One of the Saudi Air Force's UK-made Typhoon fighter jets (file photo)
The UK government has become the world’s second biggest arms dealer, with bulk of its weapons fueling deadly conflicts in the Middle East, according to official data.
According to latest data by the UK Trade and Investment, a government body that promotes British exports overseas, over the last 10 years the UK’s average arms sales exceeds that of Russia, China, or France and is only second to the United States.
According to a joint analysis by The Independent and Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), between 2010-2015, the British government has sold £10 billion in arms licenses to at least 39 of the 51 countries that have been ranked “not free” on the US-based Freedom House’s "Freedom in the world" report.
London has gone a step further and sold £7.9 billion worth of arms deals with 22 of the 30 countries that have been blacklisted on the UK government’s own human rights watch list.
Interestingly, about two-thirds of the exports over the five-year period were destined to the Middle East, where many countries have been ravaged by conflicts resulting from Western intervention.
“The UK is one of the world’s most successful defense exporters, averaging second place in the global rankings on a rolling ten-year basis, making it Europe’s leading defense exporter in the period,” the government organization boasted in its report.
The Foreign Office maintains a “human rights priority countries” list which includes countries that it deems as having “the worst, or greatest number of, human rights violations.”
A Watchkeeper drone made by the British arms producer Thales.
Saudi Arabia, Israel and Bahrain were some of the customers on the controversial government list.
According to the Independent, Saudis have received British bombs, missiles, and fighter jets, which it has been using in its military aggression against Yemen, which has killed about 10,000 people since it began in March 2015.
Last year alone, London approved the sale of more than £3 billion worth of weapons to the Riyadh regime.
The UK has provided the Israeli regime with drone components and targeting equipment.
Bahrain, another repressive Arab monarchy, has also received machine guns from the UK, along with special police training that it has actively been using to curb a years-long popular uprising against the ruling Al Khalifa family.
“These terrible figures expose the hypocrisy at the heart of UK foreign policy,” said Andrew Smith of CAAT.
“These regimes aren't just buying weapons, they're also buying political support and legitimacy. How likely is the UK to act against human rights violations in these countries when it is also profiting from them,” he asked.