Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that he was concerned by a Middle East arms race following the signing of an enormous arms deal between US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia last week. "I'm not at peace with the arms race in the Middle East. The arms sales in the region have reached $215 billion and this is no small sum,” he told Army Radio on Wednesday morning, pointing to other countries in the region such as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Iran who have made some “non-negligible” arms purchases in the Middle East.According to a February report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, arms imports jumped by 86% between 2012 and 2016 in the Middle East, accounting for 29% of global arms purchases, an increase of almost double from the previous five year period studied. Saudi Arabia was the world’s second largest arms importer with an increase of 212% compared to the previous five year period and imports by Qatar going up by 245%. In the deal aimed at supporting the Sunni kingdom in the face of the threats posed to it by Iran and Iranian-related threats, Riyadh will receive $110 billion effective immediately, plus at least another $350 billion over the next 10 years. According to the State Department, the wide-ranging deal will cover order security and counterterrorism, maritime and coastal security, air and missile defense systems as well as cyber security and communications technology.The Defense Minister stated that he spent three hours with Trump's National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster during Trump’s recent visit to Israel and discussed this deal with him. And while the purchase “doesn't sit well with me, we are nonetheless following developments and have ways of dealing with this,” Liberman said.The defense minister also seemed to indirectly address on claims that Trump had leaked Israeli intelligence on the activities of the Islamic State group in activities in Syria to Russia during a White House meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. On Monday following a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump said that he “never mentioned the word or the name Israel” during his meeting with the Russian officials.
According to Liberman, while “this is not an issue we should discuss on the radio, there are some things that are discussed in closed rooms,” he did admit that Israel has since made a “small change” to its intelligence-sharing apparatus, adding that "the intelligence cooperation with the United States is unprecedented.”“We looked into it and cleared the air on the entire issue, and there is no need to continue to focus on it,” Lieberman said in an apparent reference to the leak, adding that “what we had to clarify with our friends in the United States, we did. We did our checks.”
Trump signs $110 billion Saudi arms deal (credit: REUTERS)