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Did you hear the news? Pakistan has inked a deal to buy eight modern Chinese submarines. Pakistan, yeah. And the Pakistan navy is looking at developing nuclear warheads for the torpedoes and cruise missiles those subs carry. What do you think of that? Does it evoke any sort of visceral reaction in you? I wouldn't bet on it.
Those familiar with this blog know that I devote some time monitoring arms races underway in many corners of the world but especially in the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia and, of course, Russia and Eastern Europe. They're all little beehives of martial adventurism and incipient mass mayhem.
Interesting piece in today's Guardian about how the West's mega-billion dollar annual arms sales to our 'Middle Eastern allies' (snicker, snicker) is destabilizing the region. On this score even Canada gets special mention.
The Middle East is plunging deeper into an arms race, with an estimated $18bn expected to be spent on weapons this year, a development that experts warn is fuelling serious tension and conflict in the region.
Given the unprecedented levels of weapons sales by the west (including the US, Canada and the UK) to the mainly Sunni Gulf states, Vladimir Putin’s decision last week to allow the controversial delivery of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran – voluntarily blocked by Russia since 2010 – seems likely to further accelerate the proliferation.
That will see agreed arms sales to the top five purchasers in the region - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Egypt and Iraq – surge this year to more than $18bn, up from $12bn last year. Among the systems being purchased are jet fighters, missiles, armoured vehicles, drones and helicopters.
...“It’s crazy,” says Ben Moores, author of IHS Jane’s annual report on arms buying trends. “The one Canadian deal alone – to supply Saudi Arabia with light armoured vehicles – will account for 20% of the military vehicles sold globally in years covered by the contract. And this is just the thin edge of the wedge. Saudi has booked enough arms imports in 24 months for them to be worth $10bn a year.”
...as Tobias Borck of the Royal United Services Institute points out, states in the Middle East are now more prepared to use the weapons they are buying.
“[The] Saudi-led military operations in Yemen [are] the latest manifestation of Arab interventionism, a trend that has been gaining momentum in the Middle East since the uprisings of the Arab spring,” he says. “Middle Eastern countries appear to be increasingly willing to use their armed forces to protect and pursue their interests in crisis zones across the region.”
Referring to the inconsistent approach by key security council members towards arms control in the region, he adds: “There are a lot of different streams feeding into this arms race.
“On Syria’s chemical weapons and the Iranian nuclear programme the two issues were ringfenced as pure arms control questions. When it comes to how we perceive our arms sales – whether they are British or US or whatever – it tends to be seen as a domestic economic issue – protecting our factories.
“That neglects the regional political dimensions, with arms sales taking place with a lack of regard for that context and without long-term strategic awareness.”
...Omar Ashour, an expert on Middle East security issues at Exeter University, adds another caution, this time over the intentions of the new Saudi-led Arab coalition, warning that its interventions are unlikely to contribute to stability.
...Speaking to the Guardian last week, he added: “On top of that, the increases in arms sales are bound to be extremely destabilising. At the moment most of the interventions have been against softer targets – Saudi Arabia targeting guerrillas in Yemen; Egypt against Bedouin in Sinai; or strikes against ragtag armies in Libya.
“But if the ‘soft’ keeps being hit hard they won’t remain soft. They will find their own patrons and proxies and hit back and it will lead to a vicious cycle.”
Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher at Sipri, which maintains a database tracking arms contracts, raises another concern. “Something that doesn’t get mentioned is the complete lack of interest in arms control among the countries in region. It is not in the minds of leaders and decision-makers except for the need to arm to defeat any potential opponent.
“There is already instability in the region on several levels. You have instability in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. There is instability between Iran and the Gulf states. What is important now is how the massive expansion of the armed forces of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar will be seen as posing a clear threat to Iran.”
Borck adds a final warning: “If you are going for an ever-bigger hammer, then the more desperate you are to make every problem a nail.”
In summary, Stephen Harper just inked a massive deal to perpetuate the Middle East conflicts and ensure that the region remains destabilized for years, possibly decades to come. Yet, at the very same time, we're over there bombing one bunch of bad actors in order to restore stability to the region. Neat trick, eh? What do we have in mind for a third act? It should be pretty exciting for laid back Canada.
While I'm on the topic of warmongering and this insane global arms bazaar, I thought I'd share with you an investment analysis that arrived in my inbox yesterday concerning industry giant, Lockheed Martin. The title speaks volumes:
"Lockheed Martin: Well-Positioned To Take Advantage Of Global Destabilization"
You can't make this stuff up:
The Middle East, in particular, represents huge opportunities for Lockheed Martin. With conflicts in the Middle East escalating, the company's sales to the region will surely constitute a huge portion of its international business segment. Just recently, another Middle Eastern conflict emerged in the form of a rapidly destabilizing Yemem. The Yemen situation has gotten so bad that Saudi Arabia is now basically in a proxy war against Iran. Given Lockheed Martin's somewhat close relationship with Saudi Arabia, this conflict should present the company with plenty of new opportunities. In fact, CEO Marillyn Hewson met with several senior Saudi Arabian leaders to discuss new business opportunities.
The Middle East is just one of many promising international markets for Lockheed Martin. From increasing missile defense system sales in conflict zones such as Eastern Europe (e.g. MEADs sales to Ukraine) to jet deals in the APAC region(e.g. F-35 sales to South Korea), Lockheed Martin is building a formidable international presence. As international tensions/conflicts are only getting worse, Lockheed Martin has an opportune chance to cement its global presence.
Maybe Harper should dispatch Old Leatherback, Joe Oliver, over to the ME as Canada's ambassador for warmongering. This is just getting started and there's countless billions to be had with the race going to the quickest.