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November 03 2013

Why is Saudi Arabia changing its foreign policy ? Interview with Toby Craig Jones

Why is Saudi Arabia changing its foreign policy ?
Interview with Toby Craig Jones

Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, the Saudis have become much more active regionally. Not just in Syria, but also in Yemen and Bahrain. According to Saudi insider and royal adviser Nawaf Obaid, the Saudis are embarking on a doctrinal shift towards a more “activist foreign policy”. Is this because the Saudis are reacting to a vacuum in U.S. leadership in the region?

JONES : It’s an interesting question, whether or not the Saudis are acting in an American vacuum. But I actually think the U.S. has more consistently supported the Saudi position than they’ve opposed it, most visibly in Bahrain and in Yemen. And also in Egypt where the United States now supports the military regime and has not really had any problems with the coup there this past summer which was certainly delightful to the Saudis.

To answer your original question, yes, the Saudis have become more active in the region, (...)

Overall, the Saudi concerns and reasons for the recent increase in foreign political activity comes down to three issues:

First, there’s Syria, Bahrain and the fear of Iranian regional hegemony. The increase in Saudi activity here is best seen through the lens of a balance of power consideration: They want to check Iranian ambitions in the region. (...)

The second issue has to do with fears about democratic transition and change. The Saudis are simply fearful that there could be more support in the region for democratic politics. They want to support the status quo, the old autocrats and all the perquisites that follow from that.

The third thing is connected to the second issue. If there is a popular change in government and more people have a say in the workings of domestic political economy, decision making could shift to more populist kinds of politics. The consequences of that for the Saudis in particular of course would be, that they would lose their grip over the ability to generate massive wealth for themselves and to live their lives of considerable privilege. Being a Saudi not only means that you have power over the Arabian peninsula, it also means that you have fantastic wealth, you know, gold plated 747′s [Boeing airliners], multiple palaces, the ability to travel and so on. It’s a business as much as it is a country, and the Saudis fear the possible passing of their ability to control that.

Autre question abordée : les dirigeants de l’Arabie ont-ils vraiment les moyens et le désir de rompre avec les Etats-Unis ?

October 21 2013

Syria : Battle for Qalamoun May Be Felt in Lebanon

Syria: Battle for Qalamoun May Be Felt in Lebanon

The Qalamoun battle may have repercussions on the Lebanese interior because Liwa al-Islam, which is led by Zahran Alloush, has become the main opposition force on Lebanon’s eastern slopes in Arsal al-Ward, the Rankous Plain, and Hawsh al-Arab. That threat is serious because Alloush, who has set up his base of operations in the area, has returned from a visit to Saudi Arabia last week, where he met his financial and military authority, the director of Saudi intelligence Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

Bandar holds a strong military card with which to pressure the Lebanese interior: the deployment on the outskirts of the Bekaa of 3,000 to 5,000 Liwa al-Islam fighters and an armed battalion having 23 T-72 tanks.

Saudi Arabia's Pointless Theatrics «

Saudi Arabia’s Pointless Theatrics «

by Thomas W. Lippman

Unless the people who run Saudi Arabia know something nobody else does, it’s difficult to see what they hope to achieve by turning down a seat on the United Nations Security Council that the kingdom had worked assiduously to gain. It appears to be the kind of theatrical but pointless gesture the Saudis have always avoided — not on a par with shutting down the U.S. government for no gain, perhaps, but absurd in its own way. The world might have expected this from the late, unlamented Muammar Qadhafi, but not from Saudi Arabia.

Do the Saudis actually believe that the Security Council, chastened by Riyadh’s disapproval, will now force Israel to pull out of the West Bank, or unite to drive Bashar al-Assad out of power in Syria, or head off a possible rapprochement between the United States and Iran? Surely they know better. If they harbor such strong resentment against the Security Council, would they not have more influence over the group’s performance from the inside? And why seek the seat in the first place if they thought the elite group they were trying to join was impotent and feckless, as the statement from the Saudi Foreign Ministry announcing the decision said it was? It is hard to dispute the New York Times’s characterization of the decision as “a self-destructive temper tantrum.”

