The United Arab Emirates, a partner to Saudi-led coalition waging a destructive war in Yemen, is eyeing billion-dollar arms deals with local and international companies as an arms show in Abu Dhabi gets underway.
The UAE announced 4.5 billion dirhams ($1.2 billion) worth of military procurement deals on Sunday at the opening of the biennial International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi, which is attended by over 1,200 companies.
Brigadier General Rashid al-Shamsi, an IDEX spokesman, said the figure was part of a total of 20-billion-dirham worth of purchases the UAE expects to make at the arms fair this week, AFP reported.
He said most of the figure will be spent on buying 400 armored personnel carriers worth $544 million from a local manufacturer, adding, "We expect (to award) more than 20 billion dirhams in contracts by the end of Idex."
Australia and the UAE have agreed to consider a 10-year defense plan that could include more than one billion Australian dollars ($767 million) in sales to the UAE.
The announcement was made following a meeting on Sunday between Australia's Defense Industry Minister Christopher Pyne and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who is also deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces.
"What the Crown Prince is talking about is a more mature long-term relationship built around security and procurement," Pyne said in Abu Dhabi, adding, "They are looking for genuine partners, not just foreign military sales, and that suits Australia's attitude extremely well."
Pyne stated that Australian companies could finalize hundreds of millions of dollars in defense sales to the UAE at IDEX this week.
"We have very significant capabilities, particularly around coastal protection and surveillance, which I think we should be sharing with our Middle Eastern partners," Pyne said, noting, "I think potential here for defense procurement partnerships as well as security partnerships is very significant."
Informed sources said buoyed by rising oil prices, the UAE and some other Persian Gulf nations may spend even more on selling military hardware the weeks and months ahead.
Charles Forrester, a senior defense industry analyst at IHS Jane’s, said as some Persian Gulf “countries are beginning to deploy their own operations in ... Iraq and Yemen,” their need for new equipment “is increasing.”
Media reports indicate that Kuwait has also announced a plan to purchase naval equipment and ships as the region's largest expo is underway in Abu Dhabi.
“In Yemen, ... it’s a conventional war, of course, but it is one where you have to deal with armored vehicles and airpower as well,” Forrester said.
The UK-based IHS Jane’s had already reported that Saudi Arabia and several other Western-backed Arab countries in the Middle East were purchasing weapons suited for a more offensive military program in distant locations.
IHS Jane’s analyst, Reed Foster, said in the report that the Western-backed Middle Eastern states are purchasing military equipment that will allow them to build “the kind of capabilities required to conduct operations beyond their borders.”
Saudi Arabia had the fourth-biggest military budget in 2016, behind the United States, China, and India.
Saudi Arabia has deployed military forces and equipment to neighboring Bahrain to help the despotic Manama regime's crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
Both the UAE and Kuwait are part of the Saudi Arabia-led military campaign against Yemen.
The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, has said that the Saudi campaign has claimed the lives of 10,000 Yemenis and left 40,000 others wounded.
McGoldrick told reporters in Sana’a last month that the figure was based on casualty counts given by health facilities and that the actual number might be higher.
Meanwhile, local sources say the Saudi war, which was launched in March 2015 in an attempt to bring back the country's former government to power, has so far claimed the lives of at least 11,400 Yemenis.
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