Britain sells £4 billion-worth of weaponry to Middle East in two years

Britain sells £4 billion-worth of weaponry to Middle East in two years
Government figures show that two thirds of UK arms exports go to the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia buying the lion's share.
2 min read
04 July, 2017
CAAT has organised numerous protests against arms sales to brutal dictatorships across the world [Getty]

The UK government has licensed around £4.1 billion ($5.3bn) of weapons to the Middle East since the election in May 2015.

Government figures showed that two-thirds of total sales were made to the region, in data compiled by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

"These arms sales do not make any of us any safer," said Andrew Smith, a spokesperson for CAAT.

"They fuel war and conflict by providing political and military support for some of the most brutal and oppressive regimes in the world."

While Israel, Qatar, Turkey and the UAE all bought millions of pounds-worth of British-made weapons, their purchases were eclipsed by Saudi Arabia's huge spending spree.

Riyadh was the number-one buyer for the time specified, having bought billions of pounds-worth of weapons, likely for use in its ongoing war in Yemen.

UK arms sales 2015-16
  • Saudi Arabia: £3.3 billion

  • United Arab Emirates: £265 million

  • Turkey: £175 million

  • Qatar: £139 million

  • Israel: £105 million

  • Oman: £71 million

  • Egypt: £65 million

  • Jordan: £19 million

  • Bahrain: £19 million

  • Kuwait: £13 million

  • Lebanon: £2.8 million

  • Yemen: £266,000

More than 10,000 people have died in the conflict, with hundreds of thousands more having fled their homes.

Campaigners and the government are awaiting the verdict of a Judicial Review into the legality of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

According to an email presented to the High Court from February 2016, the head of the government's Export Control Organisation (ECO), Edward Bell, advised officials against proceeding with the exports.

"To be honest - and I was very directly and honest with the Secretary of State - my gut tells me we should suspend [the deal]," the email read.

A key piece of evidence presented to the court quotes the ECO head saying that the Ministry of Defence was unable to identify a "valid military target" for each of the Saudi-led coalition's airstrikes.

Among some of this weaponry were British-made cluster bombs which Saudi Arabia admitted to using in December 2016. B
ritain is a member of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, banning their use.

The UK government has maintained that there was "no clear risk" of British weaponry being used in human rights violations.