recent history, at least not in a quarter century. Those few who have been directly attacked were attacked by other Arab regimes (let’s leave Israel out of the equation here: these weapons are aimed at other Muslim/Arab states). Many of the rich Arab buyers are actively involved in wars in other poorer Arab countries. Some of these oligarchies are also stockpiling weapons to help repress their own people’s aspirations. Western weapons bought by Arabs from foreign “friends” to kill other Arabs.

Sometimes the local potentates get “commissions” from weapons deals (an important consideration). In some cases the weapons purchases are used to exert political influence on the exporting Western governments (British governments have been easy targets for such blackmail, and occasionally the French as well).

As Donald Trump would say or tweet (but he won’t in this case): Sad! So Sad! …….While he runs to the bank.

According to SIPRI data:
Saudi Arabia ‘s share was second largest world weapons importer: 7% of total international arms imports in 2011-2015 (compared to 2.1% in 2006-2010). The United Arab Emirates (UAE) share was fourth largest weapons importer: 4.6% in 2011-2015 (compared to 3.9% in 2006-2010). Each imported more than much bigger countries. But then one of these two Arab states (Saudi Arabia) has been engaged in indirect wars in Syria and Iraq and both are engaged directly in Yemen (active air and land war against local Yemeni forces). Saudis were the largest importers of total American arms exports (9.7% in 2011-2015), while the UAE were the second largest (9.1%).

Some of these Arab-bought weapons find their way into the killing fields of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Possibly other places as well. In an era when revenues are declining and poverty expands even in petroleum-producing countries. Helping Make Arabia Great Again.

M. Haider Ghuloum


France Ships Vladivostok to Egypt: How the Saudis Financed Gamal Abdel Nasser….

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There was once a huge French-made naval vessel: a huge helicopter carrier of the Mistral class. It was ordered from France by Russia in 2011, but with Russia producing a large portion of it.
Then the Ukraine crisis occurred and the West initiated a boycott of Russia. France under pressure decided not to deliver the Mistral, to be named The Vladivostok, to Russia as scheduled in late 2015.

It had a bit of a problem finding a home, a paying home, meaning somebody to pay for it more than Euro 1.2 billion.
It looks like now the Saudis (and very likely their Emirati rivals) have paid for it to be sent to Egypt. Who else, since the Egyptian economy is in no position to buy rice.
So the princes and potentates on the Gulf have financed a new Egyptian battleship named after their toughest historic rival, the secular leftist strongman who sought to overthrow their regime. Another irony of modern Arab history…..

But who will Egypt be fighting in the near future in the Mediterranean or Red Sea that it keeps buying so many weapons with Gulf money (or plentiful Gulf “rice” according to Al Sisi)?

M Haider Ghuloum

Sad Economic Dances: From Tango Argentino to Saudi Arabian Ardha………

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“من حفر حفرة لأخيه وقع فيها :Whoever digs a hole for his brother, he himself shall fall into itAn Arabic saying against treachery, based on a Hadith quote from the Prophet.

” Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, needs to sell oil at around $106 to balance its budget, according to IMF estimates. The kingdom barely has enough fiscal buffers to survive five years of $50 oil, the IMF said. That’s why Saudi Arabia is moving fast to preserve cash. The kingdom not only raised $4 billion by selling bonds earlier this year, but its central bank has yanked up to $70 billion from asset management firms like BlackRock (BLK) over the past six months. After years of huge surpluses, Saudi Arabia’s current account deficit is projected to soar to 20% of gross domestic product this year, Capital Economics estimates. Saudi Arabia’s war chest of cash is still humungous at nearly $700 billion, but it’s shrinking fast…………”

Argentina evokes images of tango, soccer, gauchos…and an awful economy — one of the world’s worst. Its economy is projected to show little or negative growth this year. Argentina is still indebted to American hedge funds, affectionately known as “vultures” in the country. And it remains the poster child of nations that default on their loans. But there’s new optimism in Argentina, mainly driven by presidential elections coming later this year…………….”

