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Armed to the teeth, Part I

Armed to the teeth, Part I

GCC states are stockpiling high-tech weapons. They say it’s for protection. This two part series looks at the potential conflicts in the region, and how regional governments are preparing for them.

October 20, 2008 12:14 by

Ian Munroe

It’s an ambitious shopping list: 1,162 general-purpose bombs, 900 air-to-ground missiles, 200 satellite-controlled bomb guidance units, a Patriot missile defense system and 63 Mirage fighter jets. These are a few of the assorted military gadgets the United Arab Emirates has been trying to snap up over the last year, as the country accelerates its drive to build a state-of-the-art fighting force.

Bombs and guns may clash with the image most people hold of this affluent Gulf state. But in the shadows behind the luxury cars, lavish hotels and skylines pocked with thumbnail skyscrapers the government is collecting high-tech weapons, to make anyone who wants to mess with the UAE think twice.

It’s a side of the Gulf’s exceptional and growing prosperity that gets little attention: what local governments are doing to maintain the peace and stability needed for business to unfold. Today, for the UAE and the other GCC members that means forging a difficult path between two combative allies, the United States and Iran.

While the UAE’s drive to modernize its armed forces dates back more than a decade, lately it has been gaining momentum. According to the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, a Dubai-based think tank, Abu Dhabi spent $10 billion on the country’s national defense budget last year. The UAE was the second-largest military spender in the Gulf region, behind Saudi Arabia’s $33 billion, and ahead of Iran’s $7.2 billion.

“These are systems that form the backbone of any country’s military capabilities: anti-missile technologies, intelligence gathering and radar systems, and precision munitions technology,” says Travis Sharp, an analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington. “The UAE has been really pushing hard to improve its military capabilities in the last few years,” he adds. “They’re in the midst of a pretty significant build-up.”

The UAE isn’t alone in its military aspirations. Forecast International, an American consulting firm, says defense spending across the GCC has swollen from $31 billion in 2003 to $50 billion in 2007. Gulf states are expected to spend even more in 2008.

For example, Saudi Arabia has reportedly been working on a $4 billion deal with Russia for 100 attack helicopters, 150 tanks, 20 surface-to-air missile systems and several hundred infantry combat vehicles. From England, the Kingdom is …..

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