Hear David Mack, vice president of the Middle East Institute
U.S. officials say the Bush administration plans to ask Congress to provide advanced weapons worth $20 billion to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf nations over 10 years. The goal is to strengthen pro-Western states against Iran.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit the region early next week and will discuss details of the arms package with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.
Washington Post reporter Robin Wright tells Scott Simon that the deal will serve two purposes: shore up U.S. alliances in the Middle East and send a strong signal that Washington will act to strengthen regional players to meet Iran's rising threat.
The package is generally designed to upgrade air and missile defense systems and naval forces, and provide some modest improvements for the countries' air forces.
Also, the U.S. plans to provide multibillion-dollar military assistance to Israel and Egypt.
Wright says that there is a sense that these countries all face a common threat in Iran. She also notes that there is no requirement that the recipients of the military equipment or aid must support the Iraqi government or move toward democracy or improve human rights.