In Argentina, the ruling party could win another term in run-off elections. But the Tango Argentino goes on.

Now to Saudi Arabia, where the princes like to force their Western visitors to mimic the native all-male Ardha dance for the cameras. From George W Bush to Prince Chuck of England they have all pretended t enjoy this dance. Only the Frenchmen, Sarkozy and Hollande, could not bring themselves to pretend that they want anything to do with it.

There is a great Arabic saying from the Hadith that ” من حفر حفرة لأخيه وقع فيها   whoever digs a hole for his brother, he himself shall fall into it“.

As I have opined recently, the Saudi princes had bought the fantasy that they can “control” crude oil markets. They thought they could engineer limited lower prices for political strategic goals. To punish the mullahs in Iran, Putin in Russia, and the North American shale industry. It worked well beyond their expectations, to the extent that Saudi Arabia faces economic disaster in a few years.  They probably never dreamed that prices will collapse to less than $50 (apparently the Saudis need oil prices to hover around $100/barrel).  Other Gulf GCC states can live with much lower oil prices than $100, but not the Saudis.


If you look at the IMF chart, you’ll notice that the most corrupt most repressive of the Persian Gulf states require a higher price for crude oil to break even. These are the two countries to the right. Of course that could be just a coincidence, some may say “there is no correlation”.

However, the princes are fine. They take their cut first, from oil production and from huge military and civilian contracts. They keep on sucking the resources of the country and its people. Whatever reduction in their loot results from reduced oil prices they make up with commissions and kickbacks on even larger weapons contracts with the West.

Hopefully their reckless policies do not doom the economies of the other Gulf states.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Weapons Deals: Hollande and Cameron Grow Goatees……….

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In my earlier post I opined that if they, the Saudi princes, can get rid of the moustache, then they might have a slew of kings and princes who are as hairless as Francois Hollande or David Cameron or even Angela Merkel. On the other hand, there may be no need: Hollande and Cameron would be glad to grow goatees in their feverish no-holds-barred quest for more weapons contracts.


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Persian Gulf: Local Powder Keg, Western Market Opportunity……..

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“In Yemen, “Saudi Arabia is using F-15 fighter jets bought from Boeing. Pilots from the United Arab Emirates are flying Lockheed Martin’s F-16″ in sorties in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, wrote the Times. U.S. arms manufacturers have opened up offices in several Arab capitals, and reportedly expect additional orders from regional countries for “thousands of American-made missiles, bombs and other weapons” to replenish “an arsenal that has been depleted over the past year,” according to The New York Times. In an earnings call leaked to The Intercept last month, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson stressed the company’s goals to increase international sales, particularly in the Middle East. “A lot of volatility, a lot of instability, a lot of things that are happening” in the Middle East are potential “growth areas”………….”

In 1979, after the mullahs and their temporary secular allies overthrew the Shah of Iran, they made a nearly-fateful decision. They canceled all pending weapons contracts with the United States (that was before the Hostage Crisis). The decision was partly driven by ‘revolutionary’ zeal, and based on the naive assumption that they were safe from external attack and that they could influence the region with their revolutionary message and rhetoric.
Next year Saddam Hussein did something that quickly disabused them of that rosy view. Saddam saw an opportunity in the turmoil within Iran and made his own fateful decision by invading southwestern Iran. That war disappointed all expert predictions as it lasted eight years and bankrupted Iraq to the extent that Saddam invaded Kuwait to loot its wealth. We all know that story is still unfolding in Iraq and across the region (and to some extent within Iranian political circles).
Suddenly our once peaceful Gulf looked quite menacing. Meanwhile, with the two Persian Gulf superpowers, Iran and Iraq, otherwise occupied, the smaller countries started building up their own arsenals, to supplement the American Umbrella. Now Saudi Arabia, UAE and other GCC states are major weapons markets for the West (and the East). The Iranian mullahs probably salivate at the quality and quantity of state-of-the-art Western weapons that their smaller neighbors to the south can get. Only the Israelis get better weapons than the GCC states, and that is certainly deliberate American policy.

