As American and Saudi officials spent months quietly hammering out a wish list for a mammoth sale of American warplanes and other weapons to the oil-rich kingdom, leaders in Iran were busy publicly displaying their advances in missiles, naval craft and air power.
In one memorable bit of political theater, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stood under a cascade of glitter in August to unveil a drone bomber, dubbed the “ambassador of death”, that he said would keep foes in the region “paralysed”.
The response by Washington and its cornerstone Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, moved a step ahead Wednesday. The Obama administration notified Congress of plans to sell as many as 84 new F-15 fighter jets, helicopters and other gear with an estimated $60 billion price tag.
The proposed deal is clearly aimed at countering Iran’s rising military might.
Israel has made no diplomatic rumblings over the proposed Saudi deal as it is tacitly supporting a stronger, American-armed Saudi Arabia because of common worries about Iran.