Thursday 14 Oct 2021 | 04:36 | SYDNEY
Thursday 14 Oct 2021 | 04:36 | SYDNEY

Saudi arms shoot US in own foot


Sam Roggeveen


9 September 2009 12:25

DoD Buzz, a website that keeps track of American military procurement issues, appears to have something of a scoop today, reporting that the Saudi Government is interested in buying 72 new American F-15 strike aircraft. The intro to the piece is pretty tendentious, arguing the purchase is prompted by Iran's 'recent breakout as a regional power' and its 'growing stockpile' of missiles.

That's how you'd expect the Pentagon to sell a deal like this but it hardly matches reality. Iran is a weak economic power and the recent sham elections have reduced its political legitimacy. It is no 'breakout regional power', though to the extent it has increased its influence in recent years, this can be put down in large part to the fact that the US did Tehran a favour by deposing Saddam Hussein.

The reference to growing stockpiles of missiles is true, in that Iran is building more missiles with longer range. But what is that against the awesome air strike capability that Saudi Arabia already has? It includes 71 F-15E Strike Eagles and 87 Tornados, with 72 Eurofighter Typhoons on order. Even without the additional F-15s, the Saudi Air Force's long-range strike capability far outweighs that of Iran. And I haven't even mentioned the Israeli Air Force.

What's really grating about all this is that Israel and the US complain bitterly when Russia tries to sell self-defence weapons like the S-300 surface-to-air missile to Iran (the Israelis even lobbied Russia directly). But these huge Saudi deals provide Iran and Russia with a legitimate and ready-made excuse for such sales.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.