Who really benefits from Gulf's huge US arms deals?

Saudi Arabia has the right to make arms deals, but what it mostly needs to do is to adopt a more open policy towards the Palestinian cause and take effective measures to end Gaza's siege.

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The US State Department confirmed this week that the US will sell Saudi Arabia 84 F-15 fighter jets and upgrade 70 existing aircraft of the same type, in addition to 70 Apache attack helicopters and various missiles and military equipment in an unprecedented $60 billion deal, observed the pan-Arab daily Al Quds al Arabi.

Arms deals of this size, mainly with Gulf countries, serve two main US objectives. Firstly, the deals reinforce these countries' military capabilities to counter growing Iranian power. Secondly, they create more than 70,000 much-needed jobs in the US.

US State Department officials were highly confident that their Israeli allies would not object to the deal since Washington had pre-emptive talks with Israel's defence minister to ensure his government's approval.

The Israeli approval came at a price, as Israel was able to secure a $15.5 billion deal for F-35 state-of-the-art undetectable aircrafts, which would promote its aerial supremacy in the region. Israel was also assured that the Saudi aircrafts would be modified in a way to reduce their capability to strike targets inside Israel.

The Saudi kingdom indeed needs modern weapons to reinforce its security. Such arms deals are within its right. But what it mostly needs is to adopt a more open policy toward the Palestinian cause and to take effective measures to end Gaza's siege.

Dialogue with Taliban is still preliminary

Intensified negotiations are going on currently between the Afghan president Hamid Karzai's inner circle and a number of powerful leaders within the Taliban, observed the columnist Mazen Hammad in an article for the Qatari daily Al Watan.

The current attempt at negotiations is the most crucial since the start of the Afghan war nine years ago. Observers believe that the biggest hindrance in these meetings is that many of the Taliban believe that they are winning the war, which dampens their willingness to strike a deal with Kabul. For this reason, some believe the talks are doomed to failure despite all the facilities provided by Nato and Washington, since the success of negotiations would ultimately end the war.

US reports reveal that Taliban leaders reside across the border in Pakistan where they enjoy security from the Pakistani intelligence service. They are being transported to Kabul in Nato airplanes and under the protection of Nato and the Afghan government.

The New York Times admits to having identified the Taliban leaders engaged in negotiations but, at the request of the White House and the Afghan government, it refrained from making the names public as it would put them at risk of assassination.

The talks are still at a preliminary stage partly because US and Afghan officials are trying to gauge the power of the Taliban negotiators at this point.

Will Hariri resign or will his cabinet fall?

A series of events during the last week led Washington to fear that a decision has already been taken about overthrowing Saad Hariri's cabinet, commented Joe Makaroun in an article for the Lebanese daily Assafir.

The main source for concern is a meeting of the Lebanese prime minister and the assistant secretary of state, Jeffrey Feltman, at Mr Hariri's residence in Riyadh during which Mr Hariri admitted that he was thinking about resigning and that the Saudi Arabians had suggested as much.

He added that he ws serious about this likely measure, but he fears that Hizbollah would then form a majority cabinet, which would have damaging implications domestically and externally.

The US fears that the government could collapse. For that reason, it has been repeatedly reiterating its support for Lebanon's stability and sovereignty.

Scenarios for the upcoming phase in Lebanese politics are varied. It is likely that Mr Hariri would remain in office and that the International Tribunal indictments are issued and will lead to violence. It is also possible that he remains in office but relinquishes the International Tribunal. A third possibility is that he could resign and preserve his late father's heritage.

The US advice to Mr Hariri at this point is to remain in office, but the fact is that there are many factors in Beirut that are not under the control of the US administration.

Insult to Islam should be held to account

In an article for the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, columnist Daoud al Sharyan wrote: "The Fox News host Brian Kilmeade insulted Muslims on the air last week when he said, 'All terrorists are Muslims.' He later apologised simply by saying, 'not all terrorists are Muslims. I'm sorry about that if it offended or hurt anybody's feelings. But that's it.'"

Fox News management attempted to mitigate the affront by announcing through one of its officials that Mr Kilmeade was referring to radical extremists who killed Americans on 9/11.

Nonetheless, a mere apology will not cut it. Fox News is required to dismiss Kilmeade immediately just as Helen Thomas was asked to resign for making anti-Jewish comments and just as the CNN host Octavia Nasr was fired for expressing a personal opinion about the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah of Lebanon earlier this year.

It is necessary that western media abide by the rules they impose upon the rest of the world. It should sanction those who offend Islam the same way they would sanction anyone who dares to offend Judaism or Christianity. Showing leniency toward a public personality who dubs all Muslims as terrorists encourages aberrant voices that instigate discrimination and violence.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem