National Security in Saudi Arabia: Threats, Responses, and Challenges

By Anthony H. Cordesman; Nawaf Obaid | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
The New Balance of Threats
in the Gulf Region
The fall of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath regime has removed a critical set of military threats from the Gulf. At the same time, the end of Saddam's regime has scarcely transformed the Middle East or brought security and stability to the Gulf. No one knows how stable Iraq will be in the future, what its government will be like, what its strategic goals will be, or how it will eventually rebuild its military forces and rearm. Furthermore, there are other types of threats that affect the region and Saudi Arabia's planning for defense and counterterrorism:
Local threats from conventional military forces and proliferation;
Regional threats from terrorism and Islamic extremism;
Self-inflicted threats created by poor military planning and inadequate attention to economic reform on the part of the Southern Gulf states; and
Threats imposed by policy failures on the part of the United States.

The end of the Iran-Iraq War, the impact of the Gulf War, the end of the Yemeni civil war, and the US.-led invasion of Iraq all combined to drastically slow the conventional arms race that drove military developments in the Gulf from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. Saudi Arabia has never faced a serious threat from the other Southern Gulf states and fellow members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It has resolved all of its significant border disputes, and its mild political tensions with Qatar present no risk of war. It does not face a threat from the Red Sea states or from Syria and Jordan. Israel only poses a threat if it feels Saudi Arabia is likely to intervene massively in some future Arab-Israeli conflict or is acquiring weapons of mass destruction that could threaten Israel. For all of its rhetoric, Israel does not see Saudi Arabia as a significant threat or plan to fight it. Thus, in Saudi perceptions, the primary potential threats to it in the region are Yemen, and Iran—and possibly a resurgent Iraq.

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