Professor Gerald Steinberg

Political Studies Department and

Director, Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation

Bar Ilan University

Ramat Gan, Israel


Fax: 972-3-5357931

Tel: 972-3-5318043

email: gerald@vms.huji.ac.il


An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the conference on conventional arms transfers, sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  Published in Cascade of Arms, Andrew Pierre, editor, Brookings Institute, Washington DC, 1997.


Revised January 12, 1996




            For the past two decades, the Middle East and Persian Gulf have been the largest markets for conventional arms.  In the 1980s, this region accounted for $200 billion in arms sales.  Approximately half of this total went to two states -- Saudi Arabia and Iraq -- which, in some years, were the largest two importers in the world. 

            There are signs that this situation may be changing.  The radical shifts in the structure of international politics have created some opportunities for conventional arms control in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.  Most of the weapons that have been sold or transferred to these regions were produced in the United States and the Soviet Union, and were provided within the framework of superpower competition.  With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, an overall decline of arms sales to the Third World, and particularly to the Middle East and Gulf, is possible.  

            Other changes that are occurring in the region reinforce these trends.  The Arab-Israeli peace talks that began in Madrid in October 1991, the Israeli-Palestinian agreements of 1993 and 1995, 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty, and the negotiations between Israel and Syria (which were making slow progress at the time that this chapter was completed) have created a foundation for cooperation and conflict amelioration.  In addition, the multilateral working group on arms control and regional security (ACRS), in which some of the major recipients and most supplier state are participating, provides a means of negotiating modalities and details of conventional arms limitations.  Although some of the major regional powers, including Syria and Iran, have refused to participate in these negotiations, (the government in Teheran is a vociferous opponent of peace talks with Israel, Syria is boycotting the multilateral talks, and Iraq is not included in any of these processes), this forum is a useful foundation for discussion of mutual security concerns and threats.  For the first time, some of the states in the region have considered CSBMs and arms control as instruments of policy or as a potentially useful means of increasing national security.

            In addition, the 1991 Gulf War and the belated recognition of the dangers posed by the sale of billions of dollars of arms and military technology to Saddam Hussein, including tanks, aircraft, and other conventional weapons, led to reevaluations of arms-sales policies among the major suppliers.  The United States, France, and the United Kingdom spent billions of dollars to destroy the weapons that they had sold to Iraq.  Immediately  after the war, the major supplier states met in various frameworks and circulated proposals and initiatives designed to coordinate policy and define criteria and ceilings.

            These three factors, in combination, create opportunities for limitations on the sales of conventional arms to the region.  Reevaluation on the supplier side and changes in the perspectives of the recipient states have encouraged discussions of policies designed to limit the flow of conventional arms and military technology.

            At the same time, a number of factors mitigate against this optimism and narrow the parameters of any opportunities.  The demise of the Soviet Union and its control of Eastern Europe did not end the manufacture and sale of arms from this region.  On the contrary, the successor states use weapons sales, including T-72 tanks and MiG-29 aircraft, as sources of hard currency and continued industrial employment.  Many of these systems have been sold to Syria and Iran, and the local commanders of military bases in the republics that replaced the Soviet Union sold weapons without involving central governments.  In addition, some of the largest weapons factories in Russia, Ukraine, and Czechoslovakia continue production, and the oil-rich Middle East is still the primary market.  With the end of the Cold War, other producers, including those in North America and Western Europe, are seeking to increase exports, and here again, the Middle East is a prime source of earnings.  The United States has sold billions of dollars in major weapons to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and other suppliers can be expected to follow this lead.  Syria has acquired and tested Scud-C missiles from North Korea, and is still seeking M-9 missiles from China.

            Despite the Arab-Israeli peace process, conflicts, tensions, and the threats of war have continued, and with them, the acquisition of weapons.  As many analysts have noted, "the norms and mores of deterrence and defense in the region" are not consistent with viewing arms control as an integral part of national security.   Many states are far from status quo powers, and "such Western intellectual concepts as 'deterrence', 'balance of power', 'unacceptable damage', and 'wasteful defense spending' are often abstractions with little application."1 

            The Persian Gulf continues to be an area of instability, and  Iran is seeking to reassert its status as a regional power (including in Central Asia) following its defeat in the war with Iraq.  This has led to a massive acquisition program, including tanks, combat aircraft, tactical missiles, electronics, long-range surface-to-surface missiles, and a broad effort to acquire nuclear weapons.2  This, in turn, has triggered increased purchases by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.  It is also not clear how long the international sanctions on Iraq will be maintained, and what will happen when these are lifted, but a renewed massive Iraqi effort to acquire arms can be expected. 

            Nevertheless, the changes in the international structure and climate have created some possibilities for conventional arms limitations in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.  Indeed, as will be demonstrated below, in this region, the prospects for controls on the transfer conventional weapons are greater than limitations on nuclear arms.  At the same time, the presence of counter-pressures could block any efforts, and the level of conventional weapons acquisitions and deployments may actually increase.  Much will depend on the details in the interaction of these factors.



            Vast income from oil sales and the strategic importance of the area have made the Middle East and Persian Gulf the largest market for conventional arms in the world.  In the 1980s, over $200 billion in arms were sold to these regions, and this total constituted two-thirds of total arms purchased in the Third World.3  Approximately half of these weapons were purchased by Saudi Arabia and Iraq.  Iran, Egypt, and Syria were also among the seven largest importers for this period.4  Although Israeli resources are smaller than most of the other states in the region, Jerusalem spends some 30% of its GNP on defense, the bulk of which goes to pay for weapons and military technology.5 

            As a result, the countries of the Middle East have developed massive conventional arms stockpiles.  A Stimson Center report notes that four countries in the region possess more main battle tanks than the United Kingdom or France.6  Before the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq had the fifth (or by some measures, third) largest army in the world, with 45 divisions, over 6000 tanks, 5000 APCs, 4700 guns and mortars, and 700 combat aircraft.  The Syrian army has deployed 4800 tanks (including the recent shipments from Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the FSU), and 500 combat aircraft.  The Israeli military is reported to include 3800 tanks and over 700 aircraft.7

            In addition to quantitative arms races, the Middle East is also characterized by constant qualitative escalation.  Saudi Arabia has been able to purchase weapons and platforms, such as AWACS, F-15XP fighter aircraft, upgraded Patriot ATBMs, and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, electronic warfare equipment and tactical communications systems that are more sophisticated than those found in most Western European states.  In the mid-1980s, Syria received the highly accurate SS-21 ballistic missile and advanced air defense systems from the Soviet Union, while even most Warsaw Pact members did not have access to similar technology.  Similarly, the Soviets sold Su-24 fighter-bombers and MiG-29 combat aircraft to Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Iran.  The Middle East has also entered the missile age, as demonstrated in both the Iran-Iraq war and when Iraq fired missiles against Israel and Saudi Arabia in the 1991 Gulf War.

            The scale of arms purchases in this region results from the interaction between three major factors; the nature of the intense and intertwined conflicts, the strategic importance of this region to outside powers, and the availability of revenues from oil production to pay for arms.  To understand the nature of the conventional arms races in the region, and the prospects for control, each of these factors must be understood.

