As Israel intensifies its attempts to curb the nuclear operations of Iran, Saudi Arabia has surprisingly crept up the ladder in terms of arms imports. A 2014 study listed the gulf nation as the world’s top importer of arms, above second place India; a country with a population 40 times that of the Arab nation.
Between 2012 and 2013, the country’s spending on arms grew by a shocking 54%. Despite this, there has been something of a global silence, with few questioning the countries motives.
According to a leading defense and aerospace analyst, this silence, particularly on the part of Israel, was likely to ensure the world’s focus remained solely on the Iranian issue.
“Saudi Arabia is committed to the peace process and is not trying to acquire strategic missiles to directly target Israel, which a country like Iran (potentially) is,” suggested IHS analyst, Ben Moore.
Addressing the potential reasons for Saudi Arabia’s high rate in arms acquisitions, he suspected the number would be inflated by the fact that the country relied solely on imports. Furthermore regional tensions, coupled with the probable launch of aerospace programmes could also be a motivating factor.
Amongst the states new purchases are a range of Eurofighter Typhoon, and F-16 fighter jets from the UK and US respectively. These are reported to equate to around $100 million per unit, not including weaponry, maintenance and ammunition.
The recent military acquisitions have brought about concerns that should the gulf state witness any form of political turmoil, as has been seen in several other Arab nations, such weaponry and arms could potentially fall into ‘the wrong hands’. But although such a situation is not out of the realm of possibility, Moore said the complexity of these weapons was such that it would be very hard for such groups to maintain.
“We’ve seen this in Libya where rebels groups have over the last couple of years gotten hold of weapons, but have not been able to really utilize them in an effective manner,” he claimed.
The IHS list includes several Middle and Far-East nations amongst its top ten. Placed 3rd behind Saudia Arabia and India is China, followed by the UAE in 4th, and Taiwan as the fifth biggest arms importer in 2014. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)