Gulf Emirates Spending Billions on Defense When Their Environment Suffers

persian gulf coral reefsPersian Gulf environments like Bu Tinah Shoals would be devastated in a regional military conflict.

Consider the following scenario: small United Arab Emirate states like Bahrain and Abu Dhabi are planning to spend billions of dollars on sophisticated weaponry; when one of their real dangers is the deteriorating state of the Persian Gulf and the environment of their own countries due to increasing pollution and commercial building projects. A recent article the Media Line points out that these countries, which are Sunni Muslim and have small populations (and relatively small armed forces), are becoming increasingly worried over the military buildup and aggressiveness of their large Shiite neighbor, Iran; which is only a short distance away from them. Any new armed conflicts in the region would devastate the environment. 

In light of this apprehension, these smaller countries are interested in building up a qualitative military deterrence, to make up for their lack of manpower. The interest in spending big bucks on sophisticated aircraft, anti-aircraft and missile systems, some of which cost millions of dollars for one unit, is being done at a time when they should also be worrying about the increasing damage to their natural environment; especially to marine and coastal environments. Think about all the real estate projects being undertaken.

According to the Media Line, Gulf States will increase their defense expenditure by $15 billion over the next five years; the global market research firm, Forecast International predicts that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Sunni countries on the southern side of the Gulf will increase their annual defense spending from $68 billion to $83 billion by 2015.

“The driving force behind the spending is regional anxiety over Iran,” said Mark Thomas, Deputy Director of the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies in Qatar. “They are trying to close the strategic gap, countering Iran’s quantitative superiority by superior weapons systems.”

The desire for advanced weaponry has even caused countries like Saudi Arabia to consider the nuclear weapons option a few years ago.

But putting this kind of extremity aside, even the expenditure of money for advanced conventional weaponry seems a bit absurd for countries with very small populations, and who are trying to make up for this by wanting to maintain a qualitative edge. One regional country, Qatar, is trying another tactic, by entering into various cooperation agreements with the Islamic Republic; including ones dealing with the environment.

Signing environmental agreements or something else?

Better to cooperate with a potential enemy other than preparing for war? Perhaps  a small country like Qatar is in about as much a position to become involved in an armed conflict with Iran as Kuwait was  with Iraq in June, 1990, prior to Saddam Hussein’s invasion.

But due to the fact that the Agreement of Cooperation between Iran and Qatar was signed by military representatives for the two nations, and not just by Iran’s Environmental Minister Mohamed Javad Mohamedi Zadeh, and Qatar’s Minister for the Environment, Abdullah bin Mubarak bin Aboud al-Midhadhi, could mean something deeper than just working together on issues like management of coastal areas and control of desertification.

The bottom line in what’s happening in this region, insofar as being prepared against any “adventurism” on the part of Iran, is that a lot of money that could be made available for undertaking projects to protect the fragile environment of the Persian Gulf region, will now be earmarked for something else altogether.

Perhaps a successful cooperation between Iran and Qatar in environmental projects could lead to a lessening of tensions and could serve as a good example to countries in the UAE and other countries which are looking with apprehension towards their neighbor across the Gulf, especially the Straits of Hormuz.

It is  through  these straits that a good portion of the world’s oil shipments have to pass through. After all, an oil spill there, caused by a military confrontation, would spell disaster for the environment of the entire Gulf region; especially wildlife sanctuaries like Abu Dhabi’s Bu Tinah Island.

Read more on Persian Gulf environmental issues:
Iran and Qatar Sign Memo of Understanding on the Environment
Persian Gulf “Mermaids” Face Man Made Environmental Threats
Durrat al Bahrain Artificial Islands: “A Place Like no Other”

Photos via New Seven wonders; Gulf Times

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