Difficult and unstable military-political situation in the Middle East and North Africa, armed conflicts and internal political tensions in several countries of the region, continuing high activity of extremist and terrorist groups, periodically exacerbated inter-state, inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions, lack of regulation of the Arab-Israeli conflict stimulate the efforts of the leadership Arab States to strengthen national military capabilities, increase the combat power of forces, improving their technical equipment. In this regard, it is noted that “a significant part of this force is directed not at external enemies, but at containing internal conflicts”.
The armies of Libya and Yemen, as a result of internal conflicts, ceased to exist as a single organism, while the army of Syria sharply weakened. The lack of real prospects for resolving crises in these countries impedes the recovery, and even less the development of their Armed Forces. The defeat of the Iraqi army by “Islamic State” militants (ISIS, prohibited in the Russian Federation) in 2014 led to the fact that the republic had to re-create the armed forces.
At present, the leading Arab states in matters of military construction are trying to keep up with current trends in military affairs and the level of technical equipment of the armed forces of the most developed countries of the world. On this basis, taking into account local specifics, the military doctrines of Arab countries are updated, plans for modernizing and re-equipping the Armed Forces are developed (or are being developed), changes are made to the training programs for military personnel, operational and combat training of staffs and troops. At the same time, many Arab countries have the ability to finance programs of national military construction. Nevertheless, a very strong qualitative backlog of the Arab armies from the level reached by the armed forces of developed countries remains.
Here we also note that in the Arab world, the ambitions of government and military leaders, their desire to demonstrate to the neighbors and rivals the capabilities of their state are of no small importance in resolving military issues, technical equipment of the armed forces.
To date, the total number of armed forces of the Arab countries is approximately 2.4 million people. The largest armies are Egypt (438.5 thousand people), Sudan (244.3 thousand people) and Morocco (195.8 thousand people).
The military expenditures of most Arab states remain at a high level. As of 2017, the amount of the military budgets of the countries of the region amounted to $ 122.705 billion. Saudi Arabia has firmly held the first place here for many years — $ 69.4 billion (4.0% of world military spending, third place in the world after the United States and China). Iraq is in second place — $ 13.1 billion. Significant amounts for military needs are spent by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Algeria, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman.
A characteristic feature of the military policy of such states as Egypt, KSA, other Arabian monarchies, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia is their close attachment to the military-political course of the United States and the West. In many ways, this also applies to Iraq. It is the United States and the countries of Western Europe that remain the main suppliers of weapons and military equipment for the armies of these countries, assist in the training of their personnel, help to create objects of military infrastructure and military industry. A significant place in raising the level of training for the personnel of the armed forces of these countries is given to their regular participation in joint operational and combat training activities with the armies of Western states.
At the same time, Washington, providing military assistance to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, does not allow their military potential to come close to Israel’s capabilities. For their part, Cairo and Riyadh, while maintaining a predominant focus on the United States, are pursuing an independent foreign policy course on a variety of issues. In addition, Egypt is developing military-technical cooperation with Russia. Moreover, both countries are building up their military potential in many ways with the aim of achieving leading positions in the Arab world and the region.
A distinctive feature of the Arab states is their considerable human resources. However, the continuing low educational level of the population, a large number of illiterate and poorly educated people continue to limit the possibilities of recruiting armies with personnel capable of mastering and skillfully applying modern sophisticated military equipment. To date, the quality of training of personnel of the Arab armies as a whole is not high enough, they lack military professionalism. This applies particularly to conscripts. Thus, “the problem of educated personnel remains chronic for the armed forces of the Arab states”. The training of reservists remains weak. The Armed Forces of Jordan can be distinguished for the better by the quality of training of all categories of personnel.
“The Arab armies have a lot of problems with the fighting spirit of their soldiers and officers (they often showed cowardice on the battlefield)”.
The study of the military capabilities of Arab countries shows that one should be very careful about their quantitative indicators (the number of armed forces, the number of military units, the number of military equipment, etc.). An analysis of the real state of affairs suggests that the quantitative indicators hide the weakness of the country’s economic and scientific-technical capabilities, its full or significant dependence on foreign assistance in matters of military construction and technical equipment of the Armed Forces, the low level of technical readiness of weapons, the presence in service of a large number of morally and physically obsolete types of weapons, limited mobilization capabilities, low level of training of personnel, insufficiently developed military infrastructure etc.
As a result, it can be stated that the military potential of almost all Arab states today is at a level that does not allow them to independently provide reliable protection against external aggression, and in terms of quality parameters, the real capabilities of their Armed Forces are significantly inferior to economically developed countries, including Israel.
The main trends in the development of the armed forces of the Arab countries for the near term are: optimization of the organizational and staff structure of the troops, its adaptation to the solution of new tasks, including those related to countering terrorism; improving the quality of operational and combat training of staffs and troops; improving the quality of training of various categories of military personnel. In this case, as a rule, the number of Armed Forces will not increase significantly, and in some cases it may even be reduced.
The core of military construction will remain the technical equipment of the Armed Forces. Here, the focus will be on modernizing the existing means of warfare, equipping the troops with modern and effective types of weapons and military equipment: various types of precision weapons, aviation, missile, armored and artillery weapons, means of anti-tank and anti-aircraft defense and ADS, EW, intelligence and communication equipment, anti-ship and anti-mine weapons, weapons for fighting in the city and conducting military operations in low-intensity conflict situations, rear equipment; the introduction of modern command and control systems; equipping armies with the latest training equipment and training systems.
An increasing place in the plans for building up military potential is given to the development of national military-industrial complexes and the conduct of R & D to develop their own types of weapons. This is largely due to the desire of Arab countries to reduce their dependence on foreign suppliers. This is what contributes in a number of cases to the strengthening of the tendency to purchase not finished goods, but to localize production, to acquire technologies. Egypt has the most developed military-industrial complex. Great efforts to establish military production are undertaken by KSA, the UAE, Jordan and Algeria.
In general, the armed forces of most Arab states are maintained in combat readiness, however, as already mentioned, their combat capabilities are limited. At the same time, “the current revolution in military art, the emergence of new types of weapons, a change in the strategy and tactics of warfare can deal a heavy blow to the Arab armed forces. They may not be ready to wage war in modern conditions. The reason for this is not only and not so much the condition of the troops themselves, but the system of government, education, etc. that has developed in the Arab states, which do not allow the initiative and educated servicemen to succeed”.
Institute of the Middle East.
November 19, 2018. On changes in the military-political situation in the Middle East and North Africa (November 12 — 18, 2018). Annex.