Procurement: The Persian Gulf Arms Race


April 29, 2009: The UAE (United Arab Emirates) has 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. The UAE is a confederation of small Arab states 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 $43,000. 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 are spending $7 billion on American THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) anti-missile systems to protect itself against the growing arsenal of Iranian ballistic missiles. The UAE is also buying lots of aircraft, including 75 U.S. F-16s and 50 French Mirage 2000-9 fighters. There are also 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.





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