Saudi Arabia has traditionally pursued its international objectives through quiet diplomacy rather than open confrontation or grand gestures. It may well be that the Saudis would have been uncomfortable on the Security Council, where they might have been forced to take public positions on issues outside their relatively narrow range of interests — on territorial disputes in the Pacific, for example, or peacekeeping deployments in Africa. Did no one in Riyadh think that during the two years the kingdom campaigned for the election to one of the prized non-permanent seats? Apparently not, because the kingdom’s diplomats in Riyadh and New York were celebrating the election as a great success until they were sandbagged on Friday by the Foreign Ministry statement.

October 04 2013

Pour son premier déplacement à l'étranger, le président égyptien par intérim ira en Arabie Saoudite…

Pour son premier déplacement à l’étranger, le président égyptien par intérim ira en Arabie Saoudite - Ahram Online

Tout comme M.Morsi, ce qui lui avait valu des critiques.

Egypt’s Interim President Adly Mansour will make his first official visit to Saudi Arabia on 7 October, followed by brief trips to the UAE and Kuwait.


September 13 2013

Muftah - Unemployment in Saudi Arabia : a Ticking Time Bomb ?

Muftah - Unemployment in Saudi Arabia : a Ticking Time Bomb ?

Article très intéressant sur le chômage en Arabie Saoudite. Une « bombe à retardement prête à exploser », prévient l’auteur.

Despite being the world’s main oil producer, Saudi Arabia has difficulties providing enough jobs for its young population.
The Kingdom’s unemployment problem is a consequence of fundamental and systematic shortcomings, such as a lack of proper education, the difficulty in a religiously conservative society with integrating women into the workforce, and a stagnant private sector dependent on foreign workers.

#économie #emploi #ArabieSaoudite #discrimination

September 07 2013

Syria intervention plans fuelled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concerns | Nafeez Ahmed |…

Syria intervention plans fuelled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concerns | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment |

In 2009 - the same year former French foreign minister Dumas alleges the British began planning operations in Syria - Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets - albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad’s rationale was “to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas.”

Instead, the following year, Assad pursued negotiations for an alternative $10 billion pipeline plan with Iran, across Iraq to Syria, that would also potentially allow Iran to supply gas to Europe from its South Pars field shared with Qatar. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project was signed in July 2012 - just as Syria’s civil war was spreading to Damascus and Aleppo - and earlier this year Iraq signed a framework agreement for construction of the gas pipelines.

The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline plan was a “direct slap in the face” to Qatar’s plans. No wonder Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, in a failed attempt to bribe Russia to switch sides, told President Vladmir Putin that “whatever regime comes after” Assad, it will be “completely” in Saudi Arabia’s hands and will “not sign any agreement allowing any Gulf country to transport its gas across Syria to Europe and compete with Russian gas exports”, according to diplomatic sources. When Putin refused, the Prince vowed military action.

It would seem that contradictory self-serving Saudi and Qatari oil interests are pulling the strings of an equally self-serving oil-focused US policy in Syria, if not the wider region. It is this - the problem of establishing a pliable opposition which the US and its oil allies feel confident will play ball, pipeline-style, in a post-Assad Syria - that will determine the nature of any prospective intervention: not concern for Syrian life.

#Syrie #Russie #Arabie_saoudite #Iran #Europe #Bandar #gazoducs #pipelines

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

September 01 2013

Saudis Try to Gather Support for a Strike -

Saudis Try to Gather Support for a Strike -

Saudi Arabia and the other oil-rich Persian Gulf monarchies on Sunday stepped up their efforts to drum up support for Western airstrikes against Syria.