The mullahs will probably have to keep on salivating: Western weapons are unlikely to be available to Iran any time soon. That is not all bad. They have managed to develop their own vast weapons industry, as well as a credible space program. Which means they have locally mastered the sciences and technology needed. For a country the size of Iran, it makes sense to focus on domestic production. Besides, they have not done so bad in terms of regional influence, even without F-15 and F-16 warplanes and shared Western intelligence.

I am tempted to assert that it would be better for the other Gulf states to develop their own weapons industries. But there may be a small problem with that. Where would the princes and potentates, and their families, get the huge amounts of money that the weapons bribes commissions provide?

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Western Weapons Sanctions: Unintended Long-Term Consequences………

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“It is a tribute to Iranian ingenuity that Iran has been able to keep the planes flying, given US sanctions in place since 1979. The Iranians have done so by a combination of smuggling – using shadow companies to buy parts – and cannibalising parts from civil aircraft. They have also engaged in reverse engineering, though this seldom produces a perfect match, resulting in weaker parts. Justin Bronk, a research analyst in the military science programme at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said of the plane spotted over Iraq: “This is the equivalent of a late Vietnam-era F-4 Phantom D or E variants. We do not know which one.” Bronk, who specialises in combat air power, added: “It is extremely impressive that the Iranians have kept this airworthiness given the ban on spare parts. The Iranian aerospace industry is one of the best in the world in keeping old aircraft airworthy.”…………”

For some reason they can’t seem to get more modern warplanes from their Chinese and Russian allies. Or maybe the mullahs are just as attached to old American jets as the Shah was to new ones.

In any case, they have managed to improvise and build up their technical skills and weapons industries. Necessity is truly the mother of invention, and a fount of new research, technical skill, and knowledge. If and when the American-European blockade is lifted, they will probably find themselves with a robust domestic weapons and space industry that can only be rivaled by the Israelis.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Mulling ISIS Supply Routes and Friedman’s Arab Taxis on a Pacific Northwest Trail………

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I though I’d write a Friedman-esque (as in Thomas not Milton) post today. I am not starting it upon arrival at some Arab airport and a ride into town in a taxi driven by Abdu (in Cairo) or Abed (in Beirut) or Abul-Abed (in Amman). Funny, when Friedman goes to Beijing, the inscrutable Chinese taxi drivers (Abu Wong, et al) never share their local wisdom with him. Only Arabs do: blab and share their apparent wisdom with Western journalists.

No, I was thinking about that yesterday, Saturday. As we biked the twenty mile round trip along the Sammamish River Trail, past a couple of vintners joints and at least one hbrewery, towards the Burke-Gilman Trail. On an unusually cloudless warm morning of the Pacific Northwest. Here goes: 

I saw a retired general (USMC) state that ISIS controls the upper rivers (Euphrates and Tigris) and roads from Syria to resupply their forces in Iraq. Which made me wonder, as I pedaled along that peaceful bike trail:

  • Where do ISIS get these supplies and volunteers from Syria (as the general said)?  Why is Syria their main supply route into Iraq? And from where and how do these weapons and the money and volunteers flow into Syria then into Iraq? And how would increasing the supply of weapons to the useless Syrian opposition groups affect the flow of weapons to the ISIS Caliphate? Should we ask Turkey or Saudi Arabia or Qatar or Jordan about this? They certainly don’t flow from Cyprus (no, Israel is also an unlikely source).
  • From which Syrian (FSA, Ansar-Al-WTF, etc, etc) “relatively moderate” opposition groups and gangs did ISIS purchase some of these Western hostages (journalists and aid workers) that were so horribly beheaded on camera? And they were no doubt purchased from some of the other would-be liberators of Syria.

