(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s military spending grew 17 percent in 2014 to $80.8 billion, data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) showed on Monday, the biggest annual hike by any of the world’s top 15 military spenders.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia launched air strikes last month on Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen, leading a regional coalition against Shi’ite fighters it says are backed by rival Gulf power Iran.

“While total world military spending is mostly unchanged, some regions, such as the Middle East and much of Africa, are continuing to see rapid build-ups that are placing an increasingly high burden on many economies,” said Sam Perlo-Freeman, Head of SIPRI’s Military Expenditure project. […]