Thursday, July 15, 2010

DTN News: Saudi Arabia King 'Takes Charge Of Arms Sales' Due To Royal Family Agenda

Defense News: DTN News: Saudi Arabia King 'Takes Charge Of Arms Sales' Due To Royal Family Agenda
Source: DTN News - this article / report compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources including UPI
(NSI News Source Info) MANAMA, Bahrain, - July 15, 2010: King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia has taken charge of arms negotiations with the United States and is seeking to downgrade the power of the defense ministry, which is run by his ailing designated heir, Prince Sultan, Paris's Intelligence Online says.
The cancer-stricken Sultan, who is the monarch's half-brother but from a rival branch of the royal family, is reported to be "enfeebled and unable to comprehend government affairs," says Simon Henderson, an expert on Saudi Arabia with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.Intelligence Online, a Web site that monitors global security affairs, noted when Abdallah toured the United States, Canada and France in June his 200-person entourage didn't include anyone from the defense ministry even though his talks in Washington involved arms procurement.
Abdallah was accompanied by his sons, Mansour, Mohammed and Mashour, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and Prince Miqrin bin Abdulaziz, director of the General Intelligence Presidency, the principal Saudi intelligence service.
Abdallah appointed Miqrin, his younger half-brother, to that powerful and prestigious post on Oct. 22, 2005, part of the monarch's shake-up of the Saudi intelligence establishment only weeks after Abdallah succeeded King Fahd, another half-brother who died Aug. 1 that year after a lengthy illness.
"Abdullah's advisers, who used to take a back seat in arms deals negotiated by the Ministry of Defense and Aviation, have stepped into the breach caused by the deteriorating health of Prince Sultan and are taking charge not only of procurement but also the appointment of military commanders," Intelligence Online said.
In recent weeks, Abdallah appointed Gen. Mohammed bin Abdullah al-Ayish, as commander of the 20,000-strong air force, one of the most potent in the Arab world.
Ayish had been commander of the vast King Khalid air base at Khamis Mushayt near the Yemen border in the southwest since 2007. Before that he had been in charge of the executive committee that monitored the al-Yamamah contract between Saudi Arabia and Britain signed in 1985.
Under that landmark deal, at the time considered the biggest arms contract ever, the Saudis bought 96 British Aerospace -- now BAE Systems -- Tornado strike aircraft, 50 Hawk trainers, 50 Pilatus PC-9s and other hardware in exchange for 600,000 barrels of oil a day. It involved massive commissions for Saudi officials.
BEA Systems said in 2005 that it had earned $66 billion over 20 years from these deals, and could earn $60 billion more.
In August 2007, the Saudis ordered 72 Eurofighter Typhoon strike aircraft from BAE Systems worth $8 billion. Overall, with associated services and maintenance, the contract could reach as much as $10 billion.
One of the topics Abdallah discussed with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington was the sale of up to 72 advanced-model Boeing F-15 Eagle strike aircraft worth around $10 billion.
Israel wants to block that, claiming it would erode its military's qualitative edge that successive U.S. administrations, including Obama's, have vowed to maintain.
Abdallah reportedly had hoped to sign an agreement in principle to purchase the F-15s, which, with the 154 the Saudi air force already has, would give Riyadh a strong force to confront Iran, its regional rival and nuclear wannabe.
Obama wants to build up the military power of Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies against Iran but may be reluctant to ignore the Israelis' request at a time when relations between the two longtime allies has been strained.
But a substantial new F-15 sale, on top of a major upgrade of the Saudis older F-15s, would be a big boost for Boeing, whose military aircraft sales are expected to dip.
The F-15, its main military aircraft, barely sells any more and the company is promoting a new stealthy variant, the F-15 Silent Eagle, as an alternative to the problem-plagued F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being developed by Lockheed Martin.
"In another sign of the royal Cabinet taking defense matters into its hands, all of the Saudi defense companies that have joint ventured with Western groups are currently targeted by fiscal and administrative probes," Intelligence Online reported.
"A foreign contractor must have one of these Saudi groups on board if it wishes to do business in the country. All of them are sponsored by Saudi royals."