The Internal Sources of Arms Acquisition

            The demand for arms in the Middle East and Persian Gulf is primarily the result of the intense ethno-national and religious conflicts that characterize the region.  The Arab-Israeli conflict has led to a number of major wars in the past five decades, and each war has, in turn, accelerated the arms race involving Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Similarly, conflicts between Persian Gulf nations led to a parallel arms race involving Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the smaller Gulf States. 

            In each of these regions, war is not considered "obsolete", and the threat of military conflict is still an instrument of policy.  Wars to expand borders and acquire land or oil continue; Iraq launched military attacks against Iran and Kuwait in 1979 and 1990, respectively, and Syria and Israel accuse each other of seeking to expand at the expense of the other. 

            The acquisition of conventional weapons is therefore a central element in national security.  Each of the states seek to build up its conventional arsenal, both quantitatively and qualitatively, in the effort to strengthen offensive capabilities, defense, and deterrence. 

            In addition, the conventional arms races in the region are accelerated by the role of the military in the domestic political systems in many of the states.  Historically, the monarchies and post-colonial regimes in many Arab states, including Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Iraq, were deposed by military juntas, and in most of these cases, the military is still the major source of power.  President Mubarak and Prime Minister Assad were Air Force officers, and maintain close ties to the military.  In Iraq, Saddam Hussein gained and maintains power through the military.  In the remaining monarchies, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, the support of the military is necessary for the continued survival of the regime.8 As a result, the armed forces generally have almost unrestricted access to resources, and can use this access to gain the most modern weapons available.  The purchase of these weapons is a source of prestige as well as military power.  These factors were of primary importance in the $2.3 billion arms agreement signed between Washington and Cairo in 1991, and in arms agreements involving Saudi Arabia.

            Israel is a democratic state (the only one in the region), and domestic political and economic factors also play a role in Israeli acquisition policies.  The continued threat to security means that defense concerns are dominant, and the military constitutes one of the most powerful institutions in the country, with ready access to resources and decision makers.  (However, the share of the government budget allocated to defense has been declining, and since 1992, defense spending has not constituted the largest item in the budget9.) 

The External Sources of Arms _

            From the 1940s until the present, outside powers have had important strategic and economic interests in the region, including access to petroleum, and these interests have contributed significantly to the conventional arms build-up in the region.  After World War II and throughout the Cold War period, Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union used the large-scale transfer of weapons to acquire and maintain influence and bases among client states in the region.  The U.S. supplied arms to Iraq and other states in return for participation in anti-Soviet alliances (the Baghdad Pact), and the British armed Jordan and other clients.  Moscow became a major supplier of weapons to Egypt beginning in the mid-1950s, and later, large scale supplies of Soviet weapons were transferred to Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Algeria. 

            In the early 1970s, following the experience of the Vietnam war, the U.S. increased the emphasis on arms sales to the Middle East as a major policy instrument.  Under the Nixon Doctrine, Washington provided weapons to regional allies as a means of strengthening stability without the need to introduce troops.  In the Persian Gulf, which became a major focus of American foreign and defense policy, Iran and Saudi Arabia were seen as local powers, and the U.S. sold them billions of dollars in weapons.  American arms sales to Iran increased three-fold between 1971 and 1975, and had doubled again by 1977.  Between 1970 and 1978, Teheran purchased $20 billion in weapons, spare parts, and related services from the U.S.10 The vast increase in arms sales was also significant in qualitative terms.  Many advanced systems and technologies were transferred to Iran and Saudi Arabia, including F-15 aircraft, AWACS airborne battle-management systems, air-to-air missiles, etc.  These sales were justified in terms of the need to increase deterrence and security.

The Persian Gulf: Weapons to Recycle Petrodollars

            Economic factors are of central importance in explaining arms sales in the Middle East.  This region remains one of the largest arms market in the world (although in some measures, the East Asian market has become larger in the mid-1990s), and with the end of the Cold War, and large reductions in orders from the defense establishments of the U.S. and Western Europe has increased the economic importance of sales to this region.  The alternative to rising unemployment in the defense industries and the demise of some firms is increased exports.  In 1990 alone, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (known as the P-5 group) collectively supplied $20 billion in arms to the Middle East.11 

            The massive scale of conventional arms sales in the region would not have been possible without the availability of petroleum revenues to pay for these weapons.  For the past two decades, the major suppliers, including the U.S. and Western Europe, have competed to "recycle the petrodollars" of the major oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Libya. 

            The acquisition of weapons by these states did not slow significantly after the end of the Iran-Iraq or 1991 Gulf Wars; indeed it accelerated greatly.12 Between September 1991 and June 1992, Iran reportedly signed agreements and contracts to purchase weapons worth from $8 to $10 billion over the next five years.13  Despite disputes regarding repayment of outstanding debts, Russia is still Iran's primary source of weapons.  Recent Iranian purchases from Russia are reported to include 400 T-72 tanks, 48 MiG‑29 and 24 Su‑24 aircraft, 12 long‑range heavy bombers, 24 MiG 31s, 24 MiG 27s, as well as early warning and reconnaissance aircraft, Kilo class attack submarines, 200 self-propelled artillery, SA‑6 and SA‑5 air defense systems, and 300 Scud‑Bs and missiles.14 Iran has also purchased a large number of T-55 tanks from Czechoslovakia, and there are reports that Turkmenistan plans to sell much of its air force, including 223 MiG‑23s and Su‑17s, to Iran.15 

            In the late 1980s, China became Iran's second leading arms supplier, and contracts have been signed for two (or, according to some reports, six) billion dollars in weapons.16 These transactions include F‑6 and F-7 aircraft (equivalent to the MiG‑19 and MiG-21), improved T-55 (known as Type-69) tanks, artillery, APCs, and anti-aircraft systems.17  China is also reported to be a major source of nuclear technology and Teheran has also acquired a number of Scud-C and No Dong surface-to- surface missiles from North Korea, and serves as a channel for weapons and technology destined for Syria.18 

            Saudi Arabia has long been the largest arms importer in the world, and between 1983-90, signed agreements to purchase $57.3 billion in arms, military construction, and infrastructure (19% of the Third World total).  Two framework agreements (known as the "Al-Yamamah deal") valued at $30 billion were signed with Britain in 1985 and 1988, and led to the transfer of Tornado advanced combat aircraft, tactical missiles, and advanced electronics and communications systems.19 The rate of acquisition has been accelerating, and in 1987-90, the Saudi total was $35.5 billion.  In 1990 alone, the Saudis received deliveries of weapons worth $14.5 (almost half before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait), and the post-Gulf War period, there has been no let-up.20  After the war, 200 M‑60A3  tanks, 200 Bradley armored fighting vehicles, and 18 F‑15Cs were delivered.  In 1992, U.S. arms sales included 150 M‑1 tanks, 200 more Bradleys, 12 Apache AH‑64 attack helicopters, and many other weapons.21 The total of American post-Gulf War arms sales to Saudi Arabia (through 1996) will reportedly reach $23 billion, including 72 F-15 aircraft, and 465 M-1 and M-2 tanks.22 These weapons are all paid for by oil revenues and constitute a major element of the petrodollar recycling process.


