U.S. export controls, the political stance of the U.S. government and the emergence of new defense companies are seen affecting the sale of American weapons to Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
According to a U.S. defense industry source, non-U.S. companies seem to have dominated defense deals in the region. Another source said Saudi Arabia is switching to military products from European companies and other sources.
Retired Saudi Air Force Maj. Gen. Abdullah Ghanem Al Kahtani, who now works as a defense analyst, clarified that all U.S. companies are still welcome to submit proposals to the Saudi armed forces. However, he pointed to the U.S. government’s political position and how it impedes defense deals with American companies.
Retired Maj. Gen. Abdullah Syed Al Hashimi, previously assistant undersecretary at the UAE Ministry of Defense, echoing Al Kahtani’s statement, said the U.S. government’s political stance complicates weapon sales, resulting in buyers looking for other sources. He also cited costs and the diversification trend in defense acquisitions as other factors impacting vendor selection for procurement programs.
U.S. export controls also add difficulty to the transfer of defense technology to Arab nations, according to a U.S. defense industry source. In sharp contrast, South Korean companies have started establishing a presence in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. According to officials in the region, South Korea’s willingness to transfer technology has provided it with inroads in the Gulf defense market.