William D. Hartung writes: According to a report released this week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia have increased by an astonishing 279% between 2011 and 2015, compared with the prior five-year period. More then three quarters of the weaponry came from the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
There was a time when sales to the Saudis were more about money and politics than fighting actual conflicts. Multi-billion dollar sales from the Nixon administration onward were seen as a way to bolster U.S. weapons contractors and “recycle petrodollars” — earn back some of the funds that flowed out of the U.S. to purchase Saudi oil. It didn’t hurt that Saudi officials frequently skimmed off funds for their own use as part of these mega-deals.
Until recently, the military relevance of sending weapons to Saudi Arabia had less to do with the Saudis using U.S.-supplied arms than it did with cementing ties with Washington. The implicit understanding was that the purchase of large quantities of U.S. armaments was a form of payback for Washington’s commitment to come to the rescue of the Saudi regime in a crisis. [Continue reading…]