Tensions, conflicts fanning arms sales in West Asia: Monitor
Saudi-Iran tensions, war in Yemen and hostilities between Qatar and a Saudi-led alliance have triggered a phenomenal increase in arms imports to West Asia, according to Stockholm-based arms trade monitor SIPRI.
During 2014-2018, arms sales to West Asia have gone up by 87% as compared to 2009-2013, showed figures released in March by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in its fiveyearly report ‘Trends in International Arms Transfers 2018’.
West Asia is the only region that witnessed a rise in arms imports in the 2014-2018 period while the numbers fell in the rest of the world.
North and South America saw a 36% decrease, Europe 13%, Asia and Oceania 6.7%, and Africa 6.5%. But buoyed by West Asia’s spike, overall global arms imports went up by 7.8%.
Saudi Arabia’s arms imports shot up by 192%, while the figures are even higher for Riyadh’s neighbours. Egypt imported 206% more arms than before, Iraq’s purchases went up by 139%, while Qatar recorded an increase of 225%.
Israel, perpetually locked in a battle with the Hamas, saw its arms procurements shoot up by a whopping 354%. Lesser-known Oman bought 213% more arms than before, while Kuwait’s imports ran up by 348%.
Saudi Arabia’s fight against arch rival Iran for regional dominance; the Saudi-led intervention and war in Yemen; and the diplomatic standoff between Qatar and the UAE-Saudi alliance are the “key reasons behind these increases” in West Asia’s arms imports, the SIPRI report said.
Interestingly, the spike in arms imports coincided with an economic slump in the Gulf region triggered by a historic oil price shock. From the highs of $115 a barrel in June 2014, the crude oil price had bottomed out to $35 by February 2016.