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Binge and Surge

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According the Associated Press and thinkprogress.org, the Iraq-fueled tension in the Middle East is setting off a defense buying binge. Fears that sectarian violence could spill over into countries like Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia has those countries looking at expanding their weapons programs.

But, it isn't just the Iraq violence that has nations reaching for their checkbooks:

If Iran were threatened or attacked by the United States or Israel, its ballistic missiles could hit land targets or ships, and its mines could block the narrow shipping lanes that carry oil from the Gulf.

That scenario is pushing Gulf defense ministers to consider missile defense systems like the Patriot, sold by U.S. manufacturer Raytheon Co. They also are eyeing warships, including mine sweepers, and early-warning radar, Hughes [an analyst for Jane's] said.

So much for bringing peace and prosperity to the greater Middle East. But then again, if I lived next door to Iraq, I'd be getting bigger guns too. The real bottom line here is the very real and very scary possibility that sectarian violence may expand from low-tech militia and terrorists groups to nation states with devastating consequences. After all, the Iran-Iraq war cost over a million casualties.

We would be well-served to find ways to de-escalate a Middle East Arms race before it begins in earnest and leads to something worse. But, in the interim it might be smart to buy some Raytheon stock.

More at Al Jazeera (so you know it's true).

-- Kris Alexander

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