            Another complicating factor is the degree to which the Arab-Israeli and Persian Gulf conflict zones overlap and interact.  This makes it difficult to isolate one of these regions or a small sub-grouping of states for the purpose of arms control and limitation agreements.  (In addition, Turkey, Syria and Iraq constitute a third conflict zone, and tensions between these states are manifested periodically.  This zone has been relatively quiescent in the past two decades, compared to the other two conflict zones, but imbalances and instabilities here could lead to active conflict as well.)

    Acquisitions by Iraq or Saudi Arabia, in particular, have a direct impact on the other states in both zones.  For example, as a result of the threats posed by Iran and Iraq in the 1980s, Saudi Arabia increased its purchases of advanced weapons systems, including American and European combat aircraft, tanks, and missiles.  Saudi Arabia also borders on Israel, maintains a state of war with Israel, and the Israelis view such acquisitions as potentially threatening in the context of an Arab coalition.  In 1981, the American sales of F-15 aircraft, and the AWACS airborne battle management system, although primarily directed towards Iran and perhaps Iraq, were perceived in Israel as particularly dangerous.  In 1992, Israeli Prime Minister Rabin publicly opposed the proposed American sale of 72 advanced F-15 XP ground-attack combat aircraft.23 He noted the inherent weakness and instability of the Saudi regime, and the possibility that these weapons could fall into the hands of "hostile powers" (Islamic fundamentalists or dictators such as Saddam Hussein).24  The potential for conflict was illustrated when the Saudis violated agreements with the United States by stationing F-15s at the Tabuk airbase, located close to the Israeli border.

            Saudi Arabia is not the only example of over-lap between arms races in the Arab-Israeli and Persian Gulf zones.  Iraq has been an active player in both regions since the 1940s.  Iraq and Iran have pursued their ancient contest for regional hegemony through massive arms acquisitions and periodic warfare.  In the 1970s, as the scope of these acquisitions and deployments increased, and Saddam Hussein cultivated regional hegemonic ambitions, the Iraqi military threat grew.  Following the Iranian revolution in 1979, Iraq invaded Iran and that conflict continued for 8 years.

            At the same time, Iraqi forces have been involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict since the 1948 Israeli War of Independence.  Iraqi forces were deployed along the Israeli border and in Jordan as part of the Arab military coalition in May 1967, and Iraq  continued to pose a major military threat to Israel until the end of the 1991 Gulf War.  The new wide-track highway from Baghdad to Ammaan, and the acquisition of hundreds of German tank transporters, allows Iraq to move hundreds of tanks to the Israeli border through Jordan in 72 hours.  Weapons purchased by Iraq during the war with Iran (and the American military assistance provided under the pro-Iraqi "tilt") also posed a threat to Jordan and Israel.  Prior to the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraqi Airforce flew in reconnaissance sorties along the Israeli-Jordanian border, and Iraqi ground forces planned maneuvers in Jordan.  During the war, Iraqi missiles struck Israeli cities. 

            In the 1980s, growing military and strategic links between Iran and Syria added another element to the interaction and interconnection between the Arab-Israeli and Persian Gulf zones.  During the war with Iraq, Teheran was isolated from most other Middle East and Arab states, while Baghdad received economic assistance and weapons from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Jordan.  Syria, in contrast, provided arms and spare parts to Iran, (both countires are controlled by non-Sunni Moslems, while Iraq and most other Middle Eastern Arab regimes are Sunni).  After the war ended, these links between Iran and Syria continued, and tanks and North Korean Scud-C missiles enroute to Syria were off-loaded in Iran.  In addition, since Lebanon came under Syrian military control, Iran has provided weapons, including short-range missiles, to Islamic fundamentalists (Hizbollah) launching raids against Israel.

            These interactions, with acquisitions in one zone leading to a chain reaction in the others, makes it difficult to isolate a single zone or conflict-area.  This factor, in turn, is a major obstacle to conventional arms control in the Middle East.

The Impact of Conventional Arms Transfers

            As noted above, in the Middle East, arms are acquired to meet military requirements.  For some states, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Israel, and Jordan, the transfer of weapons has enhanced security, preserved the military balance, and, at least to some degree, increased regional stability.  These states face real military threats, and visible deterrent and defense capabilities are necessary to meet these threats.25

            However, from the perspective of the suppliers, the large arms sales by the major powers to regional clients and allies failed to achieve the political goals that were sought.  The Nixon Doctrine in the Persian Gulf collapsed with the overthrow of the Shah, and the American-made weapons fell into what had become hostile hands.  A decade later, in 1990, American weapons in Kuwait were captured by the Iraqis, and turned against U.S. forces.  Until August 1990, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia exchanged military intelligence with Iraq, held joint exercises, and transferred American technology and weapons.  (Indeed, Jordan continued to serve as a funnel for weapons and spare parts to Iraq even after the invasion of Kuwait and for many years after the war ended.)

            The technological arms race, however, has become destabilizing in recent years.  In the past, the Israeli qualitative advantage offset the large Arab advantage in numbers and personnel, but Jerusalem fears that its technological lead is eroding as the US transfer advanced weapons to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.  At the same time, the Arab states view the Israeli qualitative superiority as a potential military threat, and this has resulted in a situation often described in terms of a "security dilemma".26   Each side claims to be responding to the threats posed by the other side, in turn leading to an escalatory spiral.  Israel's narrow borders and the mobile nature of warfare that was adopted to "bring the war to the enemy's territory" obscures most efforts to distinguish offensive from defensive weapons, which can reduce the salience of the security dilemma.27

            The costs of the continuing conventional arms races has also led Israel to develop non-conventional deterrent forces.  The development of nuclear weapons and missiles began in the mid- 1950s, when the political leadership feared that the resources and access of the Arab states to weapons would eventually provide them with overwhelming superiority and the ability to mount attacks that would endanger Israeli survival.  This fear was reinforced after the 1967 and 1973 wars.  In 1976, former Defense Minister Moshe Dayan warned that one day, the Arabs might decide to "throw against us the thousands of tanks and missiles they are accumulating" in another effort to destroy the Jewish State, and that only nuclear weapons could deter such a threat.28  In 1981, Shai Feldman, who advocated an overt nuclear posture, argued "As Israel moves from [conventional] defense to [nuclear] deterrence, the formal burden imposed by its current posture, as well as the need for enormous quantities of sophisticated conventional weapons, would decrease." 29 A former economic advisor to Prime Minister Shamir advocated similar policies.  Even Egypt, which has signed a peace treaty with Israel, continues to acquire billion of dollars in arms, and the Egyptian Chief of Staff named Israel as the most likely enemy.  Thus, conventional and non-conventional arms are closely linked, and in order to reduce the threat of a nuclear war in the region, the threat posed by conventional arms must be cut drastically.