Before I had finished, er, mulling this last question, it was time for us to hydrate and turn around. Sort of like what happens when Thomas Friedman’s Arab taxi, driven by Abdu (in Cairo) or Abed (in Beirut) or Abul-Abed (in Amman), or Abu-Wong (in Beijing) drives up to the hotel entrance. Before he finishes sharing his strategic and cultural gems with us.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Holy Royal Blackmail! French American War in Lebanon Over Saudi Money……

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“On a visit to Paris, the Saudi crown prince is said to have ironed out most obstacles to a multi-billion-euro plan to equip the Lebanese army with French weapons in the face of regional instability, but one final signature is still missing. Sources with knowledge of the talks told FRANCE 24 on Wednesday that the absence of the finance minister among the group of Saudi officials accompanying Defence Minister and Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud to Paris was the official reason for the delay…………”

“According to a March 8 source, the closure of the Ersal-Qalamoun front “will reflect positively on the operations the Syrian army and its allies are carrying out in the Damascus countryside against armed extremist groups, which is something that Saudi Arabia and other countries supporting the Syrian opposition groups will never allow to happen.” Other sources added that “Saudi Arabia has put the $3 billion donation to the army on hold because of the presidential vacuum and also because of Washington’s opposition to this donation for many reasons including Riyadh’s intention to sign a $25 billion arms deal with Paris………..”

The Saudis have been trying for years to find a formula to weaken the grip of Hezbollah over Lebanese politics. Ever since Hezbollah defeated the occupying Israeli IDF in a long guerrilla war and forced it to withdraw from southern Lebanon in the year 2000. The Saudi campaign escalated after Hezbollah again defeated the IDF and forced it to abort its incursion into Lebanon in the summer of 2006. The only times an Arab army or armed group has ever defeated the IDF.

The Saudis’ best Lebanese man, the late Rafiq Hariri, was assassinated in 2005 by parties still unknown (and I mean truly unknown). Their second best man Saad Hariri decamped quickly for Paris after a short stint as prime minister (the job is part of the Sunni share of power). He is now reported by the media to have flown back to Paris after a short visit to Beirut. The rest, the Druze and the Falangist rightist warlords, represent smaller balancing factions within their own ethnic/confessional communities.

Money has not worked, mainly because money, even holy petroleum money, cannot overcome confessional and sectarian passions. Not even in Lebanon. Then the princes resorted to an explosive weapon: they have worked to escalate sectarian tensions in Lebanon. And they have succeeded spectacularly in that. They lit some fires in Beirut and especially in Tripoli and a few other places. Thanks to their efforts, Tripoli and regions near the Syrian border are now a hotbed of Salafi Jihadi activity. There are now also pockets of such activity in parts of Beirut and in some southern townships. That explains the increase in periodic attacks on army posts by armed Salafi groups.

Desperate times provoke desperate measures. They are now targeting the Lebanese army as the last Achilles Heel of Lebanese politics. Or, to continue with Greek mythology/history, as a possible Trojan Horse. They have settled on the Lebanese Army as a possible way to outflank Hezbollah. Except that the Lebanese army represents the demographic mix of Lebanon, its various religions and sects. At best that army can stay out of politics and remain united, at worst it can meddle in politics and break up into its ethnic and sectarian components. Back to the drawing board.

Targeting the army has started another external war. An apparent battle for weapons deals, and the conditions attached to them, between France and the United States. The original Saudi deal, announced months ago through Saad Hariri, was to pay for only a specific deal of French weapons to Lebanon (somewhere between $ 3-4 billion). Yet that deal, like all Saudi offers of foreign aid, has stalled as Riyadh tries to use it as leverage and to blackmail all parties with it. It is like a case of double or multiple  blackmail. The Saudis often try to pressure several foreign parties with one deal. They are now using this potential arms deal to influence the following: (1) French Middle East policy, (2) Lebanese internal politics, and (3) American Middle East policy.

