The following are excerpts from articles which appeared in the Egyptian English weekly, “Al-Ahram” of Al-Ahram Weekly 5 – 11 March 1998

“A strategy for the future” by Amin Hewedy (former Minister of Defense and Chief of General Intelligence)

[Heading:] Whether or not they are the victims of overt military action, the Arabs are footing the bill.

When the major powers united their efforts in establishing the state of Israel, they did so in order to protect Western interests in the region. Israel would also serve as a means of dividing the Arab world, and as an obstacle to nascent national movements.

…The most important goal was to maintain a balance of power in Israel’s benefit. Through the use of force, the state of Israel was established and through force it must continue to impose its presence.

…The arms deal with the Eastern bloc signed on 20 May 1955 and announced by President Nasser on 27 September, was tantamount to a breach of the Western monopoly on arms sales, as well as a shattering blow to Western plans for an unjust peace between the Arab countries and Israel.

…The Soviets were convinced that, if a global confrontation was going to take place, it would be a nuclear war. The emphasis on nuclear capabilities led to a further decline in the quality of conventional Soviet weaponry, so while allegations that the Soviets refused to supply the Arab countries with more effective weapons are untrue, the weapons they did provide had to be discredited on the battlefield. No attempt had been made to increase the potential of these weapons through creative management or sustained training.

…Despite the Arabs’ ability to purchase weapons and technology, the capacity to absorb them was inadequate at different levels of training, specialization and leadership.

…Arab strategists and military commanders did not attempt to study the succession of direct confrontations to which their armies were subjected in order to determine and enhance their strong points, or define their weaknesses so as to minimise them. On the contrary, they transformed their defeat into false victory, and any victory into a glaring defeat.

Conflict among Arab decision-makers as to which countries may be regarded as allies is at the root of many military mistakes. The confusion has been the source of continual confrontations and, therefore, the constant draining of Arab resources and capital.

…Despite an abundance of different weapons, and the large portion of the budget devoted to defence, Arab national security is threatened from all sides. Yet the Arab armies are unable to confront these threats actively in battle or to engage in deterrence operations. This means that the escalating cost of defence does not avert the threats directed at us, yet still continues to erode resources that could have been allocated to raising the population’s standard of living. Heavy arsenals and high technology do not necessarily imply improved combat capabilities.

…These problems have been further exacerbated by the US’s attempts to further skew the balance of power — and maximise profit– by providing Israel with the most up-to-date military technology, while selling the Arabs defective or less effective arms. It also accepts that Israel possesses nuclear, biological and chemical capabilities while insisting that similar capabilities be destroyed if they are found in the possession of an Arab regime. Not that the Arab countries have shown any resistance in this respect: the destruction of the Iraqi arsenal was carried out with the knowledge and blessings of the Arab countries and the UN Security Council.

Once the US had neutralised Arab military capabilities effectively, it began to drain Arab resources. The Iraqi crisis is a good example. Whether or not a military strike is launched in the future, decimating both civilian and military targets, Iraq is crippled for decades to come. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are still settling bills for US protection, depleting their financial resources…. The blockade against Iran and Libya…grinds mercilessly on. Manipulation of world oil prices, devaluation of the US dollar from time to time, and the fomenting of unrest in order to encourage further arms purchases are all facets of US strategy.

At the end of the Cold War it was said that the Arabs and Muslims had replaced the Soviet Union as the West’s primary enemy. Developments on the ground seem to confirm this fear. The threats to Arab potential in terms of military capabilities and economic resources are now striking at the very integrity of the Arab countries themselves.

The principal oil producing countries — Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Libya and Algeria — are either trembling on the verge of political disaster or emerging from a crisis: terrorist attacks, bloody civil wars.

…The US may threaten to launch a military strike on Iraq in order to paralyse its capabilities and destroy its arsenal. Its long-term objective is nothing less than the elimination of any resources the Arabs may still have. The US’s strategy is aimed at depleting Arab capabilities, whether through the purchase of oil at prices dictated by the West, or through a military attack.

If the Arab leaders are unable to agree on their allies and enemies, they will remain incapable of achieving any measure of sustained success.