Report: Mideast militaries, except Israel's, are behind the curve

Monday, May 3, 2004

Despite a huge investment, Middle East militaries remain poorly trained and equipped.

A report by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said the militaries of Iran and the Arab world continue to fall behind that of their Western counterparts. The report, authored by senior fellow and former Pentagon official Anthony Cordesman, said virtually all of the militaries in the Middle East have failed to properly train their soldiers and keep apace of the revolution in military affairs.

Israel has been the only military in the Middle East that has largely kept up with advancements in defense technology and doctrine. Other militaries in the region have largely failed to exploit the advanced platforms and systems obtained from the United States and other suppliers, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Most Arab land force reserve manpower has little training, second- or third-rate equipment, and little capability in maneuver and demanding combined arms warfare," the report, Middle East Military Balance of 2004, said. "Modern military forces are so expensive that Middle Eastern states cannot afford to use much of their total manpower pool because they cannot fund suitable equipment, training, and sustainability."

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The 453-page report said despite major investments, particularly by U.S. allies in the region, Middle East militaries remain locked out of key defense assets. They include space-based systems, electronic warfare systems, intelligence platforms, communications systems and beyond-visual-range imagery and targeting.

"No Middle Eastern country has meaningful access to space-based systems, or advanced theater reconnaissance and intelligence systems," the report said. "Most lack sophisticated reconnaissance, intelligence, and targeting assets."

The report, released in March 2004, said most Middle East militaries have poor communications security as well as signals intelligence and communications intelligence. The study said these militaries cannot provide the software and connectivity necessary to fully exploit even commercial or ordinary military systems.

Moreover, the militaries lack the C4I/BM [command, control, communications, computer, intelligence-battle management] capability to direct deep strikes as well as large-scale armor and artillery operations.

The report said most Middle Eastern short-range air defense systems do not protect against attacks by stand-off precision weapons or those using stealth.

The report does not envision a change in spending trends by Middle East militaries for the rest of the decade. Cordesman said even Israel and Egypt, which receive more than $3.3 billion a year from the United States in military aid, lack the resources to properly modernize their militaries.

"At this point in time, no Middle Eastern state is currently spending the resources necessary to fully sustain the present size of its force structure, modernize it in ways that are competitive with military modernization in the West, and bring it to the proper level of readiness and sustainment," the report said. "Even Egypt and Israel countries receiving massive U.S. military aid are experiencing serious recapitalization problems. Barring a massive change in military spending, these problems will generally get worse for at least the next half decade."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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