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House Group Warns That U.S. Arms Sales to Arab Countries Could Intensify Inter-arab Conflicts

American military sales to Iran during the last fiscal year amounted to some $5 billion while area sales during the some period to Saudi Arabia was around $1 billion, according to a report released by a House International Relations Committee survey team which made a month-long visit a year ago to a number of Middle East countries to study the impact of American areas sales to that area.

The report warmed that the extensive and sophisticated military hardware in the area would intensity conflicts that could erupt between Arab states in the region if a settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute allowed old intra Arab conflicts to re-emerge.

The report noted that while states such as Saudi Arabia or Kuwait could not be considered a threat to Israel, “equipment being sold in the Persian Gulf could, under certain circumstances be transferred or used in Middle East hostilities.” Forecasting that there will be increasing pressures for the United States to sell arms to some of the small states in the lower Persian Gulf region over the next few years, the report stated:

“Large and well-publicized sales to Iran and Saudi Arabia have helped make American equipment significant prestige items and a major policy focus for the leaders of other states in the area. States often want to emulate, if not balance, the military equipment and services purchased by their neighbors.”

The states the House team visited were the Yemen Arab Republic, Ethiopia, Oman, United Arab Emirates Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran and Saudi Arabia. In its report, the team said important issues were raised by the way the Defense Department surveys of local military establishments often determined the extent and nature of U.S. arms sales. It said the surveys tended to be regarded by some states as a blueprint of equipment and services available “as well as a bridge to a relationship with the United States, often, in their view, tantamount to a quasi-security treaty.”

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