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Saudi Arabia Is Buying More Weapons than Ever Before

Saudi Arabia Is Buying More Weapons than Ever Before
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By Stephen Snyder, PRI

Saudi Arabia has led the world’s nations in buying weapons for the past two years. And where do most of these weapons come from?

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), 70 percent of Saudi's arsenal now comes from the United States. SIPRI tracks transfers of major weapons and is one of few organizations to do this. 

Saudi Arabia's appetite for weapons has grown as its regional ambitions have increased. The ongoing war in Yemen, and concern about Iranian influence, are both reflected in increases in weapons purchases by the Saudis over time.

"There's been a very significant growth in arms supplies to Saudi Arabia by the US," says SIPRI's Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher and Middle East specialist. "To Saudi Arabia, the US supplies a very wide range of arms. The most important types of arms include combat aircraft, tanks and missiles. It includes very advanced sensors and intelligence gathering equipment, often on planes. In the coming years, it will also include frigates and other ships. So, really, the whole package of weapons which Saudi Arabia wants to have is what the US is willing to supply and already has supplied."

Wezeman says his concern is less about the amount of weapons the Saudis are buying and more about the fact that they are being used in battle.

"We don't have a nice Saudi Arabian defense whitepaper which clearly explains why they want to have all these arms," he says. "We have to look at how they behave, statements made here and there by important Saudi Arabian people, in particular, the crown prince. And it is quite clear that the prime motive of motives for Saudi Arabia are that it wants to be a regional power and that weapons are considered an important tool for becoming that..."

The war in Yemen has been going on for four years.