The menacing American special operations vehicle darts across
the obstacle course like a black scorpion, making tight corners and
zigzags, and churning up more dirt than a desert dung beetle.
A .50-caliber heavy machine gun is mounted at the back, with a
smaller one positioned at the side for the passenger riding
shotgun. Jumping off one hill and catching air, it looks more like
a desert rally car than a high-tech attack craft.
But instead of secretly sneaking about behind enemy lines in
Iraq, as it did during the 1990-1991 Gulf war, this advanced light
strike vehicle is being exhibited for sale here at the largest
weapons bazaar in the world.
Few know the vehicle's capabilities - and selling points -
better than Bill Weber, a former Navy SEAL during the Gulf war.
Climbing out of the cockpit splattered with mud, he has a smile on
His job during the Gulf war, he says, was "to recover downed
pilots, use lasers to identify targets for jets, and whatever we
could get our fingers into."
The climax came during the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi
forces, when his platoon - driving earlier models of this vehicle -
helped escort the first American military convoy into Kuwait City
to recapture the US embassy.
Mr. Weber is surrounded by Arab sheikhs, foreign military
officers, and arms buyers who are considering the strike vehicle -
made by US companies Chenowth Corp. and General Dynamics - for
their own arsenals.
There could be few better places for marketing weapons systems
than in the Persian Gulf, where organizers of the International
Defense Exhibition (IDEX) gathered together 750 companies from more
than 50 countries in March.
Gulf states, wary of their large and militarily strong neighbors
Iraq and Iran, are expected to spend $75 billion over five years on
The Middle East is the last region in the world that continues
to soak up so many weapons, and there could be no better showcase
for "merchants of death" - as critics call arms dealers - than the
Abu Dhabi meeting. The United States, the largest arms exporter in
the world, has been pushing hard to sell its wares in the Persian
Gulf and sent a high-level Pentagon delegation to the exhibition.
All the missiles and artillery are on display here: tanks,
ships, attack helicopters, jet fighter engines, and every
conceivable weapon and munition. More than 170 American companies
came to sell and check out the tough worldwide competition.
And US representatives - many of them veterans who have
combat-tested the goods they are selling - chuckle when they put a
new spin on an old adage: "Old soldiers never die," they note,
"they just sell weapons systems."
The Middle East is by far the world's largest regional arms
market, accounting for more than 40 percent of total sales. …