August 28 2013

Arab League states' views on Syria response far from uniform

Arab League states’ views on Syria response far from uniform

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait pushed for the resolution blaming the Syrian regime for the attack. The Saudi foreign minister, Saud Al Faisal, speaking later in Jeddah, said that Syria’s use of chemical weapons required a “firm and serious” response, adding that Mr Al Assad’s government had “lost its Arab identity and is no longer affiliated in any way for the Syrian civilisation”.

But Algeria objected to language in the resolution, including wording carried over from recent league resolutions on Syria, supporting the right of member countries to assist Syrians fighting in “self defence”. Iraq also abstained from voting on that paragraph, as well as one condemning the Syrian regime for the chemical weapons attack.

Egypt’s government, meanwhile, urged countries to wait for the results of an investigation by UN weapons inspectors in Damascus before assigning blame for a chemical attack. Lebanon abstained from voting on the resolution altogether.

These divisions over Syria are not new, but they have widened in recent months.

August 26 2013

August 20 2013

Why Saudi Arabia is taking a risk by backing the Egyptian coup | David Hearst | Comment is free |…

Why Saudi Arabia is taking a risk by backing the Egyptian coup | David Hearst | Comment is free |

Why has the kingdom, famed for its caution on the diplomatic stage, put all its eggs in one basket, which, considering the volatility in Egypt, remains fragile and unpredictable. Who knows which side in Egypt will prevail, and if that is so, why back the coup leader General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi so publicly ? Sisi thanked the kingdom in fulsome terms. He said that the Saudi intervention was unprecedented since the Yom Kippur 1973 war with Israel. Praise indeed.

For Dr Maha Azzam, associate fellow of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, the kingdom’s fire-breathing support for the coup comes as little surprise. Not only had they been astonished by Washington’s abandonment of the kingdom’s closest regional ally in Hosni Mubarak, a point they made very clear during his trial. They had seen him replaced, at the polls, by the Brotherhood, which challenged the kingdom’s claim to be the protector of Islam.

Azzam said: “What they had was a lethal equation, democracy plus Islamism, albeit under the Muslim Brotherhood. That was a lethal concoction in undermining the kingdom’s own legitimacy in the long run. They know full well they do not want democracy, but to have another group representing Islam was intolerable.”

King Abdullah has good reason to fear the Brotherhood, which has been getting unprecedented support in Saudi Arabia since the 3 July coup. Sympathy for Mohamed Morsi has filled Twitter feeds in the country. Support for Morsi on social media has its own emblem, a four-fingered salute, known as the sign of Rabaa.

It is one thing to upset the middle class and the intelligentsia, but quite another to have the country’s religious scholars denounce you. A group of 56 of them did so, by issuing a statement describing the events of 3 July as “unquestionably a military coup and an unlawful and illicit criminal act”. The king has also been attacked in a sermon by a sheikh at the al-Masjid al-Nabawi mosque in Medina, Islam’s second holiest site.

The royal family have responded to the campaign they are facing on social media by sacking a Kuwaiti TV preacher with Brotherhood links. Tareq al-Suwaidan, who has more than 1.9 million Twitter followers, was told that there is no place for those who carry deviant thoughts at the Al Resalah channel.

But this is a dangerous strategy. As president, Morsi resisted calling his regional enemies out for the money and support they gave to Egyptian opposition politicians, parties and private television channels for good reason. Up to 2 million Egyptians are employed as guest workers in the kingdom and their remittances were important for an economy on its knees. He feared that the Saudis would kick them out if he accused them of undermining his presidency. However today, Egyptian ex-pats are not the Brotherhood’s problem or responsibility. What could well follow is an unrestrained campaign by its members to destabilise the Saudi and UAE regimes.

Azzam said : “For the US and EU, there is very little grey area. Either you have authoritarian regimes, including Assad or you have the Arab spring. The authoritarian regimes are saying: ’If we use enough force, we can quell the tide of democracy.’ For Washington it means that there is no regional player that can now mediate with the Egyptian military. No one that can play the role of good cop.”

