Faced with this tense paradigm, every country in the region is building up its own military.
Indeed, four of the five fastest-growing defense markets in 2013 were in the Middle East, led by Oman — up 115% in a year — and Saudi Arabia — up 300% in a decade — according to IHS Jane's.
We have analyzed each country to rank the most powerful militaries in the Middle East. This ranking does not count foreign powers like the US or their support, though we have noted important alliances. After looking over state militaries, we also profiled (but did not rank) some of the increasingly powerful non-state military groups.
The ranking is based on a holistic assessment of the militaries' operational capabilities and hardware, based on our research and on interviews with Patrick Megahan, an expert from the Foundation of Defense of Democracies' Military Edge project, and Chris Harmer, senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.
Some countries with large yet incapable militaries rank low on the list; some smaller and technologically advanced militaries from stable states rank fairly high.