Irony alert: US arms sales and Iran

While the White House warns Iran about the peril of gaining even knowledge about nukes, the United States remains the world's largest arms dealer.

The United States maintained its role as the leading supplier of weapons to the developing world in 2006, followed by Russia and Britain, according to a Congressional study. Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia were the top buyers.

The global weapons market is highly competitive, with manufacturing countries seeking both to increase profits and to expand political influence through weapons sales to developing nations that reached nearly $28.8 billion in 2006.

Is this kind of arms-dealing, which includes Providence-based Textron, good foreign policy?

Here's one view, from Asia Times Online:

It [The US government] sees arms sales as a way of making and keeping strategic friends and tying countries more directly to US military planning and operations.

At its simplest, as Lt Gen Jeffrey B Kohler, director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, told the New York Times in 2006, the United States likes arms deals because “it gives us access and influence and builds friendships”. South Asia has been an important arena for this effort, and it teaches some lessons the United States should not ignore.

A recent Congressional Research Service report on international arms sales records that last year the United States delivered nearly $8 billion worth of weapons to Third World countries. This was about 40% of all such arms transfers. The US also signed agreements to sell over $10 billion worth of weapons, one-third of all arms deals with Third World countries.

It is easy to put this in perspective: $10 billon a year is the estimated cost of meeting the UN Millennium Development Goal for water and sanitation, which would reduce by half the proportion of people in the world without proper access to drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. Today, about 1.1 billion people do not have access to a minimal amount of clean water and about 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation.

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