The battles lines have now been clearly drawn throughout the Arab world. The military coup in Egypt, and Saudi support for it, represents an attempt to turn the clock back, to halt the wave of democratisation heralded by the toppling of Arab dictators. It is unlikely to be the final word or battle in what promises to be an epic struggle .

Saudi Arabia Blames America For the Turmoil in Egypt

Saudi Arabia Blames America For the Turmoil in Egypt

In an unprecedented comment this weekend, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah blamed American “ignorance” for the crisis in Egypt. Without mentioning America by name, the king blamed Washington’s “interference” in Arab politics for the last two years of turmoil.

In a scathing statement, the king urged Muslims to stand behind the Egyptian Army in fighting terrorism and extremism. Speaking in sorrow, Abdullah blamed outsiders ignorant of Arabism, Islam, and Egypt for senseless interference in the politics of the Arab world’s most populous state. Clearly referring to President Obama’s decision two years ago to push for Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, the king suggested Washington played with fire and has now been burned.

August 19 2013

The New Axis of Evil : Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Pentagon Are Backing Egypt's Bloody Crackdown |…

The New Axis of Evil: Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Pentagon Are Backing Egypt’s Bloody Crackdown | Pepe Escobar | 16 août

Perception is everything. Informed opinion all across the Middle East immediately identifies [Robert] Ford as a creepy death squad facilitator. His CV prior to Syria - where he legitimized the “rebels” - is matchless; sidekick to sinister John Negroponte promoting the “Salvador Option” in Iraq in 2004. The “Salvador Option” is code for US-sponsored death squads, a tactic first applied in El Salvador (by Negroponte) in the 1980s (causing at least 75,000 deaths) but with deep origins in Latin America in the late 1960s throughout the 1970s. 

Sisi will keep playing his game according to his own master plan - bolstering the narrative myth that the Egyptian army defends the nation and its institutions when in fact defending its immense socio-economic privileges. Forget about civilian oversight. And forget about any possible independent political party - or movement - in Egypt. 

As for Washington, MB or “deep state”, even a civil war in Egypt - Arabs killing Arabs, divide and rule ad infinitum - that’s fine, as long as there is no threat to Israel. 

With Israel possibly mulling another invasion of Lebanon; the Kerry “peace process” an excuse for more settlements in Palestine; Bandar Bush back practicing the dark arts; the pre-empting of any possible solution to the Iranian nuclear dossier; Egypt in civil war; Syria and also Iraq bleeding to death, what’s left is the certified proliferation of all kinds of axes, and all kinds of evil.


There’s no other way of saying it; from Washington’s point of view, Arabs can kill each other to Kingdom Come, be it Sunnis against Shiites, jihadis against secularists, peasants against urbanites, and Egyptians against Egyptians. The only thing that matters is the Camp David agreements; and nobody is allowed to antagonize Israel.

August 12 2013

Royal Rivalry in the Levant : Saudi Arabia and Qatar Duel over Syria | The Jamestown Foundation

Royal Rivalry in the Levant: Saudi Arabia and Qatar Duel over Syria | The Jamestown Foundation

Due to Syria’s alliance with Iran and Hezbollah – a bloc known as the “Resistance Axis” – the uprising in Syria quickly assumed geopolitical overtones. The insurrection in Syria afforded the GCC a chance to undercut Iranian influence in the Middle East. In this regard, the resort to sectarian vitriol by the Sunni-led monarchies and affiliated clergy emphasizing the Shi’a pedigree of the Islamic Republic and the prominent Alawite face of the Ba’athist regime was calibrated to stir up religious tensions between Sunni and Shi’a believers. The provision of support for radical Islamist movements, especially ultraconservative Salafist groups, has been central to the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members. Consequently, the positions of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are often portrayed interchangeably when it comes to their shared goal of toppling the Ba’athist regime. Their fellow GCC allies, particularly the Sunni-led monarchies representing the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Bahrain, as well as wealthy private donors, religious associations and ordinary individuals, have likewise provided extensive moral, financial and logistical support to the political and armed factions struggling against the Ba’athist regime (al-Monitor, July 2; The National [Abu Dhabi], February 3). Saudi Arabia in particular saw the uprising in Syria as an opportunity to undermine the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition in Lebanon while strengthening the March 14 coalition headed by the Sunni-led Future Movement.

