Arms imports to the Middle East were doubled during the period from 2013-2017, compared to the region’s total arms imports in the previous five years, the Munich Security Report 2019 revealed yesterday.
The report showed that 53 per cent of arms exports to the Middle East were from the United States (US), 11 per cent from France, 10 per cent from the United Kingdom (UK), seven per cent from Canada, six per cent from Italy, three per cent from Germany and 2 percent from Turkey.
The study pointed to the role played by the European Union (EU) in Syria’s future after the US announced the withdrawal of its troops from the war-torn country. It also highlighted the role played jointly by Russia, Iran and Turkey in Syria.
Middle Eastern countries’ arms imports are believed to have led to humanitarian crisis across the region, including the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Syria, and leaving over 24 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and more than 250,000 others on the brink of starvation in Yemen.
Last year, the US President Donald Trump said that Saudi Arabia was the largest importer of American-made arms, with defence contractors making some $110 billion of sales. Following the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October, the American Congress has repeatedly called on the US administration to ban arms sales and impose sanctions on the kingdom.
The report warned of a possible “risk of an accidental clash” between Saudi Arabia, the US, Israel, and Iran in Yemen, Gulf, Syria, or Iraq, stressing that the conflict would not be “discounted.”
“The world order that we once knew, had become accustomed to, and sometimes felt comfortable in – this world order no longer exists,” the report noted, adding that some European countries such as France, UK and Germany would play a “significant role” in maintaining stability in their region.
The security report comes days ahead of the 55th edition of the Munich Security Conference, which will be held in the German city if Munich and is due on 15-17 February. The event is being attended every year by heads of states and defence ministers of more than 80 countries from around the world.