LONDON — Qatar has drastically increased its spend on military imports since 2015 and is now the world’s third biggest importer, according to data released by the Ministry of Justice.
The Middle East dominated global imports of defence equipment and services for the ten years between 2007 and 2016, with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates all major importers.
But Qatar, which is currently facing a Saudi-led blockade, was the third biggest importer globally for the period, despite only having entered the top ten for the first time in 2015.
Qatar ranked sixth in 2015, after significantly increasing imports from France (which included a $US7.1 billion contract for 24 Dassault Rafale aircraft), the USA (which included purchasing 24 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters for $US2.4 billion) and Italy (which included the sale of various vessels and missiles to the Qatar Navy).
“Despite low oil prices, countries in the region continued to order more weapons in 2016, perceiving them as crucial tools for dealing with conflicts and regional tensions,” Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), said in February.
According to SPIRI data, Qatari arms imports increased by 282% between 2012 and 2016 alone:
Saudi Arabia remains the number one importer worldwide, while the UK, USA and France are the major suppliers to the Middle East, as well as top global exporters.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt all cut diplomatic ties with and imposed sanctions on Qatar in June, after accusing the country of supporting terrorism. Days after the start of the blockade, and after himself accusing the country of supporting terrorism, US President Donald Trump authorised the sale of $US12 billion-worth of weapons to Qatar.
In February, SPIRI reported more weapons were traded between 2012 and 2016 than during any other five year period since 1990.