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American standard of military power: wars are won by budgets

The deadline for a final deal on Iran’s nuclear program may be put off as there are certain issues that will hardly be finalized by June 30. One of them is access for international inspectors to Iran’s potential nuclear research facilities (the Parchin military base) and nuclear researchers. The other problem is that the Iranians keep insisting on lifting all sanctions applied against then as soon as the deal is made.

However, for the Americans there is a big difference between the deal on Iran’s nuclear program and general reconciliation. So, they are showing no signs that all anti-Iranian sanctions will be lifted in the next few months or even years. In any case, Obama will use the 1.5 years he still has as president to improve his country’s relations with Tehran as his goal is to win in all the conflicts that are developing in the Middle East. His problem is that he is acting very inconsistently and even incompetently.

During a meeting in Lausanne on April 2, six powers and Iran signed a framework agreement and agreed to make a final deal by June 30. Just a few days later Obama gave an interview to The New York Times, where he said that they would not take back any of their claims against Iran. Iran is not a rival to the United States and has no chances to hide its nuclear bomb and to go unpunished. This is roughly what Obama said in his interview. He explained that their military budget was almost $600bn, while that of Iran was just $30bn. So, his conclusion was that Iran would not afford a war against America.

It was an incompetent statement. In reality, the most Iran can have is a military budget of $18bn. The US Congress reports $11bn or just 3% of GDP. Anthony Coredesman from the Center for Strategic and International Studies says it may be $14bn. In 2013, the Washington-based Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation mentioned $17.7bn. The Iranians report just $10bn but note that external challenges are forcing them to increase their military costs.

In his next interview to MSNBC, Obama corrected his mistake and gave a more realistic figure, $17bn, but the rest was the same: Iran is not a rival to the United States because the latter has a bigger military budget.

Such arguments hardly befit the president of a great power and give us ground to doubt the competence of his team.

Saying that you are stronger just because your military budget is bigger is propaganda at best and ignorance at worse. If military costs actually mattered, Saudi Arabia and the UAE would have the strongest armies in the Middle East. The Saudis spend $81bn on their army. So, according to Obama’s logic, they must be five times stronger than the Iranians are. In reality, they have very modern military equipment but no efficient troops. As far as the UAE is concerned, it has “the most powerful army you have never heard of” (1).

One more example for Obama’s knowledge: according to relatively reliable sources, the total – rather than military – budget of the ISIS is no more than $2bn. According to Obama’s logic, this force should long have surrendered to the anti-Jihad coalition, but, instead, it has already captured almost half of Syria and more than 1/3 of Iraq.

According to the same logic, the Yemeni Houthis have no chances at all as they don’t have even $1bn, but again, in reality, they are holding sway in Yemen and are beating the Saudis in their own territory. On May 31 the Americans met with their leaders in Oman, perhaps, to find out how they do it.

In reality, this incompetence is just a cover for the Americans’ true interests in the Middle East. They have always prospered at the expense of others’ conflicts. And military contracts have always been the core of this prosperity. Today the attention of the US military industry is drifting from Europe to the Middle East. So, Obama’s seemingly incompetent thesis that the more arms you have the stronger you are is nothing but the bait the US military complex is casting just to earn more money.

According to the Center of Analysis of World Arms Trade, in 2006-2013 72.15% of the US military exports went to the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, with arms worth $53.4bn sold to the Middle East alone.

In the next eight years, the Americans will have even bigger contracts. Saudi Arabia is planning to pay $1.9bn for MH-60R multi-mission helicopters. The contractors are Sikorsky Aircraft and Lockheed Martin. They will also pay $2bn for Raytheon’s Patriots. These two contracts alone are bigger than the whole military budget of the ISIS.

Sooner or later, the Americans will reconcile with Iran. Whether that deal will satisfy the Gulf nations or not does not matter much. What matters is that the Americans need Iran to keep alive the phobias of nations like Saudi Arabia. Those phobias give them money, so, why not pretend a fool who believes that a big military budget is a guarantee of strength.

(1) Pierre Bienaime and Armin Rosen, The Most Powerful Army You’ve Never Heard Of // Business Insider, November 6, 2014.

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