Gulf States on Arms Buying Binge to Counter Iran Threat

Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf monarchies are buying huge amounts of advanced arms from the United States and Europe. The weaponry is clearly aimed to counter the growing threat they see coming from Iran.

The United States alone has around $100 billion in potential sales in the pipeline right now. The biggest is a Saudi deal, initiated in 2010 and approved by Congress, totaling around $60 billion. The package includes jets, helicopters, hundreds of Harpoon anti-ship missiles, training, and logistical services. Israel, initially worried about the sale, agreed -- after U.S. assurances -- to support it in September.

In the updated version, the Saudis will receive 84 brand new F-15SAs and have 70 F-15s upgradedThe SA model is based on the F-15SE and incorporates stealth technology, the ability to carry a heavy payload, and a long-range capability.

European countries have also received orders. In 2008 the Saudis purchased 72 multi-role Eurofighter Typhoons. Both Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE.) have approached France to buy 24 and 60 (respectively) advanced Dassault Rafale multirole fighters.

The UAE has embarked on a major military build-up to counter Iran. On December 25, a $3.5 billion weapons deal was signed and included a missile defense system.  In late 2011, the UAE requested that the United States sell them 4,900 kits to transform so-called “dumb bombs” into guided “smart” munitions. The proposal includes the sale of bunker buster bombs. The Department of Defense claimed this purchase would serve “U.S. interests by deterring regional aggression,” a reference to Iran.

In October, 2011, Oman asked for $1.24 billion worth of American anti-aircraft systems.

Gulf states have also begun modernizing and expanding their navies. Last July, the UAE’s naval commander called on the Gulf Cooperation Council to “co-operate to reduce vulnerabilities.”

Iraq has already received six coastal patrol boats. Responding to the threat of Iranian Kilo-class submarines and surface ships, Bahrain requested 6 SH-60 maritime patrol helicopters.  In 2006, the UAE purchased two German minesweepers and reportedly also opened a naval base to help attack any Iranian blockade of the Straits of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.