“The driving force behind the spending is regional anxiety over Iran,” he said. “They are trying to close the strategic gap, countering Iran’s quantitative superiority by superior weapons systems. In [a] conventional manpower [sense] they can’t compete. They do it by maintaining a technological advantage,” Thomas told The Media Line. “Saudi Arabia as the region’s heavy weight constitutes the bulk of Gulf Cooperation Council spending,” he said, referring to the six member regional cooperation organization that is made up of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Following Saudi Arabia comes the United Arab Emirates, “which is taking its defense extremely seriously by upgrading its air force capabilities, missile defense and naval assets,” Thomas said.
According to the Military Expenditure index at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Saudi Arabia alone spent US $41 billion on arms in 2009, an increase of US $3 billion from the year before that. The latest data available from 2007 for the United Arab Emirates shows that its government spent US $42 million that year but that number has most likely risen since then.
Brig.-Gen. Musa Qallab, an independent defense expert and former program manager for GCC Defense Issues Gulf Research Center in Dubai, told The Media Line that weapons purchasing would most likely continue to rise. “The Gulf Cooperation Council countries will continue to improve their weapons and arms system. Yes, the increased spending will continue, it will rise,” he said.
“This means the continued development increase in their weapons system for the traditional land forces and for the security forces as well,” said Qallab. “For the land forces they need better tanks, Armored Personal Carriers (APC) and fighting vehicles and [to] upgrade the [jet] fighters and military helicopters.”
“The naval forces need upgrading and submarines,” he said. “The air defense is very important with the threat from Iran and other non-state actors. They need accurate counter missile defense systems. GCC needs to spend more and more,” Qallab said.
“The smart weapons from the West are the main source of weaponry, with the United States as number one, with the United Kingdom as number two [and] France number three,” he said. “China is also trying to sell some equipment,” he added. “Many of the targets that need to be protected are housing areas and manufacturing zones, so-called soft targets. And if these can’t be protected what is the point of all the economic development in the Gulf?” Qallab asked.
Posted on July 15, 2010
Source: (By Adam Gonn, The Media Line, July 12, 2010)
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