The rush to re-arm (Middle East)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Deep fears about the war in Iraq and growing tension between the United States and Iran are driving the wealthy oil states of the Persian Gulf to go on shopping sprees for helicopters, ships and tanks, officials say.


Some 900 weapons makers and security firms from around the world, including the United States and Russia, will compete for those military buys at the IDEX military show that opens Sunday in Abu Dhabi. At stake are contracts predicted to soar past the $2 billion signed at the last such show two years ago."The shopping lists are directly correlated to the threat perception," said military analyst Mustafa Alani of the Dubai-based Gulf Research Centre. "For the past 15 years, these countries didn't invest a lot in rearming."But now they're rushing to upgrade.The biggest fear in the region is that Iraq will collapse into civil war and its violence will spill into nearby Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, Alani said.Those countries want to protect critical sites such as oil installations, ports -- and U.S. military bases that house tens of thousands of American troops. Of those five countries, only Saudi Arabia has no American bases.Helicopters and electronic warning sensors are expected to be hot sellers. For example, seaborne early warning radar can can detect rogue vessels approaching ports or oil terminals, said Robin Hughes, a Mideast military analyst at the London-based agency Jane's, a sponsor of the show.If Iran were threatened or attacked by the United States or Israel, its ballistic missiles could hit land targets or ships, and its mines could block the narrow shipping lanes that carry oil from the Gulf.That scenario is pushing Gulf defence ministers to consider missile defence systems like the Patriot, sold by U.S. manufacturer Raytheon Co. They also are eyeing warships, including mine sweepers, and early-warning radar, Hughes said.In particular, the Saudi military is looking for air defences and helicopters and perhaps naval frigates, Hughes said. Eurocopter, a French and German consortium, is working to sell its Tiger helicopter gunships to the Saudi military, he said.The Emirates' shopping list includes ship-to-ship missiles, Hughes said.Iran isn't believed to be sending an official delegation to the show. But military officials from Iran, who just took delivery of Russian-made TOR-1 air defence systems, are certain to be roaming the show and studying the weapons."They want to see what's on the market and what others are buying, and how you defeat those capabilities," Hughes said.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, like Northrop Grumman Corp.'s jet-powered Global Hawk, also will be on display. U.S. manufacturer AAI Corp. will demonstrate robot boats as a defence for offshore oil platforms and ports.Other exhibitors include some of the world's largest arms makers: Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., BAE Systems PLC, the Thales Group and Russia's state-run makers of tanks, trucks and howitzers.Krane writes for the Associated Press.

Von: 17.02.2007

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