12/09/2016, 21.30
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Washington and London rake up billion-dollar contracts to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE

The United States plans to sell military helicopters and hardware worth billions of dollars despite criticism from activists and NGOs that the weapons kill innocent civilians in Yemen. UK and Gulf nations enter a strategic partnership against Iran, a "threat" to the region.

Dubai (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The US government yesterday approved a series of deals to sell weapons and military hardware (including aircraft, helicopters and missiles) to four Arab allies.

The approval by the US State Department is a boost for many US arms manufacturers, including Boeing. 

The most important contract involves the sale to Saudi Arabia of 48 transport CH-47F Chinook helicopters, worth US$ 3.51 billion. Boeing and Honeywell Aerospace are the main beneficiaries. 

Another US$ 3.5 billion contract involves 27 AH-64E Apache combat helicopters built by Boeing and Lockheed Martin for the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Finally, Qatar ordered eight transport C-17 planes and parts with a US$ 781 million price tag.

The Republican-controlled Congress could theoretically stop the agreements, but the hardware is for four US historical allies in the Gulf region. Such sales are a well-established practice; the last deal of its kind was in August.

Human rights associations and activists have challenged arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE because of their disastrous military campaign in Yemen, which has caused thousands of civilian casualties.

With its many conflicts, the Middle East has turned into a real Mecca for military exporters, as well as a tempting market for many western manufacturers and governments, like Britain and France, but one that feeds the region’s ongoing bloodbath.

The United Kingdom and several Gulf States have agreed to a "strategic partnership" to promote closer relations in all areas, from security policy to trade and defence.

For the British government, this is a must since it decided to leave the European Union, and finds itself in need of new markets to boost its economy and development.

In the context of this co-operation, London plans to establish "a greater presence in the Gulf", starting with a new permanent deployment of British defence staff in Dubai.

During a meeting with Gulf State heads of state, Prime Minister Theresa May also attacked Iran, calling it a "threat" to the region’s security. “I am clear-eyed about the threat that Iran poses to the Gulf and the wider Middle East,” Ms May said.

For this reason, Britain plans to provide new resources and investments to train local defence and security personnel.

Iran shot back right away.  Britain is "not in a position to accuse others of interfering in regional affairs," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said in Tehran.

The latter suggested that May "wanted to please some of the Gulf states with these ill-considered remarks" with the goal of signing "new massive arms deals" involving British weapons.

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