Over this year of Arab Spring revolt, Saudi Arabia has increasingly replaced the U.S. as the key status-quo power in the Middle East – a role that seems likely to expand even more in coming years as the Saudis boost their military and economic spending. The kingdom’s old practice was to keep its head down, spread money to radical groups to try to buy peace, and rely on a U.S. military umbrella. Now, Riyadh is more open and vocal in pressing its interests – especially in challenging Iran.
The Saudis are planning to roughly double their armed forces over the next 10 years. The army will add 125,000 to its estimated current force of 150,000; the national guard will grow by 125,000 from an estimated 100,000; the navy will spend more than $30 billion buying new ships and sea-skimming missiles; the air force will add 450 to 500 planes; and the Ministry of Interior is boosting its police and special forces by about 60,000. The doubling of ground forces is partly a domestic employment project.
(David Ignatius – Washington Post)