Saudi Arabia’s military has been experiencing modernization with the assistance from foreign powers to protect its oil reserves.
Although the employment of arms for the sake of the tribe and the clan remains a higher ideal than military service to the state, service in the Saudi military is considered an honorable and sought-after profession. Arab warfare stems from nomadic traditions and cultural experiences that glorify the raid, which is a key aspect of Bedouin tribal conflicts. Arab warfare emphasizes the standoff, attrition, deception, and surprise. Since the mid-1960s Saudi Arabia’s defense expenditures have increased dramatically. The country maintains two separate armies. The first is the national guard, or the white guard, which is a conglomeration of tribal levies organized along traditional lines with many active members. Its regular military forces include: an army, a navy, an air force and an air defense force. These forces, trained in part with U.S. assistance, are equipped with modern weapons and advanced aircraft.
Saudi Arabian History
During 570 to 632, the prophet Muhammad lived and died after spreading his new religion of Islam; by the time of his death, most Arabian Peninsula tribes ally with him; during 632 to 1744, there occurred the post-Islamic expansion and isolation, the region of Saudi Arabia was largely isolated from Arab civilization’s northern development; in 1743, Saudi Forces conquer Riyadh principality; during 1805 to 1806, Saudi forces capture Mecca and Medina.
In 1902, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud recaptures Riyadh, providing a base from which to expand Saudi control; in 1925, Saudi re-conquers Mecca and Medina; in 1932, Saudi Arabian Modern Kingdom consolidates within current borders; in 1938, oil is discovered; in 1979, militant fundamentalists seize the Grand Mosque in Mecca; in 1990, Iraq invades Kuwait, Saudis invite US and foreign military forces into the country to base their military operations against Iraq; in 1996, the bombing of the Khobar Towers in the Eastern province, attributed to Shi’a opposition group, kills 19 US military personnel and wounds hundreds more; in 2003, Al-Qaeda bombing campaign begins and continues to 2006.
Saudi Arabian Military Modernization
Today, military service in Saudi Arabia is voluntary and its army accounts for a large number of its total military force. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the military experienced rapid modernization. Until the 1970s, the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) procured aircraft and equipment from the British before the kingdom began to buy warplanes from the United States of America. Today, the RSAF is one of the best-equipped air forces in the Middle East, with several hundred high-performance warplanes. Similarly, ground forces have large numbers of advanced main battle tanks. Army officers are trained at King Abd al-Aziz Military Academy just north of Riyadh. Major air bases are at Riyadh, Dhahran, ?afar al Batin near the border with Iraq and Kuwait, Tabuk in the northwest near Jordan, and Khamis Mushay? in the southwest near Yemen. The Saudi Arabian Army, Air Force, and Navy, are directed by the defense minister, who is the second deputy prime minister.
Saudi Arabian National Guard
The Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG), which has roughly the same troop strength as the army, is essentially an internal security force that can support the regular forces for national defense. The SANG is a unique entity within the Saudi military forces partly because of its command structure, which is separate from the army. The SANG is organized along tribal lines and its power is different from the conventional military. The SANG which is controlled by the Saudi King, is dedicated to preserving the monarchy and its primary peacetime tasks is to guard the country’s oil fields. It is administered separately, and its commander reports to the crown prince. The armed forces employ expatriate personnel in support and training positions.
Saudi Arabian Military Police Organizations
Saudi Arabia has several internal security organizations that include: the Coast Guard, Frontier Force, and a centralized national police force. The organizations report to the Saudi Arabian Ministry of the Interior, which also oversees the nation’s counter-intelligence activities and other major intelligence operations. Although the Police interaction with civilians, especially with foreign persons, have often been described as oppressive, accounts of human rights violations and mistreatments are far less numerous and harsh than those mentioned about other Middle Eastern nations.
Mutawwi Moral Police
The Mutawwi is Saudi Arabia’s moral police force, which is attached to the Committee for the Promotion of pro-Islamic Virtues and the Prevention of anti-Islamic Vices. The Mutawwi moral police force ensures that the populace abides by Islamic law. This police force operates in plain clothes and they enforce the purist Wahhabi standards of human conduct; they arrest people behaving in contradiction to Islamic religious law, including violations of strict codes of dress and behavior, particularly socializing between males and females; they enforce cessation of business activity during prayer times, which is executed five times everyday; the Mutawwi police force may detain a person for 24 to 72 hours before delivering the detainee to Saudi Arabi’s regular police force. Sometimes a detainee may remain in prison for weeks, months, or years.
Analysis: Saudi Arabia
While oil prices and its foreign demand remain high, the Saudi economy will continue growing each year. Budget surpluses will continue along with its currently existing surpluses. The government will increase oil production by a few extra million barrels per day by 2020, leading to superior economic revenues. Therefore, the government’s growing economy will facilitate its military modernization objectives, where it will procure and upgrade numerous weapon systems and platforms.
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- Understanding Islam; Yahiya Emerick; 2002.
- World History; Timothy C. Hall M.A; 2008.