Iran tests new precision-guided ballistic missile [File].
(photo credit: IRANIAN MEDIA)
Israel and Iran have the fastest growing defense budgets in the Middle East while other Gulf Arab states cut spending due to falling oil prices, according to a report published Thursday.
Worldwide, though, defense spending increased because of security threats, with many Western governments deciding not to make cuts, London- based global intelligence firm IHS said.
Iran came in second in the world in defense budget growth with a 29 percent increase in 2015. Israel’s growth was around 10%, putting it in 7th and Iraq was 9th with just under 9%.
Ukraine was first with a 90% jump in spending, Russia 4th at 21%, and China 8th with 9%.
The IHS Jane’s Defense Budgets Annual Report examines and forecasts defense expenditure for 104 countries.
“Of the 10 fastest growing defense budgets in 2015, just three were in the Middle East, down from six last year,” said Fenella McGerty, principal analyst at IHS.
Military spending dropped in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, while Oman spent only slightly more, IHS said in the report.
Despite this year’s fall, spending on arms remains substantially higher than four years ago when it was ramped up in the wake of uprisings across the Arab world, which alarmed the region’s conservative rulers.
Gulf Arab states have also built up missile defenses against regional rival Iran.
This year’s cuts come as part of a broad effort to rein in state spending as lower oil prices strain finances in the major oil-exporting countries. Oil prices trade now around $37 a barrel, down from a peak of $115 last year.
Still, Saudi Arabia spent $46.3 billion on defense in 2015, the most in the Middle East and North Africa region and 8th highest in the world, according to the report.
In contrast, Israel’s overall defense spending was $15.6b, the 16th largest and one spot behind Turkey, but just ahead of United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, Spain, and Algeria.
This marks an increase from 2014 when it was ranked 18th with around a $14.2b. budget.
Reuters contributed to this report.