03/10/2015, 00.00
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Saudi Arabia overtakes India as world’s biggest arms importer

Riyadh’s arms race builds tension in the Middle East region. In 2014, military spending jumped by 54%, reaching $ 6.5 billion. 9.8 billion forecast for this year. Washington remains the main exporter, with a market of $ 23.7 billion.

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In 2014, Saudi Arabia overtook India to become the largest importer of weapons in the world. This was revealed by a recently published report on the world arms trade by the experts at IHS Janes, an organization based in London. Riyadh's arms race - which is increasingly concerned about the "threat" of Iran - is contributing to a hike in tension in the Middle East region.

Last year the expenses incurred by the Kingdom for the purchase of arms jumped by 54% to touch $ 6.5 billion; Delhi reached only 5.8 billion dollars. For this year, the estimates are even higher: Riyadh will spend at least $ 9.8 billion, an increase of 52%. And one dollar in every 7 worldwide - spent on weapons - comes from Saudi Arabia.

Author of the report Ben Moores describes this trend as "unprecedented", marking a deep " political fracture in the region". Thanks to oil revenues, the countries of the region have allocated considerable cash reserves to the purchase of weapons.

Chief among them is Saudi Arabia, which is stockpiling a veritable arsenal to respond to the hesitation of the United States in search of new allies among the Middle East nations to combat the threat of the Islamic State.

Any agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue, which would lead to the partial removal of Western sanctions against Tehran, would simultaneously open up new areas of trade and development in what was ancient Persia. A scenario that worries Riyadh and which could undermine the decennial ties between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Moreover, Washington has the most to gain from the arms race launched by the Saudis, since just last year the US has sent $ 8.4 billion in arms to  the region, a figure significantly on the rise when compared with the six billion of 2013.

In the ranking of countries that import arms, behind Saudi Arabia and India, we find the United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, Australia, South Korea and Indonesia. The combined data of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are an overall figure (8.7 billion in defense systems) that exceeds the costs of all Western European countries put together.

Globally, in 2014 the arms trade rose for the sixth consecutive year, pushing world imports to 64.4 billion dollars, compared to 56 billion recorded during the previous year. Finally, the United States continues to be the leading exporter with a export business amounting to 23.7 billion dollars.


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