Saudi Arabia passed India to become the world’s biggest arms importer last year as concerns about Iran’s ambitions increase tensions in the Middle East.
Saudi spending rose 54 per cent to $6.5bn (£4.3bn) last year, while India imported $5.8bn, according to data released today by IHS, a leading analyst of the global arms trade. Imports will increase by 52 per cent to $9.8bn this year, accounting for $1 of every $7 spent globally, IHS estimated.
“This is definitely unprecedented,” said Ben Moores, the report’s author. “You’re seeing political fractures across the region, and at the same time you’ve got oil, which allows countries to arm themselves, protect themselves and impose their will as to how they think the region should develop.”
Saudi Arabia is building its arsenal amid concern about a geopolitical shift in the Middle East as the US looks for help in fighting Isis militants, said David Cortright, at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. The biggest beneficiary was the US, with $8.4bn of arms shipments to the region last year.