By Cinzia Bianco and Giorgio Cafiero
November 15, 2016
Within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Italy has one key partner – the United Arab Emirates (UAE); two economic partners – Kuwait and Qatar; and three third-party partners – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Oman. As Italy grapples with an ongoing financial crisis, officials in Rome view the GCC’s interest in diversifying its web of security partnerships as an opportunity to take advantage of a lucrative defense market and to boost national exports.
Military bonds between Italy and the GCC are taking shape within the context of a Gulf-Mediterranean security nexus. Southern European and Arab Gulf states are forging stronger ties to fortress themselves against the security threats posed not only by militant Islamist extremists but also by the flood of refugees caused by the raging conflicts in the Levant and Maghreb. Although Italy is not mainland Europe’s top arms dealer (France holds that title), the escalating geopolitical instability across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will likely give rise to stronger cooperation in the defense sector between Rome and the Gulf states. Matteo Renzi’s government has provided an unprecedented level of support for Italy’s military industry, which has scored significant achievements in three GCC countries this year.
*Cinzia Bianco is an analyst at Gulf State Analytics (GSA). Giorgio Cafiero is the CEO of GSA.