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9% spike in Mideast military spending driven by Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey

Military spending in the region increased by its largest percentage in a decade, in part due to the Gaza war, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
TOPSHOT - Saudi elite aerobatic flying team of the Royal Saudi Air Force Saudi Hawks performs during the aviation event 11th Athens Flying Week over Tanagra air base in Schimatari, north of Athens, on September 3, 2023. (Photo by Theophile Bloudanis / AFP) (Photo by THEOPHILE BLOUDANIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Military spending in the Middle East rose nearly 10% in 2023, according to a Monday report, driven by Saudi Arabia, Israel and other states’ expenditures amid the Gaza war and related conflicts.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute released its Trends in World Military Expenditure report for 2023 on Monday. According to the SIPRI, military spending in the Middle East rose 9% to around $200 billion in 2023 — the biggest annual increase in 10 years.

Saudi Arabia

The institute noted that three largest spenders in the region — Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey — all increased military spending last year. Saudi Arabia was the fifth largest spender in the world, with spending increasing 4.3% from the year prior to $75.8 billion in 2023. However, Saudi military spending from the 2014 through 2023 decreased by 18% compared to the previous decade.

Increased oil prices following the Ukraine war helped the kingdom boost its spending in 2023, according to SIPRI.

“Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest exporter of crude oil, and the growth in its military spending in 2023 was partly financed on the back of increased demand for non-Russian oil and rising oil prices following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine,” read the report.

The price of Brent crude, considered the benchmark for global oil prices, shot up from around $78 a barrel at the end of 2021 to roughly $120 a barrel in March of 2022 following the Russian invasion the previous month. Prices later stabilized and were at around $86 a barrel on Monday, per market data.

Though Saudi Arabia remains a large oil exporter, its exports actually dropped in the fourth quarter of 2023 due to cuts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other oil producers.


Israel’s spending increased 24% last year to reach $27.5 billion, making the country the 15th largest spender in the world. Spending from 2014 through 2023 increased 44%.

The increased spending last year was “mainly driven” by the war against Hamas in Gaza following the Oct. 7 attack, according to SIPRI, which found that Israel’s monthly military spending increased from $1.8 billion before October to $4.7 billion in December.

Israel launched an air and ground assault against Hamas in Gaza in October, prompting increased defense spending as well as security assistance from the United States.

Relatedly, Israel has had to delay military exports to several international customers due to domestic demand.


Turkey was the 22nd largest military spender in the world in 2023. Turkish military spending increased 37% to $15.8 billion, per the report. 

Turkey is working to advance its defense industry, including via the national fighter jet project Kaan. Further boosting Turkey’s military power will require increased resources, Barin Kayaoglu wrote for Al-Monitor last month.


Iran was the fourth biggest spender in the region and the 26th in the world with $10.6 billion spent last year, but this figure constituted a mere increase of 0.6%, per the report.

Despite Iran’s modest increase in overall spending, expenditures toward the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are on the rise. Spending on the IRGC increased from 27% of Iran’s total military expenditure in 2019 to 37% in 2023. Moreover, spending on procuring aircraft from the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Corporation increased by 27% over the same period. The corporation produces drones used by the IRGC among other things, per SIPRI.

The IRGC forms a major part of Iran’s armed forces and has divisions dedicated to aerial, naval and ground operations as well as unconventional warfare.

Earlier this month, a suspected Israeli strike killed several IRGC members in Syria, prompting an unprecedented Iranian missile and drone attack against Israel. Iran’s assault led to a more limited Israeli strike on Iran last week.


In North Africa, Algeria was the largest spender in 2023, ranking 19th in the world with $18.3 billion spent — a whopping 76% increase from 2022.

Algerian expenditures were made possible by demand for non-Russian energy, according to SIPRI.

“The increase was facilitated by a sharp rise in revenue from gas exports to countries in Europe as they moved away from Russian supplies,” read the report.

Europe increased its interest in Algerian gas following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine in an effort to reduce the continent’s dependence on gas from Russia.

Know more: A March report from SIPRI noted that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt were among the biggest weapons importers in the world.