            As noted above, some of the major factors that contributed to ever increasing sale and transfer of conventional weapons to the Middle East in the past four decades have changed recently.  The end of the competition of the Cold War has removed one of the major sources of the arms race in this region.  The demise of the Soviet Union had a further effect on arms sales.  Between 1987 and 1990, the USSR accounted for 31% of arms sales in the Middle East (compared to 20% for the U.S.).30 The sudden removal of Soviet influence had a particularly strong impact on Syria, which, since the mid-1970s, had become Moscow's major regional client.  In the past, Syria could initiate a war with the knowledge that its losses, even if massive, would be replaced quickly and at little cost (as occurred in 1967, 1973, and 1982).  Now, Syria will be unable to expect such rapid assistance. In addition, Soviet arms factories are now dispersed among a number of political jurisdictions, and much of the advanced research and development capability has been dismantled.  It is unlikely that Russia and the successor states will be able to produce new state-of-the-art main battle tanks, combat aircraft, missiles, and other systems.  The weapons that are still produced will not be available in the numbers and under the conditions that existed until 1990.31

            Secondly, in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the 1991 Gulf War, the international community, led by the U.S., imposed an arms embargo on Iraq.  Although there is some leakage, particularly through Jordan, for the most part, this embargo has been effective, and significant Iraqi conventional arms purchases have essentially stopped. 

            This has had a major effect on the region, and the impact will increase as the embargo is continued.  Iraq has been a major threat in both the Arab-Israeli conflict and in the Persian Gulf, and with the reduction or removal of this threat, one of the major catalysts for arms acquisition in both regions has been removed.  In addition, with the neutralization of Iraq, it is possible to "decouple", at least to some degree, the two regions. In the realm of conventional weapons, as long as Iraq is unable to acquire new systems, only Saudi Arabia remains an active participant in both regions, and, at least historically, the role of the Saudi military in the Arab-Israeli conflict has been far smaller than that of Iraq.  Thus, the arms embargo and the isolation of Iraq and presents an opportunity for limiting acquisitions of conventional weapons, particularly in the Arab-Israeli zone.

            A third factor is the change in economic conditions in the region.  The economies of Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Syria are not based primarily on petroleum exports, and these states have significant difficulties paying for conventional weapons.  The purchase of weapons has contributed to large deficits and major economic problems, including unemployment and inflation.  Since 1985, the Israeli defense budget has been cut significantly, in part to provide funds for the absorption of hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews. U.S. military aid of $1.8 billion annually, which began after the Camp David agreement, has not expanded to match increased sales to the Arabs, and inflation has steadily eroded purchasing power.  In 1988, Israeli Prime Minister Shamir acknowledged "We know the burden of the arms race is devastating to the economies in the region - and it is getting worse."32  These economic factors have made Israel amenable to conventional arms control proposals.

            There are also some suggestions that major economic difficulties in the Arab and Islamic countries have increased the prospects for arms control.  According to Yahya Sadowski, "Over the past decade, declining oil prices, overpopulation, economic mismanagement, and foreign policy adventurism have combined to wreak havoc on the economies of the Arab states. ... Economically exhausted, many Arabs are searching for cheaper ways of meeting their national security needs."33 Jordan's economic crisis, compounded by the response to the pro-Iraqi policy followed by Amman during the Gulf War, has effectively prevented the Hashemite regime from purchasing new weapons for a number of years.  In 1988, Jordan defaulted on its debt payments, (the total external debt was $8 billion, of which $3 billion resulted from weapons purchases.34)  In addition, contracts to purchase combat aircraft from France and Britain were cancelled. 

            Chronic economic difficulties and high foreign debt-to-GNP ratios also plague Egypt and Syria.  Prior to the 1991 Gulf War, Cairo's foreign debt is estimated to have exceeded $50 billion, much of which was the result of arms purchases.  Syria, like Egypt, suffers from growing unemployment and a declining standard of living, although the situation improved in the early 1990s, when annual oil exports rose to over $1.5 billion.35  The increased revenues provided by oil, however, are insufficient to solve Syria's economic difficulties.

            The impact of these economic factors on military spending and arms purchases is compounded by the demise of the Soviet Union, which was Syria's major supplier, and the demand for payment in hard currency.36

            Some analysts, such as Sadowski, argue that these factors will limit military budgets and arms acquisitions, particularly by Syria.  Others disagree, noting that the priority given to the military is unlikely to change. Indeed, the evidence points to the latter conclusion.  Between 1990 and 1994, Syrian arms purchases were quite large, including 1400 T-72 tanks, 48 MiG-29 and 24 Su-24 aircraft and advanced air defense systems from Russia, 250 Bulgarian made self-propelled artillery, and 150 Scud-C missiles from North Korea.37

            Egypt also continues to purchase advanced weapons, despite the extended economic crises and social unrest.  In the past ten years, Egypt has replaced its Soviet and Chinese weapons with hundreds of modern American main battle tanks (M-1 A-1 and M60-A3) and has acquired over 200 advanced combat aircraft and tactical missiles.  Egypt is producing M1-A1 tanks under American license, and has also purchased weapons and military technology from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Russia, China, etc.38  Since the 1979 Peace Treaty with Israel, Egypt has had no significant external opponents, and this very costly acquisition is seen as a long-term threat by Israel.

            The major oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran are also facing limits on resources available for arms purchases.  Each of these states have large current account deficits.  Iran suffers from a high level of unemployment (over 25% based on official figures, and unofficially, estimated to be much higher) and major problems in the economic infrastructure. The five-year development and post-war reconstruction plan adopted in 1990 called for a hard-currency expenditure of $112 billion, which would consume more than the income generated by oil revenues, even under the most optimistic projections.39

            Nevertheless, as noted above, military spending and arms purchases among the major oil exporters continues to grow.40 Teheran, like Baghdad in the 1980s, has allocated billions of dollars for arms purchases, and currently spends one-quarter of its GNP on the military,  All the available evidence demonstrates that the current Iranian government will continue to place military acquisitions ahead of economic development.  Similarly, after the 1991 Gulf War, Saudi Arabia announced plans to double the size of its armed forces and to acquire the most sophisticated (and expensive) military equipment available.  As Kanovsky concludes, Saudi Arabia, like Iran, Egypt, and Syria, can be expected to continue and accelerate the rate of spending for weapons and military technology, regardless of its financial situation.41 

Arms Control, the Peace Process and the 1991 Gulf War 

            Political changes in the region, and in the Arab-Israeli arena in particular, have also provided some basis for discussion of arms control, including conventional limitations.  These changes began with the 1978 Camp David accords and the Israel-Egypt peace treaty.  Although there is no evidence that these agreements contributed in a reduction in the flow of conventional arms (in fact, the Treaty led to increased sales of American arms to both Israel and Egypt), the change in political relations, the establishment of direct lines of communication, and the application of confidence and security building measures (CSBMs) can, at least in theory, facilitate further limitations.  The demilitarized zones established in the Sinai between Israel and Egypt, and the role of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in verifying compliance has been successful and presents a useful model for future agreements.42

            The Arab-Israeli negotiations that began in Madrid in October 1991, and the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles (DOP) and 1994 Israeli-Jordanian Peace Treaty also contribute to creating conditions for arms limitation agreements, including conventional weapons.  Article 4 of the treaty includes a commitment to the creation of a Middle East version of the European Conference on Security and Co‑operation and "the adoption of regional models of security successfully implemented in the post World War era (along the lines of the Helsinki process) culminating in a regional zone of security and stability."  In addition, the treaty includes a pledge by the parties "to refrain from the threat or use of force or weapons conventional non‑conventional or of any other kind against each other or of other actions or activities that adversely affect the security of the other Party, ...  to refrain from organising instigating inciting assisting or participating in acts or threats of belligerency hostility subversion or violence, ... and ...  to ensure that acts or threats of belligerency hostility  subversion or violence against the other Party do not originate from and are not committed within through or over their territory..."   Section 4 includes a pledge to refrain from  "joining or in any way assisting .. with any coalition organisation or alliance ... the objectives or activities of which include launching aggression.." and a prohibition on "the entry stationing and operating on their territory or through it of military forces ... of a third party.."

