How Powerful Is Saudi Arabia? Saudi Arab military power | Relationship with Iran, Qatar, and Turkey


Saudi Arab is the 13th largest country by its size, covering around two million square kilometers. Saudi Arab military power is at it’s might due to modern weapon technology supported by the USA. Saudi Arabia possesses around 17 percent of the world’s proven petroleum reserves.

The oil and gas sector accounts for about 50 percent of gross domestic product, and about 70 percent of export earnings. Apart from petroleum, the Kingdom’s other natural resources include natural gas, iron ore, gold, and copper.
Saudis are the custodian of the holy cities of Makkah and Madina. The title was sometimes regarded to denote the de facto Caliph of Islam.

Saudi key rival in the middle east is Iran. Saudi Arab and Iran are in a war to dominate the region. These countries are carrying out proxy wars in Syria and Yemen to increase their influence in the middle east. Saudi relations with Qatar and Turkey are also unpleasant. President Erdogan accused the Saudi government of being non-Islamic. Saudi Arab military power is the key dynamic of their relationship with other middle eastern or Gulf countries especially their tussle with Iran.

Geographical loc ation:


Saudi Arab occupies 80% of the Arabian Peninsula and is bordered by Iraq, Jordon, Kuwait, UAE, Yemen, and Oman. Its extensive coastlines on the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea provide great leverage on shipping (especially crude oil) through the Persian Gulf and the Suez Canal.

Geographical Location of Saudi Arabia on map which highlights there Power Dynamics.

Saudi Arab is a desert, and like every desert, it faces a shortage of water. There are no rivers or lakes or areas of abundant natural vegetation because rainfall is scarce to non-existent. Over the centuries, through oases and then desalination plants, the Saudi people have found enough water to support their daily lives. The country is at a very strategic location for the Oil Trade as it has captured a huge share of the market, such an immense revenue helps in increasing Saudi Arab military power.

Saudi Arab is the place of the birth of Islam. Islam grew from Saudi Arabia and spread throughout the world. Muslims all across the world respect Saudi Arab and its government as they are the custodian of the Makkah and Madina. Each year almost two million Muslims from the world visit the holy cities for Pilgrimage, which significantly contributes to its GDP.


Saudi Arab has the 17th largest GDP in the world with a worth of $780 billion. According to GDP per capita, Saudi Arab holds the 40th position in the world. Saudi Arab is predominantly an oil-based economy. It is the largest exporter of petroleum in the world and the second-largest producer of oil. No country can rely on Natural resources merely, because sooner or later it will deplete. The pie chart describes Saudi’s Export relations and its Size. Source Britannica:

Saudi Arabia Major Export Sources as per 2016 showing their economical relations.

If all the oil reserves in Saudia get depleted, Saudi has no other source of income. For that, the Saudi Government is now trying to reduce its dependency on oil and shift to more diverse economic resources. Another source of income for Saudi Arab is Muslim pilgrimage. Millions of Muslims visit Saudia each year for pilgrimage.

Together the Hajj and the Umrah add $12 billion to Saudi Arabia’s GDP per year, which accounts for 20 percent of the country’s non-oil GDP and seven percent of total GDP. Its economical might have supported the expansion of Saudi Arab military power with the immense import of military-grade weapons from America.

Saudi Arabia Major Import Sources as per 2016 showing their economical relations.

Saudi’s are dependant on other countries for various things especially their defense import is quite high.

Saudi Arab Military Power

Saudi Arab is the largest importer of weapons from the United States. In 2017 Saudi made the biggest arms deal in human history with the US, according to which the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia will purchase arms from the United States totaling US$110 billion immediately, and $350 billion over 10 years. Saudi Arabia has the world’s third-largest defense budget. It spends 8% of its GDP on its defense. Global firepower ranks Saudi Arabia military as the 17th strongest military in the world.

Let’s look at the military strength of Saudia.
Total Personnel: 803,000
Active Personnel: 478,000
Reserve Personnel: 325,000
Tank Strength: 1,062
Armed Fighting Vehicles: 12,825
Air Strength: 879
Fighter Air Craft: 270
Naval strength 55
Submarines 0


Saudi Arab is a Sunni Muslim majority country while Iran is a Shia majority country. Both are carrying out proxy wars Yemen and Syria. The rivalry also extends to disputes in Bahrain, Lebanon, Qatar, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Morocco, as well as broader competition in North and East Africa, parts of South Asia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. Saudis are supporting Sunni militias, while Iran is supporting Shia militias in the region.

The conflict between Saudi Arab and Qatar is going on since 2011. Qatar supported the Arab uprising, while Saudi opposed it. Arab uprising was a series of anti-government, rebellious protests which resulted in the overthrow of dictators. It started from Tunisia and spread to Libya, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, and Bahrain. Saudi Arab military power is the key in their conflict with various countries as they have been part of various Military effort against neighbouring countries.

Saudis worried that this could ignite the public and they can start a protest against the dictatorship in Saudia, which will put their government in danger. The same situation happened in 1979 in Iran, when the Pahlevi dynasty was overthrown by the public, and the government was replaced with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Khomeini. Saudis fear the same could happen with them.

So any country that supported the uprising, Saudia made that its enemy. Qatar openly supported the uprising as its government knew that the public is satisfied with them. Both states are allies of the United States and have avoided direct conflict with one another. Turkey sided with Qatar, president of Turkey Tayyip Erdogan accused Saudi Arabia of Being Heretic and non-Islamic. In March 2018, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman referred to Turkey as part of a “triangle of evil” alongside Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.



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