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Arms race in GCC, main beneficiary the US
April 14, 2018, 2:42 pm

Continued rift between Qatar and its immediate Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) neighbors, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the ongoing conflict in Yemen and the general instability in the area, have led to a deluge of weapon sales to the region.

In the last few months alone, the six-nation GCC bloc has spent billions of dollars in arms purchases, ostensibly to buttress their defenses, but increasingly to also replenish their arms arsenals depleted by ongoing conflicts, and the need to supply their proxies and allies elsewhere.

Not surprisingly, the main beneficiary in this regional weaponizing drive has been the United States and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom. Just three months into 2018, Saudi Arabia has already signed on to multi-billion arms deals.

This includes a $2.2 billion deal with Spain to sell five small warships to the Kingdom and the $1.3 billion worth of Howitzer systems and conversion equipment, which the US State Department recently approved for sale to Saudi Arabia.

In addition, the US has also approved $500 million in missile system support services, a $300 million deal for supply of spare parts and a contract for over $100 million in helicopter maintenance, as well as an order in late March for an estimated $670 million in anti-tank missiles.

Meanwhile, in early March, the UK walked away with a memorandum of intent from the Kingdom to purchase an additional 48 Eurofighter Typhoon swing-role fighters, as a follow-up to the 72 Typhoon jets that it had sold Saudi Arabia earlier.

In the meantime, the United Arab Emirates has allocated only a modest $270 million for arms purchases, all of it from the United States. In March, the US government approved a potential sale to the UAE of 300 AIM-Sidewinder Block II missiles, 40 AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Captive Air Training Missiles and 30 tactical guidance units at an estimated cost of a shade over $270 million.

Despite being in the eye of the storm going on around it in the region, Bahrain has so far resisted the urge to splurge on arms, but that does not guarantee the tiny kingdom will not join the spending spree sometime later in the year.

In comparison, Qatar has in the first three months of 2018 allocated a little over $490 million for arms purchases, wholly from the United States.

The US has given its tentative nod to a request for a possible sale of equipment and support to upgrade the Qatari Air Force’s Air Operations Center at an estimated cost of $197 million, as well as a sale of Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems II guidance sections at an estimated cost of $300 million.

The other two countries that make up the six-nation GCC bloc, Oman and Kuwait who have remained on good terms with both sides in the internal GCC feud, have together committed only a little over $400 million to arms purchases.

Once again, the US has been the main beneficiary, with Oman allocating $62 million for upgrading software for its fleet of F-16 aircraft, and purchasing a surveillance system and secure communications equipment.

Kuwait has, so far this year, sought approval from the US for the sale of reconnaissance and intelligence gathering aircraft worth nearly $260 million, as well as marine patrol boats at an estimated cost of $100 million.

The longer the rift between Qatar and its neighbors lasts, the bigger the opportunity for global arms mongers and their minions to have a field day, watching the feeding frenzy as they entice the region with one destructive weapon after another. We do hope better sense will prevail.

— Staff Report 

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