            In addition, the ACRS working group, in which Israel and a number of Arab states (but not Syria) are participating, provides a regional forum for discussion of these issues.  The ACRS group has met periodically since 1992, and its members have participated in a number of CSBM exercises, in the area of search and rescue.  They have also considered a joint declaration of goals and objectives, and have agreed to create a regional crisis communications center and three regional risk reduction centers.  Althought the process has been delayed due to an dispute between Israel and Egypt on the issue of the Israeli nuclear deterrent (and Egypt has sought to block any additional activity until Israel accepts its demands in this area), the forum has established a useful foundation for regional measures such as conventional arms control.43

            The events surrounding the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait provided an additional impetus to arms control in the Middle East, particular for the supplier states.  The costs of the 1991 Gulf War are estimated to be approximately $100 billion, which is far greater than the profits made in selling weapons to Iraq over the past two decades.  The massive conventional force that was amassed by Saddam Hussein, and the threats that this forced posed, led to increased discussion of the need for supplier limitations encompassing not only weapons of mass destruction, but conventional weapons as well.44

            Following the war, a number of supplier states announced initiatives and proposals that contained elements of conventional arms limitations.  President Bush's Middle East Arms Control Initiative of May 29 1991 included a reference to conventional weapons limitations.  Independent French, British and Canadian proposals for guidelines, a registry, and advance notification procedures have been discussed at meetings of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the G-7 economic summits (which include Canada, Italy, Japan, and Germany as well), and United Nations committees. 

            At the same time, as noted above, arms sales to the region have increased markedly since the end of the 1991 Gulf War, despite this activity and the surfeit of proposals.  The Bush Administration approved the sale of billions of dollars in advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Gulf States.  Although the U.S. government claimed that these weapons were being transferred to allies and would strengthen regional stability, other suppliers view these sales as a means of maintaining employment and profits for the American arms industry, and they would seek markets as well.

            The history of efforts to limit conventional arms sales in the Middle East demonstrates the difficulties in this process.  In August 1949, the U.S., France, and Britain announced a coordinated effort to "regulate the flow of arms" to the region.  In May 1950, this Tripartite Declaration was formalized with the establishment of the Near East Arms Coordinating Committee (NEACC).  However, the extensive regional interests of all three powers in the region, the competition between them, and the failure to include other major suppliers, including the USSR, weakened the effectiveness of this effort.  The language of the declaration included significant loopholes, permitting the acquisition of arms "to maintain a certain level of armed forces to assure their internal security and their legitimate self-defense."  The appropriate level for each state was left undefined, and this was exploited by both suppliers and recipients.45  Other efforts following the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars, as well as the 1977 Carter initiative, also failed to solve the dilemmas posed by the need to maintain the balance or power and to provide arms to clients.46

            U.S. conventional arms policy after the Gulf War is reminiscent in many ways of the failed policies of the Tripartite Declaration and the Carter efforts.47  Writing in Foreign Affairs, Alvin Rubenstein stated "The tentativeness of the arms control proposals unveiled for the region last May are more suggestive of past failures than future promise."48   Prior to and during the Gulf War, Washington agreed to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus weapons to Israel.  The U.S. sold Egypt 46 F-16 C/D fighters and upgraded Cairo's air defenses.  In September 1992, as part of his reelection campaign, President Bush announced the sale of 72 advanced F-15 XP aircraft to Saudi Arabia, in order to provide jobs for American aerospace employees.  As a result, the U.S. efforts towards conventional arms limitation in the Middle East lost credibility.

Changes in Israeli Policy _

            From the Israeli perspective, the acquisition of massive conventional arms in the region remains a major threat to national security.  Israel is a microstate, with no strategic depth, and with a total population of only 5.5 million. Combined Arab attacks in 1948 and 1973 (and the preparations for attack in 1967) posed threats to the survival of the state, and this scenario continues to be a major cause for concern.  As noted above, the Peace Treaties with Egypt and Jordan, the Palestinian DOP, and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, have diminished the threat.  However, Israel has been and continues to be concerned about the possibility of an attack on the Eastern front, involving Syria, with potential support from Iraq.  The increased strength of the Syrian armed forces is monitored carefully in Israel, and the threat of an attack through the Golan Heights is considered to be possible at any time.49

            Prior to the 1991 Gulf war, Iraqi participation was considered likely, and the acquisition of hundreds of German tank transporters increased this capability. After the war ended, the Iraqi capability, although diminished, was still quite formidable.  With the limited participation of Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the Arabs would have a 2:1 advantage in tanks, 3:1 in guns and mortars, and 1.6:1 in combat aircraft.50

            Given the political instability in Egypt, and the continued acquisition of advanced conventional weapons, it is possible that this country might rejoin an anti-Israel coalition, which would greatly increase the Arab advantage.  Were this to occur, Western arms acquired by Egypt would greatly enhance inter-operability among Arab forces.  (Iran has also acquired many tanks and other conventional weapons, but is considered too far away to contribute significantly to a conventional attack on Israel.)  The apparent erosion of Israel's technological advantage is also a cause of growing concern.

            As a result of these factors, regional conventional arms limitations would be advantageous to Israeli national security.  The conventional aspects of the May 1991 Bush Arms Control Initiative were endorsed by Israel, and arms sales registries and supplier limitations have been welcomed.  Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens also supported the concept of a conventional arms freeze, declaring "The first agreement that needs to be reached is an agreement among the arms exporting countries that they will not export arms into the Middle East."51  Indeed, while the Israelis can be expected to reject efforts to limit its nuclear deterrent, which it continues to view as the ultimate guarantee of national survival, until a full peace agreement is reached and tested for many years, limits on conventional weapons are more likely.  If there is to be any progress in Middle East arms control, limitations on conventional weapons will be the first stage.52

            At the same time, the Israelis are concerned that supplier restraints would not be fully and symmetrically enforced, giving the Arab states a major advantage.  Israel is highly dependent on American arms and technology, and the U.S. can be expected to honor international agreements.  However, the Arab states can use their oil revenues to purchase arms from many other suppliers.  Limitations would have to be accepted and implemented by Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, China, North Korea, and other suppliers.  (The Bush Administration's September 1992 announcement of the sale of F-16 aircraft to Taiwan brought an angry reaction from China.  The government in Beijing announced a boycott of the negotiations on arms transfers conducted under the P-5 framework, and to increase sales to the Middle East and Persian Gulf.)  Here, the Israeli experience with supplier agreements is not encouraging.  The lessons of the Tripartite experience, allowing the transfer of weapons for "legitimate self-defense" have not been learned. Other supplier agreements, including the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and the Missile Technology Control Regime did not prevent Iraq, Libya, and Syria from obtaining materials and facilities from European suppliers.53  However, despite these fears and perceived risks, the Israeli can be expected to take conventional arms limitation proposals seriously.


