The Middle East accounted for more than half of all the United States arms sales last year, a senior Pentagon official has revealed, saying Washington seeks to increase the figure in the coming years.
Lieutenant General Charles Hooper, the Director of the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), said Monday that Middle Eastern countries purchased more than $30 billion worth of weapons and other US military products in the 2018 fiscal year out of the Pentagon’s total $55 billion in foreign sales.
“Our products and services are the best in the world and we are not only hopeful, but will take every step and do everything possible, to ensure we remain a partner of choice in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and wider Middle East,” Hooper told the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in the Emirati city of Abu Dhabi on Monday.
The DSCA operates under the US Department of Defense and is charged with brokering military deals with US allies around the world. It also facilitates the transfer of military products, financial and technical assistance, and training and services to those countries.
Hooper said his agency was undergoing major strategic changes to cut costs and accelerate military contracts.
“We are razor-focused on improving the time frame for countries to receive much-needed material,” he said.
To reach that goal, he said, the DSCA was planning to train 20,000 of its personnel around the world under a special program next year.
“Our priority is to strengthen existing partnerships and attract new ones, while helping partners train up their workforce and modernize their military equipment,” Hooper said.
Saudi, UAE among largest purchasers of US weapons
When it comes to foreign weapons purchases in the Middle East, no country comes close to Saudi Arabia.
The Riyadh regime has been frantically signing military deals with the US, Britain and many other European countries since March 2015, when it began the ongoing war against Yemen.
In 2017, when US President Donald Trump chose Riyadh for his debut state visit, Saudi leaders cemented mutual ties by signing a $110 billion arms deal with Washington.
The European Parliament has passed a resolution through which it has called for an urgent ban on all sales of weapons to a Saudi-led coalition which is pressing ahead a deadly war on Yemen since 2015.
The extravagant spending has put a strain on Saudi Arabia’s economy by driving up its military spending to beyond $60 billion a year, much higher than what Russia and the UK are spending.
Earlier, the UAE, which is Saudi Arabia’s main partner in a Riyadh-led coalition invading Yemen, announced two military deals worth around $2 billion with US arms giant Raytheon for the purchase of Patriot missile systems.
The Persian Gulf regime also agreed to a joint plan with the US to construct a major military hospital in Abu Dhabi which will be used by Emirati and American troops, a project that Hooper said the UAE was going to fund.
The Emirati military granted two more contracts worth more than $2.5 billion to arms makers from Australia and other countries.
Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey, Bahrain and other countries in the region have also signed or announced planned military deals with the US over the past year.
The United States has long been selling weapons to warring sides in various Middle East conflicts, often using Iranophobia and other fear tactics to promote its arms sales.