Egypt’s arms imports have shot up since the 2011 revolution, with sales particularly high in 2015, according to data released this week.
Despite growing concern over the human rights situation in Egypt, the majority of those weapons have been supplied by Western democracies including the United States, France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada and Italy. Russia is also a significant supplier.
Global arms transfers to Egypt rose by 37 percent between 2006-10 and 2011-15, according to data compiled by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an international think tank based in Sweden.
SIPRI — which tracks transactions based on production costs rather than purchase prices — calculates that the value of arms transfers to Egypt in 2015 reached US$1.475 billion in 2015, compared to US$686 million in 2010 or US$368 million in 2014.
Much of the increase comes due to massive arms deliveries from France and the United States in 2015. France delivered a three Rafale fighter jets and a FREMM frigate while the United States released eight F-16 aircrafts after repeatedly postponing delivery following the overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Egypt was not alone in recording a significant jump in arms purchases over the last five years. While global arms sales were up by 14 percent compared to 2006-10, imports to the Middle East rose by 61 percent, SIPRI found.
The bulk of arms transfers to the region went to Saudi Arabia (27 percent), the UAE (18 percent) and Turkey (14 percent). The United States, which is the world’s largest weapons exporter, was the region’s biggest supplier as well, accounting for 53 percent of total weapons sales to the region. The United Kingdom followed with 9.6 percent and Russia with 9.2 percent.
According to SIPRI, the sharp increase in arms sales has facilitated military intervention in Yemen by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Egypt.
“A coalition of Arab states is putting mainly US- and European-sourced advanced arms into use in Yemen,” said Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme in a press statement. “Despite low oil prices, large deliveries of arms to the Middle East are scheduled to continue as part of contracts signed in the past five years.”