            It is clear that despite the political and military changes in the region, arms control in the Middle East and Persian Gulf remains a complex, and, in most cases, a very distant prospect.  The number of states that are involved (over 20), the overlapping and interacting conflict zones and arms races in the region, the deep and intense nature of the ethno-national and religious conflicts, and the high degree of geographic, demographic, economic, and political asymmetry all mitigate against successful arms control.  These asymmetries are more pronounced than the situation in Central Europe during the years of negotiations over Mutual Balance Forced Reductions (MBFR).  When considering potential agreements, simple parity arrangements between individual states (Israel-Egypt; Israel-Syria) are not acceptable because of the possibility of combined attacks.54 Counting rules involving coalitions and based on specific fronts have been seen as a more promising approach.  Such limits on deployments along Israel's eastern front would involve Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia.  Egypt and Saudi Arabia would be central to any limits involving the western front. 

            Indeed, the geographic requirements for conventional arms limitations are relatively restricted, as compared to strategic weapons.  Tanks, artillery, and most tactical fighters are confined to short ranges, in contrast to missile-borne strategic weapons.  While limitations on nuclear and chemical weapons or missiles would require the compliance of states from Algeria to Iran, effective conventional arms limitations could be developed within a relatively small group of 5 or 6 states in close proximity.   

            Middle East regional security and arms control has begun with the implementation of modest CSBMs.  The next stage would focus on conventional arms involving the Arab-Israeli "confrontation states" - Egypt, Israel, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.  (Militarily, Iraq should also be included in this group.  As long as Iraqi arms acquisitions and deployments are effectively controlled by outside powers, Iraq compliance can be externally guaranteed.  If a limitation agreement has been negotiated, continued Iraqi compliance would have to be a condition for an end to international sanctions.)  Iran, Libya, and other states in the region have sought to acquire large conventional forces, but they are too far removed to have much of an impact on the Arab-Israeli conventional balance.  Thus, as long as Iraq is barred from receiving arms, a freeze on the delivery of conventional platforms to these states would have the effect of decoupling the Arab-Israeli arms race from the Persian Gulf. 

            A parallel supplier agreement would be a necessary part of any conventional arms limitations for the region.  The guidelines and registration proposals discussed to date are small steps in the right direction, but are quite limited.  In a report published by the Stimson Center, a phased approach is advocated, beginning with a binding international arms registry and an agreement of prior notification for arms sales by the P-5 nations.  Proposed transfers that are seen as potential violations of the guidelines would be subject to review in special meetings.55 The expectation is that such a process would lead to public pressure and fewer controversial sales.  However, it should be noted there is little prospect for effective public pressure on Chinese arms sales policy, and public pressure in the U.S. did not prevent the 1992 sales to Saudi Arabia.

            Verification is an necessary and often controversial aspect of any arms limitation agreement, and in many cases, requires the presence of inspectors and intrusive intelligence gathering.  However, limits on major conventional platforms, such as main battle tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers, combat aircraft, helicopter gun-ships, and perhaps naval craft, can be verified with relative ease.  These states possess large inventories of these weapons, and a significant change in the balance of power would require the clandestine acquisition of hundreds of tanks and tens of advanced aircraft.  The number of potential suppliers of major platforms is relatively small, and an agreement among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which, together, account for two thirds of all arms transfers to the Middle East, seems plausible.  (The participation of "second tier suppliers", Germany, Italy, Poland, and the Czech and Slovak republics, must also be obtained.)  Thus, a limitation agreement that includes both suppliers and recipient states can be effectively monitored and verified.

            In addition, the parties to any arms agreement must define the quantitative and qualitative limits.  In the past, this has posed a number of difficulties, with respect to strategic as well as conventional forces.  As noted, the effectiveness of the Tripartite Declaration and the Near East Coordinating Committee (1950-1955) was undermined by the failure to agree on the definition of requirements for a "stable balance of power" and for "legitimate self defense".  Similarly, the United States continues to justify multi-billion dollar sales to Saudi Arabia in terms of the "regional balance" and "legitimate self-defense".

            To overcome this obstacle, a conventional arms limitation agreement could be based on a freeze on the number of major platforms (main battle tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers, combat aircraft, helicopter gun-ships, and perhaps naval craft).  These numbers are relatively well known, and significant changes could readily be detected.  In this way, the complexities of comparing different systems (such as the MiG-29 vs. F-15, or T-80 vs. M-1 A-1, for example) can be avoided.  The conventional military balance among these five core states (and the continued prohibitions on Iraqi acquisitions) is considered to be relatively stable, and these states can probably be persuaded to accept a freeze at current levels.  Replacements for damaged or destroyed platforms would be allowed, at least in the first stages of this process, but significant upgrading (exchanging a MiG-21 for a MiG-29, or a T-55 for a T-80 tank) would be prohibited.

            A freeze on major platforms would skirt the problems posed by indigenous arms industries.  Although Israel, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran have local industries, none are capable of the independent production of advanced platforms, such as main battle tanks and combat aircraft.  (The Israeli Merkava tank uses a US-made engine, and Israeli-made aircraft, such as the Kfir and the cancelled Lavi, are also powered by imported engines.)   

            In theory, a similar type of arrangement could be applied to the Persian Gulf, with the inclusion of Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States.  As in the previous grouping, Iraqi compliance could be externally guaranteed by external supplier agreements.  Here, in contrast to the Arab-Israeli conflict zone, no formal negotiating framework exists, although the ACRS working group includes most Gulf States and could serve as a nucleus.  More importantly, Iran and Saudi Arabia are among the largest arms purchasers in the world.  The competition among the major suppliers continues to be intense, with multi-billion dollar sales from the U.S., Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and, more recently, China.  (In the period between 1988 and 1991, over three-quarters of Chinese arms deliveries to the Third World went to the Middle East and Persian Gulf.)  Together, these economic forces mitigate against the acceptance of limitations on conventional arms transfers to the Persian Gulf states.  The traditional struggle for hegemony between Iran and Iraq, and the Saudi fears from both sides also complicate a demand-side conventional arms agreement. 


            A number of countries in the region have deployed surface-to-surface missiles in the past decade, and the rate of proliferation is increasing.  Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Israel all have ballistic missiles.56  Syria and Egypt launched isolated missiles against Israeli targets in the 1973 war, and Iran and Iraq used these weapons against each others cities.  For the six weeks of the 1991 Gulf War, the civilian populations of Israel and Saudi Arabia were attacked by Iraqi missiles. 

            Although all of the missiles fired by Iraq and Iran carried conventional warheads, the major dangers posed by missile warfare in the Middle East arise from non-conventional warheads.  United Nations inspectors found that Iraq had produced chemical and biological warheads for its extended range Scud-B missiles, and other states, including Syria possess chemical warheads.57  The Israeli Jericho missile is generally assumed to be part of the strategic nuclear deterrent force, and Iran is actively attempting to develop a nuclear weapons capability.  The conventional warheads carried by these missiles are relatively small (the 39 Iraqi missiles that were fired at Tel Aviv, Haifa, and other Israeli cities caused only 1 direct fatality), and the capability of combat aircraft and bombers is much greater.  However, in cases such as Iraq and Iran, where the ability of the air force to penetrate the air defenses of opposing countries is limited, tactical use of ballistic missiles is an important addition to conventional forces.