Stay tuned for more on this battle for Saudi weapons deals.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Mayberry Militarized: Fallujah and Kandahar Come to the American Heartland……..


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“Pentagon data, reports the New York Times reveals the scale of military equipment turnover. Under the Obama administration, 432 MRAPs, 533 planes and helicopters, nearly 100,000 machine guns, and nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines have gone to police departments. That flow of military equipment to local police departments might have made more sense when the program was created in the 1990s. Violent crime, particularly in cities, peaked in that decade, sparking fears about our degenerating urban areas. But then, for reasons sociologists will debate over and over, violent crime has fallen drastically to the lowest rates we’ve seen in decades. And now, we find also ourselves with a surplus of war equipment. The militarization of police departments is also changing the role of local police……………..”

, MRAPs, Drones, Machine guns invade small town America. Does Mayberry need Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles now? Mayberry as militarized as Fallujah or Kandahar. What would Aunt Bee think (but not necessarily say) if she were alive? What would Andy Griffith say if he were alive? What does Opie think now?

, what would Matt Dillon and Wyatt Earp say? No doubt TWF was not cool in their days, not in Dodge City nor in Tombstone, if it was available (it was not). So, I shall say it on their behalf: WTF?……


Of International Law, Weapons Smuggled to Gaza, and Somali Pirates………


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“Israeli naval commandos intercepted and boarded a civilian ship in the southern Red Sea early Wednesday, preventing an attempt to smuggle an Iranian shipment of advanced rockets to Gaza, according to senior Israeli officials. The ship, identified as the Klos-C, was seized in international waters between Eritrea and Sudan, approximately 1,000 miles from the port of Eilat, Israel’s southernmost point. It was carrying Syrian-manufactured M-302 rockets with a range of about 100 miles, according to Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military. The takeover took place without violence; Israeli officials said the crew of 17 cooperated with the Israelis and seemed unaware of the vessel’s contents. The ship, which was also carrying civilian cargo, was flying under a Panamanian flag………………….”

“The Israeli military seized a boatload of advanced Iranian weapons—and then launched a sophisticated PR campaign to tell the world why they shouldn’t trust Tehran. On Wednesday morning, the Israeli Navy announced that it had stopped an Iranian cargo vessel with advanced weapons destined for fighters in Gaza. By Wednesday afternoon, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz was telling members of the U.S. Congress that the interception of the sophisticated rockets revealed the “real nature of Iran”………….”

It is possible, although I reserve the right to be extremely doubtful. Hamas is much more opportunistic than principled. It has gone back to its old ties of dependence on the mullahs, now that the Muslim Brotherhood is on the run in Egypt and Ras al-Khaimah and the Syrian regime seems to be winning (for now). Yet, the timing of his weapons cache is too damn……. coincidental and so convenient.
A Panamanian ship, loaded in Iraq and Sudan: that is already a red signal, nay a huge flashing red light screaming: catch me, catch me! Headed directly toward the Israeli port of Eilat? That is a brighter flashing red light and a louder scream of: catch me, catch me! Many would suspect a ship loaded in Iraq and Sudan heading to the Red Sea, and almost everybody knows that. And when were the alleged weapons added to the cargo and by whom? Can the Iranians be THAT stupid, knowing from past experience that undefended ships can and are boarded in international waters? Could be: the mullahs have their fair share of schmucks, one of them was president until last summer. Or is the Israeli Mossad THAT clever to choreograph such an incident? They can and they have done it in the past.
Maybe the Iranians ARE that stupid. Maybe Mossad ARE that smart. Either way it coincided with a big AIPAC (Israeli lobby) conference in Washington last week, and it was enough to get many people in the USA, and not just honestly-worried Jewish-Americans, even more ‘worried’.

P.S: Does international ‘law’ reserve the privilege of boarding a ship with Panamanian flag in international waters exclusively for certain ‘decent’ countries (and Somali pirates)?