The most important threats now are from tribesmen in Yemen who cross the frontier at will (as they have for centuries) and whose presence threatens Saudi territorial integrity. The Islamic Republic of Iran is a potential threat. Its behavior since the fall of the Shah has generally been introverted, but also upredictable and so worrying.
Iranian air or sea action could threaten the free flow of oil, critical both to the industrial world and to the oil-producing countries. Shitte Iran could extend its reach (perhaps through Bahrain) to subvert the Shitte minoritie in Saudi Arabia.
Internal subversion is now the major threat. This is hightened by a growing population of young men who are facing daunting challenges to simply find work.
Such a threat cannot easily be contained by a military tailored to a more conventional scenario.
The military is a major employer, and so it provides some relief by bringing many young men into the defense of the government.
Military manpower - military age: 17 years of age
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 5,786,089 (2000 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 3,225,809 (2000 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 221,026 (2000 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure: $18.1 billion (FY97)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 12% (FY97)