Saudi Arabia, a weapons manufacturer's best friend
In 2011, the United States tripled weapons sales thanks to Saudi purchases. The Middle East remains the best market for weapons sales. Riyadh buys 84 fighter planes and dozens of helicopters. The United Arab Emirates buy a missile defence shield and helicopters. Market is driven by fears of an Iranian attack and support for the Syrian rebellion.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Saudi Arabia, which backs rebels in Syria and is concerned about Iranian power, is the best customer for the US arms industry.

A report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), an independent agency of the US Congress, said in a report that US weapons sales tripled last year to a record US$ 66.3 billion, pumped up by US$ 33.4 billion in sales to Saudi Arabia. Since US sales accounted for 78 per cent of all global arms sales, the Saudi kingdom has in effect saved the weapons industry. However, other important weapons manufacturers like the United Kingdom and Germany saw sales drop.

According to the report, a weaker global economy, the European financial crisis and the slow international recovery from the recession of 2008 have dampened demand for new weapons, with many countries choosing to upgrade existing systems and services rather than buying new ones.

Written by Richard Grimmett and Paul Kerr, the congressional report found that whilst places like Taiwan and India are important buyers, the Middle East remains by far the best market for weapons sales.

In addition to sales worth US$ 33.4 billion to Saudi Arabia (84 fighter planes and dozens of helicopters), Washington in fact sold an advanced missile shield with a US$ 3.4 billion price tag to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and an additional US$ 940 million in helicopters.

Although Saudi Arabia and the UAE are involved in the anti-Assad revolt in Syria where they pay rebel salaries and supply them with weapons, most of their weapons purchases are motivated by a desire to resist possible Iranian attacks.