By Joel Brinkley

I have a resolution for Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states: Take the initiative. Solve your own problem.

A few weeks ago, WikiLeaks put out those State Department cables that quoted the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and some other Gulf states practically begging the United States to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities.

In some ways that wasn't much of a surprise. The Arab world and Persia (now known as Iran) have been at each other's throats for centuries, though in recent years they have pretended to get along. But the Gulf states, particularly, are convinced that a nuclear-armed Iran would present a mortal threat. Hence the brazen requests: Please, take out those nuclear sites!

Well, think about a related but less noted fact: Over the last few years, the U.S. has sold those nations advanced weaponry worth hundreds of billions of dollars -- fighter jets, smart bombs, offensive and defensive missiles. Europe, Russia and other nations have sold them billions in additional military hardware.

Then last fall, the State Department announced that the U.S. planned to sell Saudi Arabia another $60 billion in sophisticated military hardware including 84 new F-15 fighter jets plus upgrades to the state's existing fleet of 70 F-15s. The bare outlines of this plan had already been known. But the State Department release revealed for the first time that the U.S. also plans to sell the Saudis as many as 1,000 one-ton, bunker-buster bombs -- perfect for Iran's underground nuclear sites.

So my question is: If you're so concerned about Iran, why don't you bomb those sites yourselves?

I know exactly how King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia would answer that question; I've heard Arab leaders' responses to similar questions for years. Abdullah would say: We can't attack a fellow Muslim nation.

That's nonsense. Didn't Iran and Iraq fight a nine-year war during the 1980s? Neither side showed any reluctance to kill fellow Muslims; half a million people died. Haven't the vast majority of Muslim civilian deaths in both Iraq and Afghanistan been at the hands of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Taliban and other Muslim miscreants? "We can't kill fellow Muslims" is a nice slogan, but one that Islam lives up to no better than Christians, Buddhists or members of most any other faith.

Instead, King Abdullah and the others would rather watch the United States do their dirty work for them, condemn the U.S. in public, offer thanks in private and then watch passively as America absorbs terrorist revenge attacks and further damage to its reputation in the Arab world. Why should the U.S. do it? The danger for the Gulf states is far greater than for anyone else, except perhaps Israel.

For the U.S., the sad truth is that even if the Saudis and their neighbors did somehow find the gumption to collaborate on an airstrike, Iran would still try to blame the United States. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have made a great show of selling those arms to the Gulf states specifically as a counterbalance to Iran. Congress has seemed happy to approve these sales even though, in previous years, many members would have worried that the weapons would be used against Israel.

Iran already blames the U.S. even for problems of its own making.

Last month, for example, Iranian authorities complained about epic air pollution in Tehran that killed 2,500 people. It turns out that the United Nations' sanctions, and others, have forced Iran to begin refining some of its own gasoline for domestic use. Iran had no refineries, so it converted several petrochemical plants into refineries. They produce extremely dirty gas. As the air pollution grew thicker and more toxic, the government blamed the U.S.

Also because of sanctions, Iran has been forced to slash generous government subsidies so that the price of gasoline has shot up from 38 cents a gallon to $1.44. Millions of Iranians are furious about the price hikes, the pollution and other hits on the quality of life. I doubt that many of them any longer believe the regime's fatuous excuse: It's all America's fault. Still, one important reason the United States has not bombed Iran's nuclear facilities is the fear that the populace might actually rally around the government, angry about an attack by "the great Satan."

But an airstrike by the neighbors would carry an entirely different political message. Most Iranians would probably welcome it. So what are the Gulf states waiting for?

(Joel Brinkley, a professor of journalism at Stanford University, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent for the New York Times.)