“Saudi Arabia has deployed thousands of troops from Egypt and Pakistan along its frontier with Iraq, amid fears of invasion by the al-Qaeda splinter group that has declared a radical Islamic state across the border. Panicked by the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Isis), Riyadh has taken the drastic step of calling in military assistance from its close allies ……. Saudi Arabia spent an estimated GBP 35 billion on defense last year……………”
Most Arab regimes spend a lot of money on importing weapons, even though many, nay most of them face no external threat. But their focus is not defense against a foreign enemy. The priority is to keep the regimes, the ruling elites, the oligarchies, in power. The target, especially since the Arab Uprisings in 2011, has been potential domestic unrest.
Foreign mercenaries are not new in the Persian Gulf countries. Bahrain has been notorious for importing some of the nastiest of them from countries like humorless Jordan, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq (mainly former Baathists), among others. The rulers of Bahrain, who are also seriously humor-challenged, need mercenaries because they refuse to hire much of their own citizens.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) have often relied on foreign military personnel, but they famously went even more international recently. The ruling potentates went ahead in 2011 and reportedly formed an elite parallel mercenary army organized by former Blackwater officials. The mercenaries are chosen from Colombia, South Africa, Australia, and other places. Colombian media even reported that country was facing a shortage of qualified military officers because of the money offered veterans by the UAE (which has very few citizens among its population).
Saudi Arabia does not face the same population problems as Bahrain or the UAE. About 15 million of its 24 million population are citizens, and thus eligible to serve in the military and security services. Yet their have been reports over the past few years of secret Saudi agreements with governments of Pakistan, Malaysia, and others to supply mercenary forces “when needed”.
Now this new report of Egyptian forces makes some sense. Egypt has a huge reserve of under-employed military personnel (all security personnel are probably needed t home these days). Egypt is not facing any foreign threats, contrary to what local media reports (unless Al Sisi goes foolish and intervenes in Libya). With many of the Muslim Brotherhood opposition either shot by the military or hanged or in prison, they can afford to send a few thousand to Riyadh.
Yet it is highly unlikely that the Al Saud will openly rely on foreign mercenaries. They can’t exactly aspire to become an important regional player and OPENLY depend on foreign mercenaries to defend the regime.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum