As has been touched upon earlier, Saudi Arabia's primary need for reform does not affect its security apparatus. It is rather the need for the kind of economic, social, and political reforms that will develop and diversify its economy and create jobs and economic opportunity for the country's rapidly growing population. Saudi Arabia's second priority is to create more effective internal security forces without creating a climate of repression and without creating new cells of terrorists or groups of extremists. The reform of the Saudi military is now a third priority, and the control of the cost of Saudi forces and especially Saudi arms imports has priority over reforms that enhance military effectiveness.
This does not mean, however, that Saudi military forces do not need continuing modernization and reform. Chapters 4 and 5 have already discussed many areas where change is needed or is already under way. Some are highly technical and specific, but there are broad themes as well.
The previous chapters have shown that Saudi Arabia is by far the strongest and most modern military power in the Gulf and the only force large enough to provide the support, training, C4I/BM, and other specialized capabilities necessary to sustain modern land-air combat and provide the infrastructure for effective regional cooperation. Its military forces are now strong enough to deal with many low-intensity contingencies and limit the amount of U.S. reinforcements needed in low-intensity contingencies.
Yet, Saudi Arabia does remain vulnerable to threats from Iran. Iran may be moving toward moderation, but Saudi Arabia cannot ignore its conventional military capabilities or efforts to proliferate. Saudi Arabia is within five to seven minutes flying time from Iran, from the earliest point of detection by an AWACS to overflying key Saudi targets on the Gulf coast. Missile attacks would offer even less warning and present more problems for defense.