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Domestic Arms Production

Since the Cold War era, Saudi Arabia haf been militarily aligned with the United States. Saudi Arabia sided with Iraq in the IranIraq war, but King Fahd called for the United States to intervene when Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened the Saudi border in 1991. The United States and Saudi Arabia led an international coalition of forces to victory over Iraq in the ensuing Gulf War. The United States had served as the primary arms provider for Saudi Arabia until Britain supplanted it in 1988. Following the Gulf War, however, the United States again emerged as Saudi Arabias primary arms supplier.

In 1998 U.S. military exports to Saudi Arabia totaled US$4.3 billion, making Saudi Arabia the leading importer of U.S. military goods. The United States and Saudi Arabia continue to share a common concern over the regional stability of the Middle Eastfor both security and economic reasons. There have, however, been tensions between U.S. and Saudi military objectives. Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with the Taliban in 2001 following the terrorist attacks on the United States but later lambasted the U.S. decision to attack the country and refused U.S. requests to operate from Saudi soil. Saudi Arabia also declined to participate in the 2003 Iraq war. Saudi Arabia also provides the home base, as well as personnel and resources, for a small contingent of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) troops. The GCC force, called the Peninsula Shield Force, numbered about 10,000 men but has suffered from lagging commitment from GCC members. Discrepancies over how to train, arm, and fund the outfit have limited progress.

Following the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Husseins Baathist regime in Iraq represented the greatest military threat to Saudi Arabia. Thus, Saudi officials closely monitored the movements of Iraqi troops. In 1999 Saudi Arabia broke precedent by openly calling for Iraqis to topple their leader. When fighting came in 2003, however, Saudi Arabia insisted on maintaining its distance from the war against Iraq. With the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, new and more amorphous forces have emerged as those most threatening to Saudi security.

Like the other Arab countries in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia regards Israel as an ever-increasing threat to the region. Although Saudi ties to the United States mitigate some fear of Israel, Saudi Arabia has been active in pursuing a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Iran is the primary source of concern among Saudi officials in view of its military strength, potential nuclear capabilities, ties to Hezbollah and other radical Shia Islamists, alleged meddling in Iraqs civil unrest, and growing political influence in the region.

Saudi officials viewed the largely uncontrolled migration of tribesmen back and forth across the border from Yemen as a potential security risk. Relations between Saudi Arabia and Yemen suffered from Yemens refusal to join the Gulf War coalition against Iraq and from a long-standing border dispute. A border agreement reached in 2000 lessened the tension between Saudi Arabia and Yemen significantly, but the porous border continued to elicit concern among Saudi defense officials.

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