The leaders of the UAE (United Arab Emirates) recently decided to give military retirees a 70 percent increase in their pensions. The armed forces only consist of 65,000 troops, and for a long time, many of them were foreigners. But now, most of the military retirees are locals, and the aristocrats that run the place want to make sure that these older men, with military experience, remain loyal. This is particularly true with all the calls for tossing out existing rulers that has been going on throughout the Arab world for the last three months. Actually, taking good care of military veterans has become increasingly important in nations that are prone to civil disorder or revolution. Military veterans can turn the disorder into a well organized rebellion. This is especially true in the UAE, where only 20 percent of the population are citizens, the others are foreigners imported to help spend all that money.
The UAE is a confederation of seven small Arab states (Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain) at the southern end of the Persian Gulf. With a population of only 5.5 million, and large oil and gas deposits, the emirates have a per-capita income of over $40,000. Thus the UAE has a lot to defend, and an increasingly belligerent neighbor just across the Gulf. The UAE controls one side the entrance to the Gulf (the Straits of Hormuz). Iran is on the other end, and both nations dispute ownership of some islands in the middle.
The UAE wants to defend itself from potential Iranian aggression. To that end, they have become the third largest importer of weapons in the world, and the largest in the Middle East. The other two bigger spenders worldwide are India and China. In the Middle East, the UAE imports 50 percent more weapons than Israel. This includes high priced items like the American THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) anti-missile systems, 75 U.S. F-16s and 50 French Mirage 2000-9 fighters. Other recent aircraft purchases include ten U.S. C-103J and four C-17 transports on order. Then there are munitions, 1,300 American laser and GPS guided bombs. Several warships are also on the way.
The UAE is also spending nearly a billion dollars to put up four radar satellites. The GulfSAR (synthetic aperture radar) satellites will use an orbit that will cover an area 43 degrees north and south of the Equator. The UAE is also spending billion on armored vehicles, artillery and other equipment for their ground forces. More billions being spent on bases, training, support and logistics.
Iran is spending less that 15 percent of what the UAE is. That's mainly because Iran is under several arms embargoes, and is cash poor because the religious dictatorship in charge is financially inept and corrupt. But the Iranians have a long (over 3,000 years) reputation for aggressive behavior, and dominating the region. Going retro on the neighbors is growing more popular with Iranians, especially if the neighbors are rich and Iran could use the money. At least that's how the Arabs on the other side of the Persian Gulf see it.