Massive spending

 

Tim Ripley, Middle East analyst with Jane's Defence Weekly, said: "The Gulf states have a shopping list of arms worth more than $60bn if all the deals under discussion go through." 

 

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Saudi Arabia's purchase of 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets from BAe Systems is the largest deal to be made.

 

The deal is yet to be finalised but appears to be back on after Britain's serious fraud office dropped an investigation into the company's accounting.

 

Meanwhile, the UAE has set aside $2bn for a rapid reaction brigade and has earmarked a further $6bn for missile defence batteries, airborne early-warning systems and aircraft.

 

Both countries are members of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) established in 1984.

 

Other members of the GCC, including Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, are also expected to invest heavily in arms.

 

Iranian influence

 

Gulf leaders have watched with growing alarm as Iranian influence has spread throughout the Middle East.

 

Saudi Arabia's 
military power

Army, air force and navy manpower: 200,000

Tanks: 1055

Combat aircraft: 300

2005 defence spending: $25.4bn

Marc Lee, the organiser of a conference on defence in the region, said: "People are concerned that if there is a complete breakdown in Iraq, it may wash over to them.

 

"They are acutely conscious of the instability threats on the other side of the Gulf and the threat from Iran."

 

Last week, the Pentagon alleged that tank-piercing roadside bombs were being provided to Iraqi Shia fighters by the Iranian government.

 

Iran is also suspected of using its influence in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon, most notably towards the Hezbollah (Party of God) political party and resistance movement.

 

Warnings

 

Iran has warned that any attempt to halt its nuclear programme would result in attacks on US interests around the world.

 

Iran's military power

Army, air force and navy manpower: 545,000

Tanks: 1600

Combat aircraft: 300

2005 defence spending: $6.2bn

American plans for a possible attack on Iran's nuclear sites are reported to be well advanced, despite public denials.

 

Against this backdrop, many Sunni Arab states are boosting their own defences.

 

"There are some people who are wary about Iran, but the Americans are running a very successful public-relations campaign against Tehran," said a senior Saudi diplomatic source.

 

"A lot of Saudis fear that the US will come and make mischief then go away, but we have to live here afterwards."

 

At the last Idex exhibition, in 2005, $2bn of deals were done in five days but this year is expected to break all records.