Almost half of U.S. arms exports go to Middle East

Frederick Owens
March 13, 2018

With the Middle East accounting for 49 percent of total US arms exports, Saudi Arabia was by far its biggest customer.

Arms imports by countries in the Middle East jumped by 103 percent during the 2013-2017 period compared with the previous five years, a report on global arms sales by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) showed on Monday. Its arms exports increased by 25 per cent between 2008-12 and 2013-17.

The U.S. continues to dominate arms exports, and it has accounted for 34 percent of total arms exports over the past five years.

The Islamic kingdom, which is the world's second-largest arms importer behind India, agreed last week to buy 48 highly advanced fighter jets from Britain's BAE Systems amid protests by human rights activists, who allege that Riyadh uses arms procured from western countries to kill innocent civilians in Yemen.

Russia, France, Germany and China joined the United States as the five biggest exporters. "Its imports increased by 24 per cent between 2008-12 and 2013-17".

Israel increased its imports by 125%, receiving arms mainly from the US, Germany and Italy.Iran, which is under an global arms embargo, spends a fraction of what its Arab neighbours spend on weapons, instead relying on proxies and soft power to advance its policies.

Exports to states in the Middle East accounted for half of the total USA weapon exports in that period.

The Middle East received nearly half of the US arms exports from 2013 to 2017, it said.

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The SIPRI report has also brought to light India's shifting preference for the United States, who is the leader in arms exports worldwide, holding a share of 34%. Its exports were 58 percent higher than those of Russian Federation, who was the world's second largest arms exporter during the 2013-2017 period.

Around 35% of China's arms supplies went to Pakistan between 2013 and 2017, followed by 19% to Bangladesh.

"In 2008-12 Pakistan received substantial military aid from the USA, including 28 combat aircraft and five maritime patrol aircraft". The group took over a number of major cities in Iraq, seizing U.S. weapons supplied to Iraqi troops and also took capitalized on unrest in neighboring Syria by absorbing or overtaking various rebel groups, a number of which were trained and armed by the U.S., Turkey and Gulf Arab states.

"The flow of arms to the Asia and Oceania and the Middle East increased between 2008-2012 and 2013-2017, while there was a decrease in the flow to the Americas, Africa and Europe", the SIPRI said in its report - titled Trends in International Arms Transfers 2017. Despite this, it was the world's fifth largest arms importer in 2013-17.

According to Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, the tension in recent past with both Pakistan and China have led to the increase in growing demands of weapon, which India does not produce itself.

Notably, Algeria accounted for 52 percent of all African imports over the last five years. Venezuela's arms imports fell by 40 percent between the two periods.

During the same period, China's weapons exports to Pakistan augmented by healthy 35pc and the latter remained biggest buyer of Chinese-made weapons.

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