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

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

Chapter 5
Saudi Military Forces

The quantitative trends in Gulf military forces are summarized in Table 5.1 and Figures 5.1 through 5.4. These figures show that Saudi armed forces dominate the strength of Southern Gulf and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forces. This makes Saudi military capabilities critical to the security of some 60 percent of the world's oil reserves and over 35 percent of its gas. It also makes the balance of power in the Gulf at large a balance of the forces that Saudi Arabia and the GCC states can deploy, the force of Iran, and the power projection forces available from the United States and Britain.

Saudi military forces are modern, high-technology forces by regional standards, but manpower is a problem. Saudi military manpower is compared to that of other Gulf states in Figures 5.2 through 5.4. Saudi regular forces now total some 124,500 men, plus some 95,000–100,000 actives in the National Guard and another estimated 130,000 men in the various paramilitary forces (excluding the different police forces), some 30,000 in the Border Guard, 20,000 in the Drug Enforcement Agency, 25,000 in the Civil Defense Administration, 30,000 in the Special Emergency Forces, 5,000 in the Mujahideen, 10,000 in the Petroleum Installation Security Force, and some 10,000 in the Special Security Forces. These totals do not include the internal intelligence service, the General Security Service, and the different police forces in the Ministry of Interior. Moreover, the Royal Guard and the General Intelligence Presidency are also not included in the above tally

As has been discussed in Chapter 1, Saudi forces must deal with two significant potential threats: Iran and Yemen, and Iran is acquiring long-range missiles and may become a nuclear power. Saudi Arabia must also deploy forces to cover its borders with Iraq, Jordan, and Syria and to defend both its Gulf and Red Sea Coasts. This means Saudi Arabia's regular military services must defend a territory roughly the size of the United States east of the Mississippi. The mix of potential threats Saudi Arabia faces also means that Saudi Arabia cannot concentrate its forces to meet a single threat and must normally disperse its forces over much of the Kingdom.

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