A major arms deal between the United States and Saudi Arabia for the purpose of shoring up defense against Iran has been delayed due to Israeli objections to the sale, the New York Times reported.
Israel is concerned that the deal because of such advanced weaponry could end up in the wrong hands in Saudi Arabia and would upset the balance of power in the Middle East, American officials told the newspaper.
“The Israelis believe the government of Saudi Arabia is under a great deal of pressure,” said David Schenker, a former Pentagon official, a senior fellow on Arab politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Osama bin Laden would like to change the Saudi government to what he considers a real Islamist government. So Israel doesn’t want them to have this heightened military capability.”
Numerous Israeli officials have visited the US to lobby against the planned sale. Israel is concerned that the Saudis would have precision-guided weapons, which would significantly improve the capabilities and shooting accuracy of its warplanes.
The weapons sales won’t be presented to Congress until later this month at the earliest, American officials told the New York Times.
The United States is hoping to shore up its Sunni Arab allies, particularly against the Iranian threat. But Israel fears that such an alliance may never materialize and that instead, a revolution in Saudi Arabia could put the advanced weapons in enemy hands.