August 04 2013

Back to the Future for US Policy In Egypt and Syria - Vali Nasr

Back to the Future for US Policy In Egypt and Syria - Vali Nasr

The logic of Western insouciance and Arab support for the Egyptian coup is at odds with international support for the Syrian opposition, and now it looks as if it is Egypt, not Syria, that will define regional as well as international postures toward Syria.

In Egypt, Saudi Arabia stands with the military, but in Syria with the opposition. Saudi investment in Egypt now exceeds its commitment to Syria, and in Egypt, containing the Brotherhood is what matters. That imperative will trump the Saudis’ penchant for undoing Assad and diminishing Iran’s presence in the Levant. With Assad gone, Syria is likely to be ruled by the Brotherhood, and then Riyadh would face the same quandary it faced in Egypt. With the dye cast in Cairo, and the Brotherhood now an enemy of Riyadh, the Saudi position on Syria is bound to shift away from bringing down Assad to preventing the rise of the Brotherhood.

The same change in outlook is palpable in Washington. Despite President Barack Obama’s rhetoric, the United States has been more concerned with terrorism than democracy in the Middle East and does not think Islamists can or will contend with extremists in their midst. That has long been Moscow’s worry.

Je ne suis pas du tout d’accord avec cette analyse de Vasr, qui se base sur l’idée que « the containment of Islamism strategy » serait un objectif authentique des États-Unis – alors que je pense évidemment l’exact contraire –, mais je référence parce que je pense que ce genre de calculs motive de nombreux comportements dans la région et dans le monde.

July 29 2013

Exclusive : How Saudi Arabia picked leader of the Syrian exile opposition

Exclusive: How Saudi Arabia picked leader of the Syrian exile opposition

This is what has not been reported about how Saudi Arabia picked the leader of the Syrian National Coalition, with the full support of the (fake) progressive boy of Bandar, Michel Kilu.  Ahmad Al-Jarba, the tribal polygamist who was unknown in opposition circles inside and outside Syria, was picked purely because he is related by marriage to Saudi King Abdullah.  The Saudi King is currently married to two sisters from Al-Jarba family: Tadi and Malika Al-Jarba (his other two wives are from the Sha’lan and the Muhanna families.)  Enjoy your Syrian polygamist “revolution”.

PS Correction. Tadi and Malikah are cousins and not sisters.

July 04 2013

Playing Politics With Religion -

Playing Politics With Religion -


The fact that Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite and that many of the leading military forces are controlled by Alawite officers is an obviously salient factor in exacerbating sectarian tensions in Syria. But the regime is not Alawite in any religious sense. Like the ostensibly “Sunni” regime of Saddam Hussein that long brutalized Iraq, it is essentially despotic.


The main characteristic of these regimes has not been sectarianism; they manipulate any division among their people to secure and keep power. By contrast, the dynasties of Saudi Arabia and Qatar reject religious pluralism as a matter of state ideology. Both countries have encouraged an extraordinary outpouring of sectarian incitement against the Shiites of the Arab world in a bid to retain absolute power and to undermine what they regard as their most formidable regional foe: Shiite Iran. Tehran has close ties to Damascus and is patron to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

But the intervention by Saudi Arabia and Qatar against the Assad regime is not necessarily for sectarian reasons. Rather, both monarchies have secular interests, namely preserving the region's pro-Western petroleum order, which provides great benefits to the Saud and Thani regimes. To the extent that they are involved in a major struggle against Iran, they do so in explicit coordination with the United States.

