05.09.2018 | Iran: Military Spending, Modernization, and the Shifting Military Balance in the Gulf
by Anthony H. Cordesman and Nicholas Harrington - CSIS
The military balance between Iran, its Arab neighbors, and the United States has been a critical military issue in the Middle East since at least the rise of Nasser in the 1950s. Iran, Iraq, and the other Gulf states have been the scene of a major arms race since the mid-1950s. The fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979 and rise of Khomeini helped trigger a major war between Iran and Iraq that lasted from 1980 to 1988, and came to involve every Gulf state and the U.S. The economic impact of the war helped trigger the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and a subsequent war to liberate Kuwait in 1990-1991. Its aftermath then led to the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the rise of violent Islamist extremism, and ongoing struggle against ISIS.
The risks this arms race presents in terms of a future conflict have not diminished with time, and many elements of the regional arms race have accelerated sharply in recent years. Clashes with Iran in the Gulf, struggles for influence in Iraq and Syria, and the war in Yemen all act as warnings that new rounds of conflict are possible. The Iranian reactions to the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran, and the U.S. response also indicate new rounds of conflict are possible.
The Burke Chair at CSIS is issuing a new major new 185-page report that uses a wide range of tables and graphs to trace the history of the Gulf arms race in terms of military expenditures, arms transfers, and comparative rates of military modernization. In the process, it examines the economic burden on the Gulf states of these military expenditures and arms transfers, the recent shifts in the balance in terms of the major elements of conventional warfighting capability, and the impact of a steady shift towards options for asymmetric warfare.
Read the rest of the report online https://www.csis.org/analysis/iran-military-spending-modernization-and-shifting-military-balance-gulf