Arms Race in the Middle East And North Africa (MENA)


For a long time, countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been constantly increasing their military expenditure in an already heavily militarized region. Egypt which is central to the region’s geopolitical dynamics is perceived as the traditional regional hegemon, and in recent years, has procured a staggering amount of military hardware from various sources like the United States, France, Russia, and China.

Egypt has also been a recipient of foreign military aid from several allies, these rearmament initiatives by Egypt have been mirrored by various countries in the region including Israel, Turkey, UAE, and Algeria.

Fuelled by insecurity in Libya, Yemen, and Syria, as well as the near-constant political distrust with Israel, recent power tussle with Turkey and an ever-increasing assertiveness by the United States, Russia, and Iran in the region.

In 2014-18 the Middle East received a third of the world’s arms exports, second only to the Asia Pacific, according to SIPRI (see chart). Countries there imported 87% more weapons in that period than they had in the previous five years. In 2018 Saudi Arabia splurged $68bn on military kit, more than anyone bar America and China. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was the seventh-biggest spender in 2014-18; tiny Qatar and Oman made the top 20. The combined total military expenditure for the 11 MENA coun­tries in 2018 was $145 billion.

Countries in the Middle East acquired over half of American exports in that period, as well as 60% of Britain’s, 44% of France’s and 25% of Germany’s.

While in North Africa, there has been a noticeable spike in arms procurement by North African nations notably Algeria and Morocco. The total defence spending in North Africa currently stands at $22.2 billion USD, a 74 percent increase from 2009-2018. Meanwhile, the military expenditure in Africa was still 9.2 percent higher in 2018 than in 2009.

Thus, this book examines the impact of Egypt’s rearmament initiative on the overall security architecture of the Middle East, and North Africa (MENA). The main strategic effect is the impact on North African militaries, burdened with simple arms race relationships as a result of the representation of the relevant strategic factors.

‘Arms Race in MENA’ also analyses the factors and determinants that fuel these arms race in the region.

With these in mind, Egypt has not only seized the leading role in regional military procurement, but it also has set the stage for potentially dangerous long-term competition with the other states in an increasingly militarized region…

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