From the archive: October 1979
Editor’s note: The “change in Iranian government” mentioned below was, of course, the Ruhollah Khomeini-led revolution that ejected the U.S.-backed Shah Reza Pahlavi.
Saudis Now Biggest U.S. Arms Customer
Saudi Arabia has signed up for well over half of everything sold under the Foreign Military Sales program. According to Rep.
Les Aspin (D-WI), “Saudi Arabia is buying 11 times as much as much as the second largest military customer . . . or 58% of the entire worldwide pot.”
Saudi Arabia has led the list of FMS buyers in three of the last six years but has stepped up purchasing since the change in Iranian government earlier this year. Aspin noted concern for these increases primarily because Saudi expansion in recent years was seen as a means to counter Iranian growth. If this was true, Saudi purchase rates should have decreased or remained constant after the fall of the Shah — they did not, he said.
Also, the coupling of Saudi reaction against the Camp David accords and the recent rise in FMS purchases suggest that Saudi Arabia may, according to Aspin, “have Israel in its sights.” Aspin noted that many of the programs are a long time in preparation and that the Shah’s fall may have served as an impetus for some increased buying, but “the high level of purchase demands that we pay more attention to these agreements in the coming months.”