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Friday, March 18, 2011

Where Arab Regimes Buy Their Weapons

By Marco ‘t Hoen
Epoch Times Staff
Regimes of Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Libya use well-equipped security forces in order to suppress the opposition in their countries. These forces are equipped with weapons that were once or recently provided by countries like France, Russia, and the United States.

On Monday, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) published its 2011 yearbook with new data on international arms transfers. The United States remains the largest provider of arms in the world, with 30 percent of the total arms trade and serving as the largest provider of arms to 75 different countries in the period between 2006 and 2010. The Middle East received 28 percent of these weapons.

From the restless countries in the Arab region, Algeria was the largest importer of weapons. SIPRI’s database reveals exactly who bought what from whom over the last 60 years. This database tells us that Algeria bought 25 MiG fighter planes, 25 Su-24 Bombers, 28 Su-30 aircraft and ordered 16 more Su-30s—and these are only the aircraft from Russia during the last 10 years. In total, 13 countries sent to Algeria 57 different items, including helicopters, submarines, tanks, missiles, and air search radar.

 Saudi Arabia bought many advanced systems, like long-range precision targeting systems in planes, air defense systems, and Apache and Blackhawk helicopters. From the United Kingdom, it has received the first 16 of 72 Eurofighter Typhoon airplanes. According to Pieter Wezeman of SIPRI in Saudi Arabia, a lot of personnel working with these systems are foreigners.

The small country of Bahrain bought most of its weapons from the United States. Helicopters and a range of missiles were the most prominent items.

In order to sell weaponry, companies often get support from their governments. The deals for fighter planes and ships involve billions of dollars. “European producers in particular are seeking export opportunities and are benefiting from government assistance with export promotion activities,” said Mark Bromley, European expert of the program, in a press release.

After the U.N. weapon embargo on Libya was lifted in 2003, Russia, France, and the United Kingdom competed for anticipated large orders. Wezeman said, “Most likely Putin, Sarkozy, and Blair were directly involved with the sales to Libya.”

However, Libya did not buy much: two light helicopters, 200 antitank missiles, and two transport aircraft, according to the database. Wezeman said there have been some subsequent small additions, with tanks and four fighter planes.

Even if Gadhafi didn’t buy that much, he did buy a large quantity of hand weapons from Belgium and some Italian systems for guarding borders, Wezeman said. These, along with the improved tanks, are now most likely being used on the rebels, who have access mostly to older weapons. Two of the advanced planes, Wezeman said, were the planes that ended up in Malta after the pilots refused to fire on protesters.

Compared with the other countries in the region, most of Libya’s weaponry is not advanced and should not present a large obstacle for a no-fly zone over the country. The Russians have an undelivered, outstanding order for S-300 air defense systems. But Gadhafi’s current anti-aircraft systems date back to the 1970s and ’80s and can be compared with what Saddam Hussein used 10 years ago in Iraq, Wezeman said.

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