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Shopping in Europe

For decades, the Gulf looked mostly to Washington for its weapons, but European arms deals also appear on the rise.

In Berlin, German government spokesman Georg Streiter said there has been an “expression of interest” by Qatar in about 200 Leopard II tanks. A similar Leopard tank deal with Saudi Arabia was reported last year by German media.

In May, Saudi Arabia signed a $3 billion deal with Britain for air force training planes apparently linked to a 2007 agreement to buy 72 Eurofighter Typhoon fighters.

The weapons requests also reinforce thetoughening stance against Iran by main rival Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Arab states. The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council repeatedly has warned Tehran about “meddling” in Gulf affairs. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have taken a leading role in supporting Syrian rebels trying to topple Bashar Assad’s regime, which is Iran’s main Mideast ally.

Last week, a commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards warned that “hated Arab” rivals could face repercussions for their efforts to bring down Mr. Assad.

Although the Gulf Arab states have no direct ties to Israel, any military strike on Iran by the Jewish state could require some degree of coordination, with Washington likely to play an intermediary role. Gulf military forces also could be drawn quickly into a wider conflict or a confrontation over the Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for one-fifth of the world’s oil.

“Amid the standoff between Iran, Israel and the West, there’s another side that is often overlooked,” said Sami al-Faraj, director of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies. “It is the Gulf states. They are the ones caught in the middle.”