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GCC arms itself

GCC arms itself

Thanks to regional tensions, the Middle East is the perfect market for western weapons manufacturers. Does Saudi’s huge US deal mark the start of some major investments from the GCC?

September 16, 2010 10:54 by

U.S. arms manufacturers are capitalising on fears of war with Iran to sell more weapons to Saudi Arabia and other nervous Gulf Arab neighbours of the Islamic republic.

U.S. plans unveiled this week to sell Saudi Arabia up to $60 billion in aircraft, helicopters and other arms could lead to the six Gulf Arab states spending as much as $100 billion in the next few years to overhaul their armed forces, analysts say.

European arms suppliers, less well established in the region, are likely to miss out on what promises to be a massive regional rearmament programme, the analysts say.

Unease on the Arab side of the waterway about the prospect of retaliatory strikes in the event of war is also drawing the GCC closer together. Their top U.S. ally looks set to benefit most.

“The GCC need to work together, not just what they do, also training and building up manpower,” said Saudi political analyst Khalid al-Dakhil. “As individuals they can do nothing.”

Riyadh and Washington, which formed seven decades ago a strategic relationship based on oil for security, share concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, fearing Tehran wants to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Iran charge denies.

The arms deal, which top oil exporter Saudi Arabia has yet to confirm, would help Washington’s key Gulf Arab ally to counter Iran’s regional influence by giving it superiority over Iran’s air force, security experts say.

The U.S. Congress also needs to approve the potentially record deal, which would benefit U.S. military suppliers such as Boeing Co and United Technologies Corp.

The United States and Israel have not ruled out military strikes to curb Iran — a troubling prospect for Gulf states fearing they could become target of retaliatory strikes.

Diplomats also say the United States is in talks with Saudi Arabia and the UAE over an air defense system involving Lockheed Martin Corp.

Smaller Gulf states Kuwait and Bahrain, which are worried about retaliatory strikes as they are home to U.S. bases, are likely to buy surface-to-air missiles such as Patriots, made by U.S. firm Raytheon, said analyst Theodore Karasik.

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