Despite Saudi Arabia coming under intensified international scrutiny after last year’s brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, a new study shows Riyadh has been on a record-setting weapons buying spree over the past two years.
And who supplies most of these arms? Of course the United States, which has by all indicators done nothing to curtail its perpetual arms pipeline to the Saudis; instead it has grown. According to a new 2019 study published in March from arms transfer monitoring group, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), 70 percent of the Saudi arsenal now comes from the United States.
Prior file photo of Saudi officers take photos during a joint military exercise of 21 Muslim nations (in 2016). Image source: Getty
Furthermore, the Saudis have hands down led the world in global weapons purchases for the past two years, and there’s little sign this trend will let up as Riyadh keeps up its merciless bombing campaign over neighboring Yemen, and as its regional ambitions have grown in competition with perceived “Iranian influence” — also given Syria’s Assad emerging victorious in the long-running proxy war in Syria, and as Hezbollah is now considered stronger than ever.
Senior researcher and Middle East specialist with SIPRI, Pieter Wezeman, told PRI the US-Saudi arms trade has continued to grow: “There’s been a very significant growth in arms supplies to Saudi Arabia by the US,” he said.
He detailed the bulk constitutes major weapons systems as follows:
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 also suggested the Saudis are worried about Iranian escalation in Yemen. Saudi officials have long accused Tehran of transferring ballistic missiles to Shia Houthi rebels, in order to strike at targets deep inside Saudi Arabia.