• Spending to rise to $180 billion by 2020, IHS Jane’s says
  • Saudi, Qatar, U.A.E. said to spend more in coming years

Defense spending in the Middle East and North Africa will start to grow again this year after dipping as oil prices slumped, IHS Jane’s analysts said in a report on Monday.

The region’s defense spending is expected to rise to $180 billion by 2020, according to the report. Military outlays peaked at $160 billion in 2014 and declined last year as the oil-rich states of the Gulf faced a fiscal crunch. Conflicts show few signs of ending, with government forces backed by Russia on the offensive in Syria’s more than five-year war, Saudi Arabia leading a coalition against Shiite rebels in Yemen, and Iraq preparing to launch a campaign to oust Islamic State militants from their stronghold of Mosul.

“As the U.S. pivots towards Asia and as sanctions lift on Iran, we are seeing a more pro-active stance from states in the Middle East, and defense budgets are likely to rise in the five-year outlook,” Craig Caffrey, principal analyst at IHS Jane’s Defence Budgets, said in the report.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, is expected to increase defense spending to $52 billion by 2019 from $48 billion last year, the report said. The kingdom posted a budget deficit of nearly $100 billion in 2015 but its defense budget is “still one of the biggest in the world,” Caffrey said. “Saudi Arabia is expected to be spending more on defense than France and Russia by the end of the decade.”

The United Arab Emirates is expected to lift defense spending to more than $20 billion by 2020, and Qatar will likely raise its outlays to $5.5 billion by the same year, the report said. Defense budgets are expected to decline over the next five years in Iraq, Oman and Bahrain, it said.

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