German politicians criticize American arms deals

August 1, 2007 - 0:0

A senior foreign policy expert with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union party has come out with strong criticism against plans by the United States to provide arms to Saudi Arabia and countries throughout the Persian Gulf region.

A plan by the United States government to supply weapons worth billions to Persian Gulf states has sparked criticism from the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Germany's parliament, the Bundestag.
The U.S. wants to deliver weapons to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf States, Pentagon officials announced over the weekend, in what is expected to be a deal that will total over $20 billion over the next decade. The Saudis would be provided with advanced weaponry including satellite-guided bombs, new navy ships and upgrades of its fleet of fighter jets. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are also expected to benefit from the deal.
The move, however, has drawn heavy criticism in Germany.
The Middle East is already a ""power keg,"" Ruprecht Polenz, the CDU politician who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, told the daily Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper. ""If you put more weapons into a powder keg, you just increase the risk without making the region more stable.""
The aim of the weapons deal is to try to curb increasing Iranian influence in the Middle East. The U.S. also wants to demonstrate its fundamental support for its Arab partners. A related bill is expected to be submitted to the U.S. Congress in the fall. In order to assuage Israel's concerns about the deal, Washington is expected to increase its aid to the country.
But Polenz warned that the deal, which is intended to send a warning signal to Tehran, could trigger a false reaction and push the Islamic Republic into an arms race. Instead of taking unilateral steps, Polenz said he would prefer to see Washington coordinate with its partners and to establish a negotiating process similar to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) that took place during the 1970s.
""The U.S.'s intended effect, to signalize to Iran that any efforts to use military power to pursue its hegemonic ambitions would not be successful, could also spark the wrong reaction in Tehran,"" Polenz warned, saying that it could push the Iranians to ""arm themselves more quickly."" Polenz called on the German government to lobby Washington to cease cutting deals to supply arms to countries crisis regions.
The leading foreign policy expert for the left-leaning Social Democrats in parliament, Johannes Jung, also backed the CDU politician. ""The region needs to be disarmed, not armed,"" Jung said. The idea of adopting an approach similar to the CSCE ""is not new, but it is more urgent than before,"" the SPD member of parliament said.
""As so often, all level-headed people are waiting for a new U.S. Administration,"" Jung added.
-----'Not doing all they can to help us in Iraq' --------
In a related development over the weekend, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, accused Saudi Arabia and other allies in the Middle East of undermining the U.S. strategy to stabilize Iraq.
""Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries are not doing all they can to help us in Iraq,"" he told CNN on Sunday. In a recent editorial in the New York Times, Khalilzad complained that, “some friends of the United States are pursuing destabilizing policies."" He said Saudi Arabia was also undermining efforts to make progress in Iraq.
In concrete terms, the former U.S. ambassador to Baghdad criticized several neighboring countries for not engaging the Iraqi government. Some of the countries that have not established diplomatic representation in Iraq, also have Shiite populations, he noted.
""The level of positive effort that they are making compared to the stakes involved for the region is minimal,"" he said.