US steps up military aid to Israel amid growing Iran tensions

Ahmed Eleiba , Tuesday 27 Dec 2011

Washington forks over additional $236 million to Zionist state as tensions mount over Iran's alleged nuke programme

An Israeli soldier walks past a launcher at an Iron Dome unit in the coastal city of Ashkelon, north of the Gaza Strip April 10, (Photo: Reuters).

US President Barack Obama signed a deal last week to increase ‎military aid to Israel by some $236 million, despite a deeply ‎troubled US economy. The aid comes in addition to the $3 billion ‎aid package that the self-proclaimed Jewish state receives each ‎year from the cash-strapped US taxpayer.‎

Egyptian observers note that the increase would effectively ‎double the amount of US aid to Israel stipulated in the 1979 ‎Camp David peace agreement between Egypt and the Hebrew ‎state. This assistance is further supplemented by financing for ‎other joint industrial and military development projects, as well as ‎assistance for private Israeli weapons programmes.‎

Military experts in the Middle East view the stepped-up ‎assistance as a payoff of sorts by the Obama administration for ‎the financial and electoral support of the American Jewish ‎community and pro-Israel lobby in next year’s US presidential ‎race.‎

‎“The US gave Israel nearly $205 million as part of the Iron Dome ‎‎[anti-missile shield] project, but the Palestinian resistance was ‎able to overcome this by obtaining advanced weapons, such as ‎the Hawk missile carriers seen in the recent Libya war,” Egyptian ‎arms expert Brigadier-General Safwat El-Zayyat said. “Hawk ‎missile carriers could quickly sink the Iron Dome system.”‎

Therefore, said El-Zayyat, the US plans to give Israel $236 ‎million in fiscal year 2012 to develop three additional anti-missile ‎systems, namely, the Arrow-2, the “David’s Sling” programme, ‎and the medium-range Arrow-3.‎

‎“The two sides have launched a joint project to develop the ‎comprehensive Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 missile defence systems, ‎intended to shield Israel from Shehab-3 missiles. This is a joint ‎project between US manufacturer Boeing and the Israeli arms ‎industry,” El-Zayyat explained. “They’re also cooperating on the ‎development of the less advanced ‘David’s Sling’ project.”‎

US funding for Israel’s Arrow defence system has been in place ‎since the administration of former US President Ronald Reagan. ‎In the years since, Israeli military officials have been able to ‎secure increased US funding by exaggerating regional threats, ‎especially in light of recent events in Syria. ‎

According to El-Zayyat, the new missile defence system would ‎likely be deployed somewhere between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, ‎bringing to three the number of functioning anti-missile systems ‎currently deployed inside Israel. The first of these is the Palm ‎Halim Brigade, located north of the city of Ashdod, while the ‎second is in Khudeira in northern Israel.‎

As part of Washington’s longstanding policy of maintaining ‎Israel’s military edge in the region, Egyptian experts warn that ‎the new missile system transcends mere deterrence and could ‎be deployed for offensive purposes.‎

‎“Egypt and the region should be deeply concerned,” said ‎Egyptian strategy expert Major-General Adel Suleiman. “There ‎has been a revolution in military technology that has produced a ‎rocket decades ahead of anything we possess.”‎

The latest developments come within the context of mounting ‎tension between the West – led by Israel and the US – and Iran ‎over the latter’s nuclear energy program. US Defence Secretary ‎Leon Panetta, who has long enjoyed close relations with Israel, ‎has recently claimed that Iran could acquire nuclear weapons ‎within one year.‎

Neither Washington nor Tel Aviv, meanwhile, is ruling out the ‎possibility of a military attack on the Islamic republic. There has ‎also been talk about a possible attack on Iran by Israel in ‎conjunction with the western NATO alliance.‎

‎“Israel might even decide to go it alone,” said El-Zayyat. “But if ‎Israel were to attack Iran unilaterally, the US would no doubt join ‎the conflict [on Israel’s side] the very next day.”‎

Suleiman, for his part, asserted: “If Tel Aviv attacks Iran, which it ‎has been threatening to do for the last five years, this means ‎that Israel must be in possession of weapons and arms systems ‎just as advanced as those available to NATO member states or ‎the US – if not more so.” ‎

Iran is currently holding extensive ten-day military manoeuvres ‎in and around the Persian Gulf, including the strategic Strait of ‎Hormuz. Suleiman believes the war games are meant to send a ‎message to Iran’s foes that any military attack on the country ‎would be met with force. ‎

‎“We’re now facing a psychological war by all sides,” said ‎Suleiman. “Egypt should be deeply concerned about these ‎strategic developments and the new regional security ‎environment that will guarantee Israel’s continued military ‎supremacy.”‎

‎“Other states in the region should also be wary,” he added. “Arab ‎Spring countries must take advantage of the recent revolution in ‎weapons technology and not merely stand on the sidelines of ‎these important developments.”‎

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