Defence corruption in Arab states 'threatens regional stability'

Defence corruption in Arab states 'threatens regional stability'
Flows of weapons from Western nations are increasing corruption in Arab states and contributing to regional instability, a new report from Transparency International argues.
3 min read
29 October, 2015
Arab states have some of the fastest growing defence budgets in the world [AFP]

Arab states are becoming increasingly corrupt due to the flow of arms and weapons from Western nations, according to a new report by Transparency International.

This corruption is fuelling many of the region's conflicts, weakening military cohesion and boosting extremism, according to the report, which draws on two years of research.

"This is one of the most unstable and conflict riven regions in the world," said Katherine Dixon, head of Transparency International's defence and security programme.

"Over a quarter of the world's most secretive defence spending is in the Middle East. Corruption puts international security at risk, as money and weapons can be diverted to fuel conflict," she added.

Western countries, particularly the US, UK, Germany and Russia have increased corruption by selling weapons to the region with little consideration of the consequences -including where their weapons will end up.

Of the 17 Arab states covered by the report, Tunisia has the lowest ranking, but is still listed as having a high risk of corruption.

The remaining 16 countries have a very high or critical risk of defence corruption.

     Over a quarter of the world's most secretive defence spending is in the Middle East.
- Katherine Dixon, Transparency International

According to the report many of these 17 countries are increasing defence budgets, while failing to meet their countries' strategic needs, and many of the weapons they are buying are being trafficked across porous borders, exacerbating conflict.

Evidence suggests that weapons from a wide range of countries have reached groups such as the Islamic State group and the Houthis in Yemen.

It also said that they suffered from lack of scrutiny, excessive secrecy and widespread nepotism, with networks based on family and business ties in the procurement of defence contracts.

'Armed and very dangerous' - read Bill Law's analysis of the Transparency International report here

The international NGO classified Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE as very high risk and Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Oman and Bahrain as critical risks because "there is virtually no accountability or transparency of defence and security establishments".

Arab states have some of the fastest-growing defence budgets in the world, with up to a third of all government spending going on defence.

According to the report, Saudi defence spending often exceeds budgeted figures. "The government has never reported the actual cash it has spent on imports of defence items or on the value of the oil it has bartered as payment in certain deals," it said.

In Iraq, corruption has "fundamentally undermined leadership" across the armed forces, with a divisional commander's job reportedly being sold for $2m.

Additionally, in Yemen and Oman senior positions in the intelligence services are filled on the basis of political patronage and family ties.

"Corruption contributes to instability and creates insecurity. If world leaders are serious about addressing the chaos in the region, they must argue for greater transparency and accountability," said Dixon.