Alwaght- The Pentagon has stated that the US approved $6 billion in weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. It said that Bahrain share of the sales will be $2.48 billion and will potentially include 36 Patriot MIM-104E Guidance Enhanced Missiles known as GEM-T that will be installed on the Patriot air defense systems with the capability to destroy drones and cruise missiles. Furthermore, Bahrain is expected to receive worth of $750 million in weapons to its F-16 fighter jets.
In a separate State Department notification sent to Congress, Bahrain was also given the nod for various weapons to support its F-16 Block 70/F-16V aircraft fleet for an estimated cost of $750 million. That package included 32 AIM-9X missiles, 20 AGM-84 Block II Harpoon missiles and 100 GBU-39s which are 250-pound small diameter bombs and other munitions.
In a third State Department notification, the United Arab Emirates was given potential approval for $2.73 billion worth of Patriot missiles and related equipment including 452 Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) Missiles Segment Enhanced (MSE) and related equipment.
The key contractors for the sales were Raytheon Co and Lockheed Martin Co. Abu Dhabi applied for the weapons earlier this year during the Abu Dhabi-hosted IDEX NAVDEX defense exhibition. According to the Emirates Today news website, the Arab country’s weapons contracts were signed with 15 international and 18 local companies.
Western weapons’ heated market in the Persian Gulf region
The oil-wealthy Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf have always been one of the biggest markets for global arms suppliers. The monarchies for years have been renowned for their large-scale military spending compared to their GDP. Among the top 10 countries with the largest military spending in 2018, three are from the Persian Gulf region. Saudi Arabia with 8.8 percent, Oman with 8.2 percent, and Kuwait with 5.1 percent of their GDP. According to a latest report published by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an organization watching the global security status and military spending, Saudi Arabia ranked third largest military spending country in 2018 after the US and China with $67.6 billion.
The report adds that the US, holding a 34-percent share of the global arms market, is the world’s largest weapons exporter, with a large amount of its income coming from this business. About 41 percent of the American weapons are sold to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s second-largest buyer of arms. The arms imported by Riyadh over the past five years tripled compared to the five years between 2008 and 2012. Abu Dhabi also tried not to fall behind. Figures show that after Saudi Arabia, the UAE is the biggest arms importer among the Persian Gulf states.
The Arab states’ unquenchable thirst for weapons purchases that are enabled by petrodollars stirs a tight competition between the world’s major arms manufacturers to hold part of the lucrative Persian Gulf arms market.
The competition has intensified since Donald Trump became president of the US and adopted a special foreign policy pathway in the West Asia region. The situation has changed so much that other suppliers like Russia, France, Britain, and Germany are vying for signing security and military pacts and contracts with the Arab states.
Big French companies like Dassault and Thales in the past few years signed massive arms contracts with the Persian Gulf sheikhdoms, mainly Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar. France, one of the world’s biggest arms manufacturers, seeks to broaden sales of boats, tanks, and artillery to Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, and Cairo in a bid to turn into a major provider of arms to the regional states. In the first half of 2018, Paris sold $3.90 billion worth of various types of arms to the Arab monarchies.
Britain is also engaged in a similar attempt. The yes to the Brexit has given the Persian Gulf countries a special economic weight in the British policy. From 2010 to 2016, the British government issued 6,000 arms sales licenses for British companies selling arms to the Arab states worth of £16 billion ($21 billion). This license issuing accounts only for 30 percent of all issued. Again here, Saudi Arabia and the UAE stand as the top purchasers. The British government has determined investment opportunities in the Persian Gulf states in 15 separate sectors. It is expected that this will lead to £29 billion ($38.2 billion) worth of investment up to 2022.
Germany, which in October 2018 halted arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for the massacring of the civilians in Yemen, has tried not to fall behind. Berlin in mid-April greenlit some arms shipments to the two Arab states.
Persian Gulf Arab Monarchies: Paradise of dictatorships and militarism
The green lights to new arms sales to Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and Bahrain come while the three states have a black record of human rights, political social freedoms, and destabilizing meddling in regional countries.
Saudi Arabia, for instance, has been bombing Yemen since 2015 with Western-provided weapons, killing thousands of civilians and destroying all of the neighboring country’s infrastructure. The war has caused the largest regional humanitarian crisis. The UAE is another party to Saudi-led coalition, with its Yemen-based prisons where an array of crimes, including torturing, raping, and killing, happen on a daily basis.
The Arab states use Western arms to equip terrorists to destabilize other regional countries, mainly their rivals. Syria and Iraq terrorist wars are apparent examples. Furthermore, recent documents leaks show that Abu Dhabi is militarily aiding a Libyan capital capture campaign led by General Khalifa Haftar.
At home, these Arab countries use their arms to terrorize the opposition and citizens protesting peacefully for reforms. Last week, Saudi Arabia executed 37 citizens, 32 of them Shiites, without trials. Bahrain, helped by Saudi Arabia, since 2011 launched a crackdown campaign against the pro-reform protestors. Jailing, torturing, and citizenship revoking are the punitive measures against the protesting Shiite majority.
The repressive actions have drawn criticism from international rights organizations such as the Amnesty International which raised its voice against West’s arms sales to the despotic Arab regimes. But the arms exports profits are too huge to allow the West open its eyes to the authoritarian regimes' crimes.