            Missiles, like tanks, combat aircraft, and other major weapons and platforms, are generally procured from outside suppliers.  Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria, and other states received Scud-B missiles from the Soviet Union.  These weapons have a short range (200 kilometers) and are highly inaccurate.  However, the ranges can and have been extended, (in the case of Iraq, with the assistance of technology supplied by Western European and American firms).  In the 1980s, the Syria acquired more accurate SS-21 missiles from the Soviet Union, and in 1988, Saudi Arabia purchased a number of long-range CSS-2 (Long March) missiles from China.  China also sold Silkworm anti-ship missiles to Iran, and an agreement involving solid-fuelled M-9 missiles, with a range of 600 kilometers, was signed in the late 1980s.

            Efforts to limit the proliferation of missiles to the Middle East have had some success.  During the 1980s, Egypt and Iraq collaborated with Argentina on the Condor program.  Political changes in Argentina, combined with American pressure and the 1991 Gulf War, led to the suspension of this effort.  However, the Missile Technology Control Regime failed to prevent the transfer of technology to Iraq, and Scud C and No Dong missiles are still being transferred from North Korea to Syria and Iran.

            Given the strategic importance of ballistic missiles in the region, and the link to non-conventional warheads, efforts to limit the proliferation of these weapons, and to freeze or reduce stockpiles, are generally considered as independent issues.  Missiles are linked to non-conventional weapons, and attempts to negotiate limits, both on suppliers and recipients, are likely to continue to be an independent aspect of the arms control process.


            Despite the successes of the Arab-Israeli peace process, the threat of major war in the Middle East has not ended, and the massive arsenals of tanks, combat aircraft, missile, and other weapons would make a major war very costly for all.  Recent changes in the world and in the region have increased the plausibility of conventional arms control, but many obstacles and difficulties remain.  Pressures from the defense industries, and the massive resources of the major petroleum producers are the major factors in determining the arms sales policies of the major supplier states, including the United States.  The two conflict zones remain interconnected, with acquisitions by Iran leading to a Saudi response, that, in turn, affects Israeli security perceptions and policies.  Economic and geographic asymmetries also continue to complicate limitation efforts.

            In this region, it is clear that conventional arms limitation measures will require the acceptance of major and unprecedented restraints by the world's major arms producers and suppliers, in combination with agreements among the recipient states (demand-side limitations).  Self-denying supplier-side restraints, beginning with the P-5 and G-7 members, are necessary, although not a sufficient condition, for progress in this area.  The negotiation of limitations among the recipient states in the context of the Arab-Israeli peace negotiations would signal the recognition of the importance of restraints for regional stability.

            As noted, agreements on ceilings for existing weapons, and definition of destabilizing new weapons and technologies, would provide an important starting point for this process.  If a freeze on the levels of major platforms in existing arsenals can be negotiated, further steps towards reductions from these levels can be considered.  In addition, once regional verification systems, operated by the states themselves on a mutual basis, have been established for monitoring limits on major platforms, it will be possible to expand the scope of the limitations to include tactical missiles, naval systems, and other conventional weapons and technologies.

            However, if any of these ideas are to be translated into policy and lead to agreements, the states involved, both suppliers and recipients, will have to take risks and accept costs.  The United States, as the major power in the region and the world, and the major arms exporter, must take the lead.  Rhetorically, American officials have preached arms control and the benefits of self-denial to the recipients and to the other suppliers.58 At the same time, the U.S. has not reduced and its conventional arms exports to the region, and, indeed, these have increased since the end of the Gulf War.  In 1992, President Bush's announcement of the sale of billions of dollars in highly sophisticated arms to Saudi Arabia, as part of his election campaign, will have a negative effect on future American efforts to persuade France, China, Russia, or the other major producers to accept restraints on their arms sales.59  Unless there are clear and highly visible examples of supplier restraint, particularly by the United States, conventional arms control in the Middle East will be very difficult to achieve.


1.Alan Platt, editor, "Report of the Study Group on Multilateral Arms Transfer Guidelines for the Middle East", Stimson Center Report, Washington DC, May 1992, p.16

2.Shahram Chubin, Iran's National Security Policy: Capabilities, Intentions and Impact, (Washington, DC: The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1994)

3.Alan Platt, editor, "Report of the Study Group on Multilateral Arms Transfer Guidelines for the Middle East", Stimson Center Report, Washington DC, May 1992, p.18

4.According to data published by SIPRI, during the period between 1987 and 1991, the rankings were somewhat different.  India was the leading importer of conventional weapons in the Third World, with Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Iran ranking second, third, fifth and tenth, and twelfth, respectively.  See "The trade in major conventional weapons", Ian Anthony, et al, SIPRI Yearbook 1992: World Armaments and Disarmament, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1992

5.The Israeli Economy: Dreams and Realities  Yair Aharoni,  Routledge, 1991, p.8


6.Platt, p.19

7.The Middle East Military Balance 1993/4, Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University, 1994, pp.492-3

8.See J.C. Hurewitz, Middle East Politics: The Military Dimension, Praeger, New York, 1969; Yahya Sadowski, "Sandstorm with a Silver Lining?  Prospects for Arms Control in the Arab World", The Brookings Review, Summer 1992, p. 10

9.See Gerald M. Steinberg, "Defence Procurement Decision Making in Israel", in a Comparative Study of Defence Procurement Decision Making, Ravi Singh, editor, SIPRI/Oxford University Press, forthcoming

10.Platt, p.22

11.Richard F. Grimmett, Conventional Arms Transfers to the Third World, 1984-1991, CRS Report to Congress, July 1992; see also the chapters by the policies of the supplier states in this volume.

12.Anthony Cordesman, "After the Gulf War: The World Arms Trade and its Arms Races in the 1990s", unpublished paper, cited by Platt, p.18

13.Ma'ariv (Israeli daily) June 14, 1992, citing reports in the Kuwaiti press.

14.Ha'aretz, July 13 and 15 1992; Ma'ariv, June 14, 1992; Richard F. Grimmett, Conventional Arms Transfers to the Third World, 1984-1991, CRS Report to Congress, July 1992

15.Flight International 17‑23 June 1992, p.14:

16.Ha'aretz, Sept. 9 1992, based on reports in L'Express

17. Ha'aretz, Sept. 17, 1992; The Washington Times (June 4 1992) reported that Iran had signed a $1 billion agreement with Russia to purchase 400 T‑72 tanks, and that the first shipment was delivered in the Spring of 1992.  According to the Stimson report, Iran has received or signed contracts to purchase 1500 tanks in 1991. p.20


18.For a discussion of the role of these sales from the Chinese perspective, see the chapter by Gerald Segal in this chapter.

19.Anthony Cordesman, "Saudi F-15 Sale Will Preserve the Balance in the Gulf", Armed Forces Journal International, November 1992, pp.31-36.


