At present, two-thirds of UK arms exports are going to the Middle East, a region that is already awash with weapons. More than £3bn worth of fighter jets and bombs have been licensed to Saudi Arabia in the past two years alone – playing a central role in the ongoing Saudi-led destruction of Yemen.

— Emily Thornberry 5 april 2017 the Guardian


In 2015 Amnesty International identified 25 countries, including the UK, that had produced arms which were diverted to Isis.

There is little doubt that UK-produced chemicals sold to Syria in the past have been used in the production of weapons. UK foreign secretary William Hague admitted in 2014, when he told parliament: “We judge it likely that these chemical exports by UK companies were subsequently used by Syria in their programmes to produce nerve agents, including Sarin.”


In 2016 UK the defence secretary, Michael Fallon, had to inform parliament that UK-made cluster bombs sold to Saudi Arabia throughout the 1980s were used by Saudi forces in civilian areas of Yemen as recently as 2016.

After being “brought in from the cold” in 2004, Colonel Gaddafi became a major target for UK arms sales. In 2007 a “defence cooperation agreement” was signed between Tony Blair’s government and Gaddafi, paving the way for “training in operational planning processes, staff training, and command and control” and the “acquisition of equipment and defence systems”.

eurosatory bullets

Arms companies were quick to cash in, with tens of millions of pounds worth of arms sales to follow. In 2010 alone the UK licensed the sale of more than £34m worth of arms to Libya, including small arms ammunition and crowd control ammunition. The sales continued right up until the uprising and civil war in 2011, when Gaddafi’s forces turned their weapons against Libyan people.

There is no such thing as arms control in a war zone. In 2013 a UN committee traced weapons that had been sold to Gaddafi to Egypt, Niger, Somalia, Gaza and Syria. There are even reports of UK arms being sold over social media.

in 2015 the Pentagon had to admit that it had lost track of $500m worth of weapons that it had sent to the Yemeni government. These weapons are still unaccounted for, with fears that they may have fallen into the hands of Houthi rebels or al-Qaida. 

eurosatory clock

Transnational terrorism is on the decline. As Todd Sandler argues in a 2014 article assessing how we study and track acts of terrorism, by the major indices that detail terrorism, the decline is substantial. [This] decline had set in well before 2001. If we take the number of fatalities caused by terrorists, 2001 marks a clear spike, because of 11 September. But a single spike, however terrible, is not indicative of a statistical trend. Looking back, it seems that the counter-terror policies of the 1980s and 1990s, aimed at pressuring governments to end state sponsorship of terrorist organisations, was actually working, and 9/11 was an exceptional and tragic outlier.

Fortunately, those fears are massively disproportionate to the actual threats. In 2013, for example, [a Gallup poll showed that] 11% of US citizens were very worried, and 29% somewhat worried, that someone in their family would be a victim of terrorism. But, that same year, the US government confirmed that only 16 American citizens (not including soldiers) had been killed as a result of terrorism worldwide. In fact, you are more likely as a US citizen to drown in your bathtub (a one in 800,000 chance) than die from terrorism (a one in 3.8 million chance). And even this may be an overestimate: in 2013 the Washington Post reported that, based on the previous five years, there was only a one in 20 million chance of dying in a terrorist attack: two times less likely than dying from a lightning strike. Toddlers, using weapons found in their own homes, have killed more Americans than terrorists in recent years