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AIRSHOW-Middle East tensions loom over Dubai aerospace pageant

From Reuters - November 10, 2017

DUBAI (Reuters) - Rising Middle East tensions and a corruption crackdown in Saudi Arabia will cast a shadow over next weeks Dubai Airshow, as military and aerospace leaders try to gauge whether they might prolong a weapons-buying spree in the region.

Fraying business confidence since the summer, when a sudden rift emerged between Arab powers, means the recent rapid growth of major Gulf airlines will also be under scrutiny when the Middle Easts largest industry showcase opens on Sunday.

The biennial gathering has produced a frenzy of deals in the past, especially four years ago when Dubais Emirates and Qatar Airways opened the show with a display of unity as they unveiled a headline-grabbing order for passenger jets.

But highlighting the current rift between Qatar and Arab nations including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar Airways outspoken chief executive will not be at the show, which has also been overshadowed by political upheaval in Saudi Arabia.

Distrust between Arab Gulf states, on top of escalating tensions between regional arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, is likely to keep defense spending high on the agenda at the Nov 12-16 event, to be attended by dozens of military delegates.

Saudi Arabia and allies are exploring increases in missile defenses following ballistic missile tests in Iran, which have been heavily criticized by Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Iran views its ballistic missile program as an essential precautionary defense.

The hot area for the Middle East has been air defense, said Sash Tusa, aerospace analyst at UK-based Agency Partners.

While the issue of Irans missile tests is new, demand from the Emirates and Saudi Arabia already reflects the fact that they have been at war, in some cases on two fronts, for over two years.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are facing off in proxy wars in Yemen and Syria. Saudi Arabia, which recently committed to tens of billions of dollars of U.S. equipment, says it has intercepted a missile fired from Yemen over Saudi capital Riyadh.

SAUDI CRACKDOWN

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