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Saudi Arabia Table of Contents

Saudi Arabia

Collective Security under the Gulf Cooperation Council

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was formed by the six Persian Gulf states of the Arabian Peninsula--Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates--in 1981 to confront their security challenges collectively. The immediate objective was to protect themselves from the threat posed by the Iran-Iraq War and Iranian-inspired activist Islamism (also seen as fundamentalism). In a series of meetings, chiefs of staff and defense ministers of the gulf states developed plans for mutual defense and launched efforts to form a joint command and a joint defense network.

Ground and air units of the six member states carried out several multilateral exercises between 1983 and 1987 under the code name of Peninsula Shield. Military assistance, funded mainly by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, was extended to Bahrain for up-to- date fighter aircraft and a modern air base, and to Oman to improve its defensive capability at the Strait of Hormuz. The GCC planned to integrate naval and ground radar systems and to create a combined air control and warning system based on Saudi AWACS aircraft. Problems of compatibility with different communication and electronic systems, however, delayed the introduction of these programs. In 1984 the GCC defense ministers agreed on the creation of a two-brigade (10,000-man) Peninsula Shield Force. This joint intervention force was based in Saudi Arabia near King Khalid Military City at Hafar al Batin under the command of a Saudi officer (see fig. 9). In addition to a headquarters staff, the force consisted of one infantry brigade of about 5,000 men with elements from all GCC states in 1992, according to The Military Balance. Its mission, however, had not been publicly defined. It was not clear, for example, whether the joint force would have authority to intervene in a domestic emergency. The force could be enlarged at a time of threat; it was apparently reinforced prior to the Persian Gulf War in 1991 but did not take part in the war as a distinct unit.


Figure 9. Major Military Installations, 1992

In March 1991, after the conclusion of the Persian Gulf War, the six members of the GCC, together with Egypt and Syria, declared their intention to establish a deterrent force to protect Kuwait, with Egypt and Syria to provide the bulk of the troops and the GCC states to provide the financing. The plan subsequently encountered a series of setbacks. At year's end, there appeared little chance that the Arab deterrent force would be installed. In the meantime, Kuwait had succeeded in obtaining security commitments from the United States and Britain and arranged for the prepositioning of United States military equipment.

Data as of December 1992