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Arms Transfers to the Middle East

Publisher: SIPRI
July, 2009
United Nation member states are currently discussing the feasibility of an arms trade treaty (ATT) which would seek to create better controls on international arms transfers. This Background Paper is one of a series produced by SIPRI to inform these discussions.

The levels of military expenditure and arms imports in the Middle East have increased in recent years. The region receives a high level of major conventional arms transfers relative to its economic size. Many states in the region are modernizing their military equipment holdings. This has been enabled by strong economic growth and high oil prices and has been driven by regional tensions and conflicts. The United States accounts for the majority of arms deliveries; Israel is the only significant exporter in the region.

Arms imported by both states and non-state groups have been used in recent conflicts in the region, including the conflicts between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon and between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In all these conflicts all sides have been accused of violations of international humanitarian law. Another area of concern is the diversion of small arms and light weapons to non-state armed groups both within and outside the region, which help to fuel conflicts in Iraq, Somalia and Turkey among other countries. Transparency in international arms transfers in the Middle East is limited.


I. Introduction

II. Arms transfers to and from states in the Middle East

III. Issues regarding arms transfers to and from the Middle East

IV. Conclusions


Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman is an Associate Senior Researcher at SIPRI.