Thus the sectarian dimension cannot and must not be isolated from the far more obvious and salient secular geopolitical one. It is politics that pushes sectarianism, that provides it with the enabling context, and that now encourages and legitimates the devastating violence across sectarian lines that is ravaging Syria and Iraq and Lebanon.

#instrumentalisation_du_religieux ressorts du #sectarisme #moyen_orient #géopolitique

Es-ce un signe de l'approfondissement du désaccord entre Aoun et le Hezbollah - prorogation de la…

Es-ce un signe de l'approfondissement du désaccord entre Aoun et le Hezbollah - prorogation de la chambre, de Kahwagi, contentieux Aoun-Berry, ... - ou bien un simple message d'avertissement envoyé par le général au cheikh Nasrallah ? En tout cas Aoun a rencontré l'ambassadeur saoudien au Liban Ali Awad Asiri :

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Lebanon paid a rare visit Tuesday to Hezbollah's main Christian ally Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, but sources from his party said the talks were not a sign that the veteran leader was shifting alliances.
Hours before the visit, Ambassador Ali Awad Asiri said that Hezbollah's involvement in Syria endangered Lebanon's stability and that the group should revise its policy toward Sunnis and other sects.
Sources said that the visit that Asiri paid to Aoun was the result of a series of contacts between the Saudi Embassy and the FPM in Beirut over the past few months.
They said that Asiri had expressed interest in meeting Aoun, so the latter invited him to lunch.
Ties between Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah, and Riyadh have been strained since the lawmaker shifted cut his allegiance to the March 14 coalition and backed the rival Hezbollah-led March 8 camp instead.
Aoun has repeatedly accused Saudi officials of siding with March 14.
However, in an apparent thawing of relations, caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, Aoun's son-in-law, visited Asiri in April.
The sources denied that Aoun had reached a deal with Asiri which would pave the way for him to break with March 8, backed by Iran and Syria.
“The issue is not that simple. A meeting during a lunch will not result in a deal between Aoun and a group with whom he is in disagreement over several issues,” one source said.

Et un représentant du CPL de « rassurer » :

Tony Nasrallah, responsable au Courant patriotique libre
“Il ne faut accorder à la rencontre entre le général Aoun et l'ambassadeur d'Arabie saoudite plus d'importance qu'elle ne mérite. Il n'y a aucun retournement dans la position du Courant patriotique libre. L'alliance entre le CPL et le Hezbollah est stratégique, elle est basée sur une amitié plus solide que ce que certains s'imaginent. Les deux partis sont à bord d'un même navire.

July 03 2013

Sectarianism and Counter-Revolution in Egypt : Not a Family Affair

Sectarianism and Counter-Revolution in Egypt: Not a Family Affair

Ever since the early Cold War, and Washington's decision to engage with the Middle East, the US preference for working with religiously conservative regimes has been clear. It has consistently employed divide and rule tactics by supporting these states against regional rivals which they have in common. With Washington's first “special relationship” forged with King Abdel Aziz of Saudi Arabia in the 1940s, US interests in the Middle East crystallized around privileged access to oil and security cooperation. With the establishment of Israel in 1948, US interests extended to include the assurance of Israeli security and military advantage. As decolonization gathered momentum, the new generation of secular pan-Arabist leaders threatened these US interests, by emphasizing the Arab people's unity, and rights to sovereignty and independence. US and UK policymakers singled out the Egyptian vanguard of this trend, Gamal Abdel Nasser, for “containment.” They attempted this containment through a combination of intermittent incentives, subversion, and increasing coercion throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Their principal strategy was to build up regional rivals in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Jordan, all conservative monarchies with state ideologies that revere Sunni Islam—rather than unifying, secular pan-Arabism. In Saudi Arabia in particular, members of the religious establishment founded the Muslim World League in 1962 to proselytize Wahhabism, and fostered strong ties with Egyptian exiles, aided by the “petrodollar effect.” The crucial corollary of this was the stifling of national, let alone trans-national, pan-Arab solidarities.

