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Military spending in MENA - statistics & facts

Armed and military conflicts in the Middle East and North African region are often represented in the media. Peace in the Middle East seems to be under constant threat through the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and the aftermath of the Arab Spring in several countries of the region. Furthermore, the tension between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is reflected through armed proxy wars and conflicts in the Middle East And North Africa. While in recent years Israel was able to establish peaceful contact and mutual recognition with several of its Arab neighbors; the situation in the Middle East and North Africa remains tense and is reflected in the military spending of the governments in the region.

Leading military spender of the region

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia leads not only the Middle East and North African region in terms of military spending but belongs to the top five spenders worldwide. Israel is the only other significant spender on its military, however, globally it is ranked 15th.

Saudi Arabia spent eight percent of its gross domestic product on its military, which was at the time around 61 billion U.S. dollars. During the same period, Kuwait spent around 5.6 percent of its annual gross domestic product on its military. This was followed by Israel with 5.3 percent. In comparison, the largest country of the Middle East and North Africa population-wise, Egypt, only spent 1.2 percent of its gross domestic product.

Leading military strength

Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, there is a high degree of confidence amongst the general population in the strength of their country’s army. In terms of manpower, only 1.8 percent of the Saudi Arabian workforce is employed with the armed forces. The highest share within the Gulf Cooperation Council countries was Bahrain with 2.2 percent. Overall, in the Middle East and North Africa, Iran has the largest army in terms of active and reserve personnel with almost half a million people.

As of recently, the largest number of military tanks in the region was in Syria with over 3.7 thousand. This was closely matched by Egypt and Iran. The United States is the main weapon and arms supplier of the region with the exception of Iran, where they do not supply at all.


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