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Saudi Arabia has the highest levels of military spending and arms imports in the Middle East. Despite this, until recently, Saudi Arabia has pursued a cautious policy and rarely been involved in military conflicts. The country’s military strategy has changed in recent years, however.1 In 2015, it headed a coalition of states and intervened against the Houtis in Yemen.2 Saudi Arabia was accused of violating international humanitarian law and attacking civil targets. The conflict escalated and led to a large humanitarian crisis. Saudi Arabia is also involved militarily in other conflicts. The country is a party to the conflict in Syria against the Islamic State.3 In addition to providing support for rebels in Syria, it has sought to gain influence in Lebanon and fought Shiite minority groups in the east of the country.4

The country’s guiding gun control legislation includes the Law on Weapons and Ammunition of 2005, which establishes strict penalties for smuggling military or individual weapons and for weapons manufacturing aimed at destabilising internal security. Meanwhile, levels of firearms and ammunition smuggling in Saudi Arabia remain moderate.5


1 “The Military Strategy of Saudi Arabia,” Institute for Islamic World Future Studies, 2022,

2 “Saudi Arabia,” Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts Project (RULAC), Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, updated January 31, 2018,

3 Ibid.

4 Pieter D. Wezeman, “Saudi Arabia: Armaments and Conflict in the Middle East,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, December 14, 2018,

5 Philip Alpers and Miles Lovell, Saudi Arabia – Gun Facts, Figures and the Law (, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, 2022),

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Map of Saudi Arabia

Further information

Accidental explosions

Since the Small Arms Survey began collecting data in 1979, two accidental explosions have been reported in Saudi Arabia.

Table 1. Accidental explosions in Saudi Arabia (1979–2021)








State (military)








Source: “Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites (UEMS) Database,” Small Arms Survey, updated December 15, 2021,

Cases of diversion

Insufficient information on cases of diversion in Saudi Arabia.


Insufficient information on the disposal of ammunition in Saudi Arabia.


To further enhance safe and secure ammunition management, the following needs have been identified for Saudi Arabia:

  • Development or refinement of standards and procedures on stockpile management; and
  • Capacity development for the destruction of surplus stockpiles.


Source: Saudi Arabia, National Report on the Implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA) and the International Tracing Instrument (ITI) (New York: Permanent Mission of Saudi Arabia to the UN, 2022),

Published Date: Monday 21 of August 2023