Arms sales to the Middle East have increased enormously in the last five years. According to a study by the Swedish research institute Sipri (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). The United States has dominated the market in recent years.
In the 2015-2019 period, arms sales worldwide increased by 5.5 percent compared to the 2010-2014 period. “In general, arms sales have increased. The demand for arms-importing countries is high and even seems to have increased slightly,” explains researcher Pieter Wezeman.
Imports in the Middle East alone increased by 61 percent during that period. That import accounts for 35 percent of the total worldwide arms imports in the past five years.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia has become the largest arms importer for India. The United States is the leading supplier to the Saudis (73 percent of imports) followed by the United Kingdom (13 percent), and this despite their “deep concerns” about Saudi military intervention in Yemen, Sipri notes.
US increasingly dominant
The fact that so many weapons are being exported to the Middle East is, according to Wezeman, especially “worrying”, because there is a possible new escalation in the region. According to the researcher, it is striking that the US is becoming more dominant in arms sales and that the country is the most crucial supplier worldwide. Some of the country’s most important deliveries are still under the government of the previous President Barack Obama.
Russia is the second-largest supplier. The country is responsible for one-fifth of the total number of deliveries, and it sold weapons to 47 countries. More than half went to India, China, and Algeria.
Russian arms exports did fall by 18 percent compared to the 2010-2014 period. “It is not that Russia is not trying to sell fewer weapons, but it is that buyers were struggling to keep buying the same number of weapons,” Wezeman explains.
France is the third-largest exporter and the country accounts for 8 percent of worldwide sales. Germany and China complete the top five.