Who’s the biggest arms importer?

SA biggest arms importer

Source: Forbes

Yes indeed, it’s the bomber of Yemen, funder of ISIS, illegal cluster-bomb-dispatcher, crusher of the Bahrain Arab Spring (with support from British troops)  – not to mention public flogger, executioner, authoritarian, medieval absolutist. It’s also the country that David Cameron believes has a ‘commitment to peace‘ (despite the fact that he has put it on the naughty list).

Well, any country committed to peace would surely want to top the world in weapons of war.

And Saudi Arabia has been seriously stocking up since roughly 20071:SA transfers

Source:Sipri data

Who’s been replenishing their stocks?

We have. The world’s policeman and his poodle. We are committed to peace.

us arms sales saudi_0a

Source:Middle East Eye

$46 billion2 of new arms sales to Saudi Arabia from the world’s policeman – since about 2007, when the stock replenishing began in earnest.

What about the poodle?

UK arms SA-4

Source: CAAT data

We’ve sent about $1 billion worth3. Since about 2007.

Here’s how all of that stacks up: our growing contribution to the growing mass of weapons that the Saudis have been accumulating4. They aren’t exactly using them for building peace.

SA global transfers

Source:Sipri data

“…in Iraq the security forces abandoned large amounts of the weaponry to ISIS. U.S.-armed rebels in Syria, armed by the CIA, went over to join ISIS. There’s $500 million missing of weapons in Yemen. Some think it’s gone to the Houthis. Some think it’s gone to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Of course, there’s arms on both sides, because the government and the forces have split in this war. So it’s quite possible every side of that war in Yemen may have some level of U.S. weaponry. So it’s really gone, you know, haywire. It’s sort of what I call the boomerang effect, when U.S. arms end up in the hands of U.S. adversaries.

William Hartung (my emphasis)

From Kent to Saudi Arabia

Meggitt, Instro and BAE Systems all received export licences to Saudi Arabia in either 2012 or 2013


1. Figures from Sipri. Note that these are 1990 prices, and also that the figures are “intended to represent the transfer of military resources rather than the financial value of the transfer”. So they don’t necessarily map over to military sales.
2.Source: William Hartung. The graph is taken http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/saudi-led-coalition-using-cluster-bombs-yemen-campaign-hrw-1718673661 (the figures appear lower than Hartung’s estimate)
3. Figures from CAAT. Note that this is for licensed goods, not exports. Unlike most other countries, we don’t think it proper to tell the world how much in weapons we export. But also note that these figures don’t include dual-use items – i.e. equipment that could be either for military or civil use.
4. Figures from SIPRI. Caveat as in Note 1. The graph misleadingly suggests that the UK exported nothing before 2007. In fact we just didn’t provide any data.


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