BEIRUT: Unprecedented growth in the regional arms trade could lead to further instability, experts warned Thursday, saying this could have knock-on effects in countries including Lebanon.
“The more any country in the region spends on military procurement, the more there are militarized conflicts ... [and the greater] the impact on any country in the region,” Luna Abuswaireh, director-general of the Centre for Arab Unity Studies, told The Daily Star at the launch of the Arabic version of the “Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Yearbook.”
The yearbook, a respected guide to global arms sales and international security whose Arabic translation is published by Abuswaireh’s center, says “global security has deteriorated markedly in the past decade. The number, complexity and lethality of armed conflicts have increased.”
Translating the book into Arabic was of particular importance, Abuswaireh said, because of the “lack of data and information in Arabic and for the region on armaments, military spending issues and their implications on development in the region.”
SIPRI Director Dan Smith drew particular attention to the increased activity of Saudi Arabia in the global arms trade.
The Gulf state became the third-largest spender in 2017, ahead of Russia, following a 9.2 percent increase in military expenditure to $69.4 billion.
His organization’s report also points out that arms flow to the Middle East grew by 103 percent between 2008-2012 and 2013-2017.
Smith argued that Saudi Arabia’s huge spending had not translated to military effectiveness, noting that Iran had achieved a number of military successes in Syria alongside Russia.
Lebanon, the analyst said, was “like everywhere else in the region affected by the strategic developments in the Gulf.”
He also emphasized how the country is particularly affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria.
“The important but unsolved question that we haven’t yet found a way to answer is about the scale of the financing of the nonstate groups,” he said.
According to Smith, Israel’s fairly stable spending suggested that, with the exceptions of Syria and Iran, Lebanon’s southern neighbor does not feel particularly threatened.
“Arab states in general are not seeing Israel as a threat, and actually that’s reciprocated. ... [Israel is] essentially concerned about what it sees as internal security, what the rest of the world would understand as being its relationship to the occupied territories,” he said.
Lebanon will always feel the impact of regional instability, Abuswaireh said.
“The implications are always felt in Lebanon, economically, politically [and] socially.
“Yes, maybe Lebanon is not a spender on arms ... but [it feels] the heat because [it is] very close to where conflicts are.”