The United States has agreed in principle to provide Israel with better “smart bombs” than those it plans to sell Saudi Arabia under a regional defense package, senior Israeli security sources said on Sunday.Keen to bolster Middle East allies against an ascendant Iran, the Bush administration last year proposed supplying Gulf Arab states with some $20 billion in new weapons, including Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bomb kits for the Saudis.
The plan has angered Israel’s backers in Washington, who say the JDAMs, which give satellite guidance for bombs, may one day be used against the Jewish state or at least blunt its power to deter potential foes. Israel has had JDAMs since 1990 and has used them extensively in a 2006 offensive in Lebanon.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government dropped its objections to the proposed Saudi deal in July after securing U.S. military aid grants worth $30 billion over the next decade.
Two Israeli security sources said the United States further mollified the Olmert government with an “understanding in principle” that future JDAM sales to Israel would include advanced technologies not on offer to Saudi Arabia.
“We are checking which of the top-of-the-line JDAMs will become available to us. The agreement is that Israel’s qualitative edge will be preserved,” one source said.
This is idiotic on a number of levels.
First of all, Saudi Arabia can have a trillion dollars’ worth of weapons; they are useless in a kingdom that has no decent army, no military expertise, and utterly no ability to deter any Iranian offenses. If Iran would decide for some reason to attack Saudi Arabia, it would be the US that defends it anyway – the Saudis would crumple on their own no matter what advanced weaponry they own (and they already own quite a bit of it.)
The Saudi arsenal is nothing more than a tempting target for terrorists to get their own hands on advanced weaponry for uses that are far from their conventional intent.
Moreover, in a world where asymmetric warfare is the prevailing wisdom, giving Israel a “qualitative edge” in having “smarter” bombs doesn’t help Israel’s defense a bit. Is there any chance that the Islamists who might end up with Saudi weaponry would care that Israel is somewhat better at hitting back purely military targets? They’ll be using this advanced weaponry against population centers in Israel. As Lebanon showed, Geneva no longer applies in the Arab wars against Israel and giving Israel better offensive weapons does not help much against an enemy for whom death is desirable.
Now, if the US would give Israel technology that can defend against the Saudi bombs – if an encrypted backdoor was placed in the JDAM software that could disable the weapons remotely, for example – then this might make sense. But the fact that Israel’s theoretical future versions of JDAMs might have an accuracy of 3 meters rather than 6 meters is pretty much meaningless.
None of this makes sense. Iran is not deterred in the least by these moves, on the contrary it gives them even more incentive to build nuclear bombs.
This deal might benefit defense contractors but pretty much no one else.
(cross-posted at Elder of Ziyon)