June 28 2013

24/7 Wall St. » Blog Archive Countries Spending the Most on the Military «

24/7 Wall St. » Blog Archive Countries Spending the Most on the Military «

For the first time since 1998, global military spending is down. This coincides with a major decline in U.S. spending, which fell by more than $40 billion between 2011 and 2012. Even with this decline, however, the United States still had a military budget four times larger than China, the next biggest spender.


24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 countries that spend the most on their military in 2012, based on SIPRI's measure of military spending in more than 130 nations. We also reviewed SIPRI data on military exports and imports, as well as military expenditure as a percentage of GDP. From, we reviewed statistics on military size and strength, based on the most recent available data. We also considered GDP and GDP growth figures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

10. Brazil
> Military expenditure: $36.8 billion
> Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 1.5%
> One-year spending change: -0.5%
> Total exports: $14.1 million (24th highest)
> Total imports: $212 million (24th highest)

Brazil spent roughly $36.8 billion on its military in 2012, higher than all but nine other countries. Military spending has fallen in Brazil since 2010, when the government spent $38.1 billion. Despite being among the top 10 in military spending, the country is barely among the top half in terms of the spending as a percentage of GDP, which was just 1.5% in 2012. In addition to the more than 371,000 people in Brazil who were actively serving in 2011, there were more than 1.3 million Brazilians serving in the active reserves, more than all but five other countries.

9. India
> Military expenditure: $48.3 billion
> Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 2.5%
> One-year spending change: -2.8%
> Total exports: $1.8 million (32nd highest)
> Total imports: $2.0 billion (the highest)

Military spending in India comprised 2.5% of the country's GDP in 2012, higher than most other countries. However, this has declined every year since 2009, when India spent 2.9% of its GDP on military affairs. Between 2011 and 2012, India's military budget declined by 3%. As of 2011, India had more than 1.3 million active military members, more than any other country except for China and the United States. In addition, India had 1.7 million active reserve members, more than any country except for North Korea and South Korea. India has been the biggest arms importer worldwide in recent years, as it has been upgrading its largely Soviet-era weapons.

8. Germany
> Military expenditure: $48.6 billion
> Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 1.4%
> One-year spending change: 0.9%
> Total exports: $486 million (6th highest)
>Total imports: $126 million (33rd highest)

Germany spent more than $48.6 billion on its military in 2012, or 1.4% of the country's GDP. This was in line with the 1.3% of GDP it spent back in 2011 but still lower than the majority of countries measured. Germany exported $486 million worth of arms in 2012, higher than all but five other countries. In 2012, Germany announced the largest cuts to its military since the end of World War II. The government intends to scale back or close 100 of its 400 bases and cut the number of soldiers by 15,000 to 185,000. Germany expects to implement the cuts through 2017 at the latest.

7. Saudi Arabia
> Military expenditure: $54.2 billion
> Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 8.9%
> One-year spending change: 11.7%
> Total exports: n/a
> Total imports: $261 million (16th highest)

Saudi Arabia's military budget comprised 8.9% of the country's GDP in 2012, higher than any other country. However, this was down from 11% of GDP in 2009 and 10% of GDP in 2010. Military spending in 2012 has increased by nearly $10 billion since 2008, reaching more than $54.2 billion last year. Between 2011 and 2012 alone, military spending increased by 12%, higher than most other countries in the world. Solmirano pointed out that oil revenue in Saudi Arabia has allowed the country to spend heavily on the military in recent years. As of 2012, Saudi Arabia produced more than 11.1 million barrels of oil a day, more than any other country.

6. Japan
> Military expenditure: $59.2 billion
> Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 1.0%
> One-year spending change: -0.6%
> Total exports: n/a
> Total imports: $6 million (78th highest)

Although just five nations spent more on their military in 2012 in absolute terms, in relative terms — as a percentage of GDP — more than 100 nations spent more than Japan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began pushing for a stronger military after winning the office at the end of 2012. Abe's plans to boost military spending may be limited by the country's massive debt concerns. The IMF estimates Japan's gross debt at nearly 238% of GDP in 2012, proportionally more than any other country. Despite these concerns, Japan recently increased military spending for the first time in 11 years. Although Japan's constitution prohibits initiating military action, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently has argued that the country should be permitted to join U.N.-sanctioned military actions.

