U.S. woos war allies with cash, weapons
Iraq's neighbors swap staging sites for billions in aid
By Stephen J. Hedges in Washington and Catherine Collins in Istanbul
[Chicago Tribune - February 2, 2003]:
WASHINGTON -- When U.S. and Turkish officials meet this week to discuss
Turkey's potential role in any war with Iraq, they will also review an offer
of U.S. aid. The multibillion dollar offer may look like so much diplomacy
but is, in fact, a bid--the price the Bush administration is willing to pay
for the use of Turkey's military bases, airfields and ports.
The U.S. is offering more than $4 billion in loans and grants, according to
a Western diplomat in Istanbul, which represents a "significant step
forward" in the Bush administration's efforts to add a critical ally to its
"coalition of the willing" against Iraq.
"The United States has presented what we consider to be a credible offer,"
the diplomat said. "We have tried to design a package to give Turkey as much
flexibility as possible."
The package reveals Washington's eagerness to secure the use of Turkey as a
vital land bridge into northern Iraq. It also illustrates the powerful
economic and diplomatic levers that President Bush wields as he rallies
allies against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Who's trading what
In the Persian Gulf region alone over the past two years, the United States
has sold, lent or given away an estimated $7.5 billion worth of weaponry,
other military equipment and training assistance, according to State
Department figures. Recipients have included such vital U.S. allies as
Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
The deals include advanced fighter jets, radar systems and missiles.
Airfields are being expanded. Military bases are being renovated.
In return, the United States has won the right to build bases, house troops
and use sovereign airspace if it wages a war against Iraq.
Many of the same countries recently provided vital support, such as
airfields, during the U.S. war against Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States, foreign
military assistance--mostly grants to buy U.S. weaponry--has increased $500
million, to more than $4 billion for fiscal 2003, State Department documents
Administration officials say the aid has been one of the most effective
means of finding and sustaining foreign support for the global war on
"We provided money so they could . . . participate in doing what we were
asking them to do," said an official involved in the program. "Security
assistance . . . is a tool of U.S. national security and foreign policy."
Analysts and critics, however, say the administration's use of arms as a
diplomatic carrot has some potentially dangerous downsides, including a lack
of control over the military hardware being provided.
`A coalition of the bought off'
The coalition of the willing, said security analyst Loren Thompson, "is
really a coalition of the bought off."
"If the Bush administration wants a coalition of the willing, it had better
give them a reason to be willing," said Thompson, who directs the Lexington
Institute, a public-policy think tank. "But when you have to buy people off
to do it, you have to think about the risks."
Others contend that the United States is busy arming nations that had been
prohibited from receiving lethal U.S. weapons because of poor human-rights
records and abusive militaries. Those countries include Yugoslavia,
Uzbekistan and Indonesia.
They also say the U.S. policy of trading arms for support may serve to fuel
regional conflicts with a wave of modern and highly effective weaponry.
"Who your friends are today may not be your friends tomorrow," said Rachel
Stohl, a senior analyst with the Center for Defense Information in
"Look at India and Pakistan. They're hot and cold as U.S. friends. Do we
really want to be selling them our hottest weapons?" Stohl asked.
India and Pakistan are nuclear-armed archenemies engaged in an ongoing,
low-intensity conflict over the border region of Kashmir. The U.S.
restricted military sales to both before Sept. 11, 2001.
After the terrorist attacks in the United States, however, both have become
vital American allies. And both have gotten increased U.S. military aid.
Pakistan has received $1.2 billion in arms, including helicopters, radar
systems, six used C-130 cargo aircraft, armored personnel carriers and F-16
The U.S. has given India $78million in air defense and artillery-spotting
radar, Sea King helicopters and training aircraft.
Cold War strategy revisited
Swapping guns for favors is one of the oldest games in the diplomatic
repertoire. It ran rampant during the Cold War, which for many nations not
directly involved was not so much an ideological struggle as it was an
opportunity to squeeze arms, financial aid and a convenient alliance out of
the United States or the Soviet Union.
"Everybody has a shopping list when we want to come in," said Milt Bearden,
a former senior CIA official who directed the supply of U.S. Stinger
missiles to Osama bin Laden and other Islamic rebels fighting the Soviet
occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s.
"This is the reality of what's going on now, and it's time-honored. But I'm
not sure I'm critical of it. You've got to do stuff," Bearden added.
The war on terrorism, and the building standoff with Iraq, have reordered
some of the deck chairs that were scattered when the Cold War ended. With
the United States racing to find allies, countries again have been willing
to go along--for a price.
Potential allies, the administration official said, "are certainly looking
to see what the benefits of a relationship with United States are going to
be. As we approached countries in Central Asia, where we had no national
security relationship before the war [on terrorism], it was one of the
things that we did to make sure that we had a security relationship that
wasn't just one-way."
Nowhere have those relationships had greater ramification than in the
Persian Gulf region, where for more than a decade the United States has been
shipping arms and assistance.
$1 billion in aid for Jordan
Jordan's agreement last week to allow some U.S. forces on its soil points up
just how effective the promise of such aid can be. In the 1991 Persian Gulf
war with Iraq, then-King Hussein remained neutral; his county shared both a
border and a brisk trade with Iraq.
This time, however, King Abdullah II, the late monarch's son, apparently has
thrown in with the Americans, and he has his reasons. For one, Abdullah's
government must wrestle with the uncertainty of Saddam Hussein's presence
and threats from Al Qaeda-linked cells in Jordan.
For another, the Bush administration has promised to provide $1 billion in
assistance to Jordan in exchange for overflight and troop-basing rights.
Before that pledge, Jordan had received $223 million in U.S. military aid in
the past two years, according to State Department figures.
As the possibility of war against Iraq has neared, Turkey has remained a
holdout. So far, Ankara has officially refused U.S. requests to use its
bases and ports, but its reluctance may be part domestic politics, part
bargaining chip. And the United States is sweetening the pot.
Turkey has long been a recipient of U.S. military equipment and loans. It
has an estimated $5 billion military loan debt with the United States, which
might be negotiated away as part of a new aid package, and it has received
$65 million in outright military grants from Washington since Sept. 11,
2001, when the terrorist hijackers struck.
Also, Pentagon officials have said they are willing to spend up to $300
million to improve the facilities U.S. forces might use in Turkey. And a
$324 million U.S. Export-Import Bank loan may be used to allow Turkey to buy
14 SH-60 Seahawk helicopters, according to the Pentagon.
While Turkish leaders once were adamant against cooperation, they have in
recent days softened their stance. The National Security Council said Friday
that it would recommend to parliament approval of the limited use of bases
by U.S. forces. Turkish law requires such a vote.
Though nothing is certain, it increasingly appears that Turkey will agree to
the U.S. requests once the aid package is hammered out.