20.Platt, p.18

21.The Military Balance 1991‑92, IISS, p.99

22.Ha'aretz, August 13 and 14, 1992

23.The F-15 XP is an "export version" of the F-15E Strike Eagle, which is considered to be "the most modern version of the most capable fighter the United States has ever built", and is more advanced than aircraft sold to Israel.  The XP version, like the F-15E, will have ground attack capabilities, and although some F-15 equipment will not be included, and the performance of the radar and other components will be downgraded, the platform allows for subsequent improvement of these capabilities.  See the analysis in Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, "Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Arms Control, International Security and Science, and the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, 23 September 1992, and Tony Capaccio, "Saudi F-15s to Get Modified Radars, Targeting Gear", Defense Week, September 21, 1992.

24.Ha'aretz, August 13 and 14 1992

25.See, for example, Anthony Cordesman, "Saudi F-15 Sale Will Preserve the Balance in the Gulf", Armed Forces Journal International, November 1992, pp.31-36.

26.Robert Jervis, "Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma", World Politics 30, No. 2 (1978)

27.See Michael Mandelbaum, The Fate of Nations, ...

28."Dayan: Atoms, not Tanks, Should Defend Israel", Jerusalem Post, November 30, 1976

29.Shai Feldman, Israeli Nuclear Deterrence, Columbia University Press, New York, 1982, p.193

30.Platt, p.26

31.See the chapter by Julian Cooper in this volume.

32.Address of Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir to the UN General Assembly, June 7, 1988, quoted in Platt, p. 33

33.Yahya Sadowski, "Sandstorm with a Silver Lining?  Prospects for Arms Control in the Arab World", The Brookings Review, Summer 1992, p.7

34.Eliyahu Kanovsky, "The Economic Consequences of the Persian Gulf War: Accelerating OPEC's Demise", The Washington Institute for Near East Studies, Washington D.C., 1992, pp.64-70

35.Syria's economy was also aided by drug smuggling, which has been estimated to provide up to $5 billion annually.  Kanovsky, p.62

36.Patrick Clawson, "Unaffordable Ambitions: Syria's Military Build-up and Economic Crisis" Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Policy Paper No. 17, 1989, Ha'aretz November 3 1992

37.Michael Eisenstadt, "Arming for Peace? Syria's Elusive Quest for 'Strategic Parity", The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Policy Paper No. 31, 1992, p.37; see also David Butter, "Syria Reaps Rewards of Regional Policies", Middle East Economic Digest, September 27, 1991, p.4; Ha'aretz November 2 1992 ; Barbara Opall, "Syria to Buy $2 Billion in Soviet Weapons", Defense News, July 8, 1991, pp.3, 29, cited by Eisenstadt; Ha'aretz November 3 1992

38.MEMB 1993/4, pp.264-271

39.Kanovsky, pp.40-1; Shahram Chubin, Iran's National Security Policy: Capabilities, Intentions and Impact, The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1994

40.Sadowski, p.8

41.Kanovsky, p.16

42.See Geoffrey Kemp, The Control of the Middle East Arms Race, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC, 1992

43.See Gerald M. Steinberg, "Arms Control and Regional Security in the Middle East", Survival, Spring, 1994

44.Platt, p.31, citing the Washington Post, April 6 1991

45.Most American analysts view the Tripartite Declaration as a success, and blame the collapse of this regime on the 1955 Soviet/Czech arms deal.  This analysis, however, ignores the role of the Baghdad Pact and arms sales to Iraq as the trigger for the involvement of the USSR.  See, for example, Nadav Safran, From War to War: The Arab Israeli Confrontation 1948-1967, (New York, Pegasus, 1969, p.147)

46. After the 1967 war, the US imposed an embargo on arms sales, and proposed a limitation agreement with the Soviet Union.  The US also called for a UN sponsored agreement to register and limit arms shipments to the area.  Moscow, however, rejected the American proposals for joint action and negotiated restraints.  In May 1977, President Carter announced that arms transfers would be regarded as "an exceptional foreign policy implement."  The effects of these new policies in the Middle East were minimal, and the rate of arms sales and transfers increased.  Highly advanced weapons were sold, including AWACS (airborne warning and control system) aircraft and F-14 advanced combat aircraft for Iran (these were never delivered), as well as 60 F-15 combat aircraft for Saudi Arabia.  Israel was exempted from the overall ceiling imposed initially by Carter.  The Carter effort had no visible effect on other suppliers. France sold F-1 Mirage advanced combat aircraft to Iraq, and the Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) negotiations with the Soviet Union failed.  See H.Y. Schandler, R.G. Bell, R.F. Grimmett, and R. D. Shuey, "Implications of President Carter's Conventional Arms Transfer Policy", Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division, Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, Washington DC, September 1977; and Andrew Pierre, The Global Politics of Arms Sales, Princeton U. Press, 1982.


47.IISS Military Balance, 1991‑92, p.99


48.Alvin Rubenstein, "New World Order or Hollow Victory?", Foreign Affairs 70, No. 4 (Fall 1991)

49.Michael Eisenstadt, "Arming for Peace? Syria's Elusive Quest for 'Strategic Parity", The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Policy Paper No. 31, 1992

50.Middle East Military Balance, 1989-1990, Joseph Alpher, Zeev Eytan, and Dov Tamari, editors, Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University, 1991.

51.Arms Control Today, February 21, 1991, p.4

52.The multilateral working group on security arms control, that was convened as part of the Arab-Israeli peace process, began by focusing on confidence building measures, and arms control of any kind is viewed as a later stage.

53.In some cases, it can be argued that partial and incomplete limitation efforts are counterproductive, increasing the level of arms and possibilities of conflict.  Iraq was an NPT signatory and a member of the Board of Governors, but this agreement did not prevent Saddam Hussein from obtaining nuclear weapons technology.  Similarly, while Israel was pressured by the US to accept the limitations of the MTCR, Syria and Iran have increased their arsenals of strategic missiles. 

54.Congressional Budget Office

55.Platt, p.38

56.See Martin Navias, "Ballistic Missile Proliferation in the Third World", Adelphi Paper 252, IISS, Summer 1990

57.Danny Shoham, Chemical Weapons in Egypt and Syria: Development, Capability, and Safeguards, (Hebrew), BESA Center for Strategic Studies, Bar Ilan University, 1995

58.See the chapter by Jan Nolan in this volume.

59.Ha'aretz December 3 1992


Biographical note:


     Gerald Steinberg teaches Political Studies at Bar‑Ilan University and International Relations at Hebrew University, and is a Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Middle East Arms Control Program at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan.  He completed a BA and MSc in physics at the University of California and received his doctorate in international relations from Cornell University in 1981.  His research focuses on military strategy and technology, arms control, and the impact of new technology on international relations.  He participates in the track-two activities of the Middle East Working Group on Arms Control and Regional Security.  Recent publications include "Arms Control in the Middle East" in the Encyclopedia of Arms Control and Disarmament, published by Scribners (1993), "Arms Control and Regional Security in the Middle East" in Survival, and Lost in Space:  The Domestic Politics of the Strategic Defense Initiative published by IGCC and Lexington Books.