5. United Kingdom
> Military expenditure: $59.8 billion
> Expenditure as % of GDP: 2.5%
> One-year spending change: -0.8%
> Total exports: $351 million (10th highest)
> Total imports: $254 million (17th highest)

Military spending in the United Kingdom fell for the second straight year in 2012. This was likely due, in part, to a slow GDP growth of less than 1% for the second straight year and a decline in government spending as a percentage of GDP for the third straight year. Early this year, the United Kingdom cut 5,000 troops from its armed forces as part of the nation's broad austerity measures. The U.K. spent just 2.5% of GDP on the military in 2012 and exported just over $350 million in weapons. By contrast, 25 years earlier, the nation spent 4.0% of its annual GDP on its military and exported $2.5 billion worth of arms.

Also Read: The Most Dangerous Cities in America

4. France
> Military expenditure: $62.6 billion
> Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 2.3%
> One-year spending change: -0.3%
> Total exports: $272 million (11th highest)
> Total imports: $87 million (38th highest)

France's military budget of $62.6 billion in 2012 was higher than any other country in the European Union. However, this has declined every year since 2009, when military spending reached more than $69.4 billion. The military cuts are not over. In April, France announced it would freeze military spending, with an expected budget of roughly $235 billion for the next six years. By 2019, France is expected to reduce its armed forces headcount by 34,000, or nearly 10% of its current force. As of 2011, France had more active military members than all other countries in the EU at 362,485.

3. Russia
> Military expenditure: $90.6 billion
> Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 4.4%
> One-year spending change: 15.7%
> Total exports: $3.8 billion (2nd highest)
> Total imports: $8.2 million (74th highest)

Russia's military budget has grown significantly in the past several years. In 2008, Russia spent just under $68 billion, or 3.7% of GDP. By 2012, the military budget had grown to more than $90.6 billion, or 4.4% of GDP. The largest increase in spending came between 2011 and 2012, when the budget was increased by 16%. Russia has been in the process of upgrading its weapons over the past several years, working to replace aging submarines, assault ships and ballistic missiles. Russia was the second-largest exporter of weapons in 2012, shipping out more than $3.8 billion in arms. Russia has more self-propelled guns and Corvette missiles than any other country.

2. China
> Military expenditure: $157.6 billion
> Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 2.0%
> One-year spending change: 7.8%
> Total exports: $443 million (8th highest)
> Total imports: $872 million (4th highest)

China increased its annual military expenditure from $107 billion in 2008 to more than $157 billion in 2012. Despite this spending increase, military expenditure as a percentage of GDP has remained relatively stable at around 2%. China has had one of the world's fastest growing economies in recent years, even with GDP growth slowing to 7.8% in 2012. Currently, China is embroiled in a tense dispute with Japan over the resource-rich Diaoyu islands (called the Senkaku islands in Japan). China also historically has had tense relations with Taiwan, which it still considers to be a breakaway province.

1. United States
> Military expenditure: $668.8 billion
> Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 4.4%
> One-year spending change: -6.0%
> Total exports: $6.2 billion (the highest)
> Total imports: $670 million (6th highest)

The United States spends more on the military than any other country by a wide margin. The country's military budget accounts for roughly 40% of all military spending in the world, according to SIPRI. However, military spending has declined since 2010, when it hit more than $720 billion. Much of the drop has been due to reduced presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States is by far the largest arms exporter in the world — in 2012 the United States exported more than $6.2 billion worth of arms, more than $2.4 billion more than the second-largest exporter, Russia. Earlier in June, the White House announced it was arming Syrian opposition against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

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