By Shane McGinley
Imports of military hardware into Gulf state soared 153% in 2011, more than Saudi Arabia
The UAE was the largest importer of arms in the Middle East over the last five years, with its total volume of annual purchases rising by 153 percent in 2011, according to the latest data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The Swedish institute’s list ranked the Gulf state ninth in the world for total weapons sales between 2007 and 2011. Despite being unaffected by the Arab Spring civil unrest that swept through the region in 2011, the total volume of arms imported into the UAE soared 153 percent last year to 1.4bn units.
SIPRI classifies units as "deliveries of major conventional weapons".
Saudi Arabia was ranked 11 on the list over the last five years. While its total weapons imports only increased seven percent year-on-year in 2011 to 1.095bn units, it topped the list for the biggest single order.
SIPRI’s data showed the kingdom placed an order with the US for 154 F-15SA combat aircraft, which was not only the most significant order made by any state in 2011 but is also believed to be the largest arms deal for at least two decades.
That deal was announced by the Americans in December last year and was worth US$29.4bn.
Among the other Arab states, two of the biggest increases recorded last year were in Turkey and Morocco. Arms into Turkey soared threefold in 2011 to 1.01bn units, while Morocco’s purchase of arms soared from 63m units in 2010 to 1.55bn units in 2011.
While the Middle East accounted for 17 percent of all global imports, Asia topped the list overall. Over the past five years, Asia and Oceania accounted for 44 percent in volume of conventional arm imports, with India topping the list outright for the second year running.
In terms of exports, the US was the largest player and accounted for 30 percent of all arms finding their way into international hands.
Despite a review in 2011 of its arms transfer policies towards the Middle East, the US remains a major supplier to many Arab states both Tunisia and Egypt. In 2011, the US delivered 45 M-1A1 tanks to Egypt and agreed to deliver 125 more, the SIPRI said.
“The transfer of arms to states affected by the Arab Spring has provoked public and parliamentary debate in a number of supplier states. However, the impact of these debates on states' arms export policies has, up to now, been limited,’ said Mark Bromley, senior researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme.