The $50 Billion Arms Bazaar: The Countries of the Middle East Region Are Spending Billions of Dollars on Purchasing Arms with Individual Governments Investing Vast Sums of Money to Build Their Military Capabilities. (Business & Finance)(Cover Story)

By Martin, Josh | The Middle East, March 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The $50 Billion Arms Bazaar: The Countries of the Middle East Region Are Spending Billions of Dollars on Purchasing Arms with Individual Governments Investing Vast Sums of Money to Build Their Military Capabilities. (Business & Finance)(Cover Story)


Martin, Josh, The Middle East


This year, Arab governments in the Middle East and North Africa are expected to spend a staggering $50bn on their military forces. While a portion will pay wages of soldiers and officers, much of that money will be used to purchase complex, high tech weapons systems. This arms build up, encouraged by the West, has made the Middle East, in the words of one leading defence expert, "the most militarised region in the world."

There are now almost 2.5m Arab men and women serving in the military units of 16 Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

In the past decade Saudi Arabia has invested over $100bn to create a modern air force, elaborately equipped security forces, and an army with the latest computer-driven weapons systems and communications equipment.

But other Middle East powers have poured significant amounts of national treasure into weapons systems. According to the CIA and other sources, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have spent upwards of $325bn on arms over the past decade. A breakdown of this figure shows that the Saudis spent approximately $10bn, followed by $80bn by Iran (still rebuilding armed forces shattered by the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War), $80bn by Israel, and $55bn by Turkey.

In addition to domestic military production, these countries rely heavily on purchasing sophisticated systems from European and American defence contractors.

While much of this is done through direct purchases from large multinational arms merchants, the US and Europe also provide generous official military aid packages; According to the IRC (the Interhemispheric Resource Centre, a Washington-based think-tank) the US government alone, through its military aid programmes, has supplied over $50bn.

Participation in official military aid programmes is often necessary in order to obtain export licences to purchase the latest military technology. Although the granting of such export licences is generally a mere formality, the licence procedure gives "donors" detailed information about supply conditions and the military mindset of recipients. It gives official government suppliers leverage to control the military of recipient countries.

While the US accounts for over half of all military aid being poured into the region, governments in Europe and Canada are also major suppliers.

Another potentially major player in this market is Russia, which has both economic and political interests in the region. Until the early 1990s, the Soviet Union was the main source of military hardware for Syria and Iraq, and accounted for approximately 20% of arms sold in the region. Its demise created a void promptly filled by the US, and to a much lesser extent, Europe. But Russian President Vladimir Putin has made it clear his country is now determined to emerge as a major player in the lucrative Middle East arms markets.

The looming competition could further destabilise the region, even as Middle East states invest more in "security" and less in social programmes.

Donor countries have facilitated this trend, increasing their military aid programmes. In all cases, experts point out that published military aid figures may be low, omitting funds given to police and other quasi-military organisations within recipient countries (such funds often being cynically labelled as "civilian" aid). Egypt, for example, has received police training. It has 34 different police forces. Similarly, Israel boasts at least three major intelligence organisations (Mossad, Shin Bet and Aman), in addition to its conventional military and police forces, which have received so-called non-military aid. But this vast expenditure in the region may not make it more secure. Indeed, a growing number of defence experts say this military build up raises the prospect of greater instability, and a potential increase in global terrorism. This, in a region where military experts have already identified 17 potential conflicts, often centring on disputes over colonial-era borders (exacerbated by subsequent discoveries of mineral or energy resources in adjacent territories).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The $50 Billion Arms Bazaar: The Countries of the Middle East Region Are Spending Billions of Dollars on Purchasing Arms with Individual Governments Investing Vast Sums of Money to Build Their Military Capabilities. (Business & Finance)(Cover Story)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?