Gulf focuses on military might

The eight nations of the Gulf region have among the highest military expenditures in the world as a percentage of GDP.

Iranian army members prepare rockets during their military maneuver at the Strait of Hormuz, Iran.
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The eight nations of the Gulf region have among the highest military expenditures in the world as a percentage of GDP, driven by huge arms purchases to defend against regional instability and protect valuable oil and gas assets.
Between 2000 and 2008, Oman and Saudi Arabia spent more of their GDP on the military than any other country for which data are available, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
During that time Oman spent as much as 12.5 per cent of annual GDP on defence, compared with the global average of 2.3 per cent and 2.5 per cent. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, spent between 8 per cent and 11.5 per cent of GDP on its military, said the report.
"Almost all the Gulf states devote a larger share of their GDP to military spending than the global average," said SIPRI.
Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher of arms transfers at SIPRI, qualified the findings, saying the accuracy of available data on the Gulf states' military expenditure was "highly uncertain".
"In many cases - notably Bahrain and Iran - not all military expenditure appears in the official figures; while in others - notably Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia - states do not report their military spending separately from their broader spending on security [including internal security]," he said.
"It is also unclear whether some arms imports are paid for directly from oil revenues and thus do not appear in government accounts."
The UAE figured above the global average, spending between an estimated 5.9 per cent and 9.8 per cent of GDP between 2000 and 2007 on its armed forces, the latest information available, said SIPRI.
Oman's biggest expenditures between 2005 and last year were on 12 F-16 combat jets from the US. In addition, it is due to receive three frigates from the US, and has plans for a further 18 F-16 jets from the US and 24 Typhoon combat jets from the UK, said SIPRI.
Saudi Arabia accounted for the biggest purchase of conventional arms in the region in the 1990s as it built up its defences following the First Gulf War. This spending is again expected to pick up dramatically, said SIPRI.
Saudi Arabia is buying more than 370 Abrams tanks and more than 720 Piranha armoured personnel carriers from Canada, as well as dozens of Typhoon aircraft and Storm Shadow missiles from the UK.
In addition, the kingdom recently announced plans to buy another US$60 billion (Dh220.36bn) in arms, mainly from the US. This includes 72 Black Hawk military transport helicopters, 84 new F-15 fighter aircraft and 70 upgrades of existing Saudi F-15s. The plans include purchases of 70 Apache attack helicopters and 36 Little Bird light attack/reconnaissance helicopters. The estimated contract value includes expected substantial naval procurements as well as long-term service contracts. Between 2005 and last year, Iraq received more than 11,000 light armoured personnel carriers, said SIPRI. It is in the process of completing deals for 140 Abrams tanks, 400 Ukrainian armoured personnel carriers, plus C-17 transport planes and armed helicopters from the US, armed helicopters from a French-German company, and transport helicopters from Russia. It is also planning to acquire more tanks from the US and Ukraine, as well as F-16 fighter jets, trainer jets, and armoured personnel carriers from the US.
However, SIPRI warned that Iraq lists only budget figures - actual expenditure could vary significantly. Iraq's military budget shrank by almost 30 per cent between 2008 and last year, it said.
Since 2000, Iran has spent a smaller share of GDP on its military, between 2.9 and 4 per cent. However, in real US dollar terms, the amount is significant - $12.2bn in 2006 alone.
Iran's most important recent arms import was the delivery of about 29 medium-range surface-to-air missile systems from Russia in 2006 and 2007, said SIPRI. In September, Russia announced that, as part of its implementation of the UN embargo, it had stopped the delivery of five S-300 surface-to-air missile systems that Iran ordered in 2007.
igale@thenational.ae