Middle East conflict: Arms are for war, not peace

Tuesday May 18 2021
By Nicholas Sengoba

Once again the news is about the conflict in the volatile Middle East. 

This time the missiles are flying between Israel and Hamas, the so-called Militant Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip in the occupied territory. 

You don’t need to be too smart to predict that after the guns fall silent there will be another and another.

The contingent nature of conflict in the Middle East, to many is all about the occupation of Palestine to create the State of Israel in 1948. 

There are many issues in there, but one that clouds them all is the notion that this was an unforgivable affront to the faith of Islam. This bears in mind the fact that Palestine is the home of several sites that are of importance to the Islamic faith like the famous Al Masjid Al Aqsa, the Tomb of Rahil, Maqam of Prophet Musa. So there is a perception that as long as the Jewish State is in existence, in this part of the world it will be resisted. 

The question is what form that resistance takes and in whose interest it is, that the resistance takes the form that it does.  


From time immemorial the UN General Assembly has been preoccupied by the question of the Arab-Israeli conflict. There have been resolutions upon resolutions. In most cases these are ignored and violated without significant sanctions from the world body. In fact, almost by default the UN Security Council permanent member seat of the US will veto any attempt to hold Israel to account. 

To many, it is thought that there is something special about this area because it is written about widely in the books of the Abramic faiths; the Bible and the Koran.

The truth of the matter is that it seems it is more to do with the global arms industry. The figures say it all.

According to the Institute of Policy Studies “Israel is one of the United States’ largest arms importers. In the past decade, the United States has sold Israel $7.2 billion in weaponry and military equipment, $762 million through Direct Commercial Sales (DCS), more than $6.5 billion through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.

In fact, Israel is so devoted to US military hardware that it has the world’s largest fleet of F-16s outside the US, currently possessing more than 200 jets. Another 102 F-16s are on order from Lockheed Martin.”

The justification of the Jewish State to receive all this weaponry lies in the fact that it is in the midst of a hostile mostly Islamic territory.  

In the same region are Islamic states considered to be allies of the West like Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. These ones too do serious arms business with the US and other Western powers

On May 20, 2017, US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud sealed arms purchase deals. Here the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will purchase arms from the United States totaling US$110 billion immediately, and $350 billion over 10 years.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute “Saudi Arabia was the world’s largest arms importer from 2015 to 2019 the first five years of the Yemeni war. The imports of major arms increased by 130 per cent compared with the previous five-year period. A total of 73 per cent of the arms came from the US and 13 per cent from the UK.” Saudi Arabi has used this support to prosecute the Yemeni War where over half a million people have been killed.

The other players from time immemorial like Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon etc have looked East to stock pile weapons in order to balance the terror posed by Israel.

It is obvious that conflict in the Middle East is a cash cow to the economies of the West and the East. It makes a lot of sense that these countries are liquid, being serious oil exporters.

The arms manufactures in the US, and Europe plus China and Russia have a market. Besides being a source of cash, conflicts like the one happening now are also a good opportunity to test the efficacy of the latest technology in real military warfare situations.

The UN with its goal of turning swords into ploughshares will remain a pipe dream. The Security Council will for all intents and purposes be the source of drama and posturing.

Arms are not sold as decorations. Somehow they must be put to full use to make way for more arms to be sold.

For as long as those manufacturing arms like the US, China, the UK, Russia etc are very powerful in their own right and are still earning from this lucrative business, the oil rich Middle East will never be free from tensions and confusion.

These will from time to time escalate into combat situations and make news with diplomats roaming to make peace until the next round.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues

Twitter: @nsengoba