The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report on Sunday that arms sales to the Middle East have grown by 87 percent over the past five years, with Saudi Arabia topping the list of buyers becoming the world’s largest arms importer.
Included at the top of the list of arms buyers included Egypt, Algeria and Iraq.
The institute measures the volume of deliveries of arms, not the dollar value of deals.
According to the report, arms sales to the Middle East now account for more than a third of the global trade.
Pieter Wezeman, a senior officer with SIPRI stated “the United States and European countries sell jets and other gear used in controversial wars in Yemen and beyond”
Adding further “Weapons from the US, the UK and France are in high demand in the Persian Gulf, where conflicts and tensions are rife. While Russia, France and Germany dramatically increased their arms sales to Egypt in the past five years.”
Wezeman attributed the growth in Middle Eastern imports to the need to replace military gear that was deployed and destroyed in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya, as well as political tensions and a regional arms race.
“Saudi Arabia and Israel in particular are readying for a potential conflict with Iran,” the 12-page report said. The SIPRI report also referred to a severe diplomatic crisis within the GCC, with Qatar.
The survey also found that the US remains the world’s top arms seller, with a 29 percent jump in its exports over the past five years. Over half of the US arms (52 percent) were sold to customers in the Middle East.
British sales rose by 5.9 percent over the same period. Most of the UK arms exports (59 percent) also went to Middle Eastern countries, with Saudi Arabia and Oman being the main destinations for its combat aircraft.
Patrick Wilcken, an arms control specialist with the UK-based watchdog Amnesty International, decried the “hypocrisy” of Western governments not following their own rules by continuing to supply authoritarian regimes that commit wartime abuses or violations against their own people.
He noted that Western arms more often end up being used in human rights abuses, referring to Egypt’s crackdown on political dissidents, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and the Saudi-led aggression against Yemen.
“In Yemen, totally unaccountable militias are being armed and supported by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which is setting the scene for a future period of instability and human rights violations,” Patrick Wilcken, of Amnesty International concluded,
The British upper parliamentary House of Lords concluded that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia since the start of the Riyadh-led war on Yemen have been causing “significant civilian casualties” in the country.
Germany alone has taken a stand. Last week it extended until the end of March a ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia imposed over the kingdom’s deadly campaign against Yemen and the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Germany’s decision to halt arms sales to the Saudis has drawn criticism of European partners, including France and Britain, due to the fact that the move has impacted joint military projects.
A senior insider in Washington DC stated “Instead of being challenged, the US continues to claim a larger share of an expanding global arms market and as such, the US should take the lead in promoting responsible behavior, rather than encouraging trade to repressive and irresponsible regimes, such as those in Israel and Saudi Arabia.”