The Military Dynamics of the Middle East and North Africa

The Burke Chair has issued an updated version of an e-book-length assessment of the military dynamics of the Middle East and North Africa. The update reacts to a range of early comments on the initial working draft, and it includes a revised assessment of the challenges in open-source reporting on military transfers, outside military support, military spending, and arms transfers as a measure of military dynamics. The new analysis also includes expanded analysis of the modernization, force readiness, and military capabilities of each country in the MENA region; the role of non-state actors; and China’s strategic interests.

It addresses the broad patterns in the strategic goals and military forces shaping the region, the strengths and weaknesses in the data available, the broad patterns in military spending, the burden defense spending places on national economies, and the trends in arms transfers.

The book then address each MENA country separately from Morocco to Yemen with summaries for three subregions: North Africa, the Arab-Israel Confrontation states, and the Persian/Arab Gulf. It provides comparative set of military balances for every MENA country as well as a nation-by-nation summary of each nation’s current strategic position; ongoing security and military development; relations with its neighbors; and the role of the U.S., Europe, Russia, China and other outside power.

It addresses the many cases where civil conflict and internal tension ensure that there is no clear pattern of national military development, the fact that regime survival is often the major strategic objective of its ruling elite, and the new role being played by non-state actors. It also addresses the impact of hybrid warfare and gray area operations as well as the shifts being caused by factors like the proliferation of new tactics, precision guided weapons, progress towards multidomain warfare – as well as the impact of political unrest and civil war in which the general population is used as shields and elements in actual combat.

The e-book ends with an assessment of the near-term trends affecting both MENA states and outside powers – focusing on the uncertainties in the U.S. role, Russia’s “return” to the region, and the possible emergence of China as a major regional power.

The e-book is entitled The Military Dynamics of the Middle East and North Africa, and is available for download at

It has the following table of contents:


A separate Analytic Appendix, entitled, Analytic Appendix: Additional Data on Detailed Patterns in MENA Arms Transfers, is available at, covering the SIPRI data on the recent national sources of arms transfers to each country by exporting country and the patterns in imports by major weapons type. It also draws on a State Department database to compare official estimates of recent arms transfer by the U.S., Major West European Powers, Russia, and China. These data supplement the summary analyses in each country-by-country section of the main report.

Finally, a separate Burke Chair study presents the many political, economic, and social issues that making the current military spending patterns a major problem for national development – problems greatly increased by the Covid-19 crisis. This report is entitled The Greater Middle East: From the “Arab Spring” to the “Axis of Failed States,” and is available on the CSIS website at

Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. He has served as a consultant on Afghanistan to the United States Department of Defense and the United States Department of State.