Saudi-Iranian standoff: Who's stronger?


Comment by PCFR member Win Tompkins, a junior at the Met School in Providence.    

Saudi-Iranian relations have recently involved some high-tension confrontations, from the Saudi invasion of Yemen and the resulting proxy war there with Iran to the Saudis’ execution of a Shiite cleric and the closing of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. The house of Saud and Iran have almost always had contentious relations, even during the reign of the last Shah of Iran, but the recent escalation looks particularly dangerous.

At about $80 billion a year, Saudi Arabia has the world’s fourth-largest military budget. With  U.S. backing,  the Saudis can buy the latest military equipment from the U.S and other Western nations.

Saudi Arabia’s ground forces have  some 850 M1 Abrams and M60A3 Main Battle Tanks, 1,000 Infantry Fighting Vehicles, of which 400 are Bradley AFV’s purchased from the United States, and a standing army of 175,000 combat troops. But while the military has no shortage of the latest hardware, it has a very inadequate officer corps and little tactical capability.

The  military has little combat experience and the officer corps is largely made up of politically favored persons rather than skilled leaders.

In some ways Iran has opposite problems. It lacks the military hardware and other resources of its superpower-aligned foe but makes up for it in  special-operations capabilities and tactical efficiency.  Further,  the Iranian military has much more combat experience than do Saudi forces  

Indeed, Iran has been in major military  conflicts for years since the overthrow of the Shah, in 1979. Consider the current Iranian participation on the side of the Bashar Assad dictatorship in civil-war-tormented Syria and its  ongoing military activities in Iraq and Lebanon and, of course, the brutal Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.

The Iranian army has a similar number of tanks and armored vehicles as the Saudis but many more troops: a standing army of 385,000 soldiers.