IDEX-2007, touted as the world’s largest military defense exhibition, began yesterday in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The conference — which brings together “key decision-makers from across the world, defense ministers, chiefs of staff and senior officers from army, navy and air force to network” with defense contractors — is attracting a great deal of attention from Persian Gulf states.
The recently-released National Intelligence Estimate assessed that increasing violence and unrest in Iraq “have heightened fears of regional instability and unrest and contributed to a growing polarization between Iran and Syria on the one hand and other Middle East governments on the other.” And Iraq’s neighbors are equipping themselves for potential battle. The AP reports:
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. …
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. …
In particular, the Saudi military is looking for air defenses and helicopters and perhaps naval frigates. … The Emirates’ shopping list includes ship-to-ship missiles.
States in the Gulf region which have invested little in “rearming” in the “last 15 years,” are now eager to see what others are buying and how they might “defeat those capabilities.” As one analyst said, “The shopping lists are directly correlated to the threat perception.”
Defense contractors attending the summit — including Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing — are more than happy to oblige the Arab nations’ demands. The Gulf states’ “weapons buying binge” is expected to rake in sales that will “soar past” the $2 billion in contracts offered at IDEX in 2005. According to U.S. Ambassador to the UAE, Michele Sisson, U.S. companies are expected to “clinch” a significant portion of the profits.