While researchers have paid much attention to the activities of private military and security companies (PMSCs) in Iraq since 2003, they have largely ignored the emergence and development of a commercialized security sector in other Arab countries. To date, there has been no systematic attempt to collect data and analyze security privatization in the region. This paper is part of a multi-country research project and policy dialogues on the challenges of security sector reform in the Arab World. Being the result of a study conducted in the United Arab Emirates (more specifically in Dubai), Jordan and Lebanon in January 2011, this article must be considered as a first attempt to outline the main features of security privatization in Arab countries and consider the political significance of the phenomenon. Virginie Collombier shows that in countries where security institutions play a central role, security privatization has not only been a means for making profit in a liberalizing economic environment. Not a business like any other, it has had an impact on the very functioning of Arab regimes. While these have mainly relied on security apparatuses to ensure and retain their grip on political power over the last decades, the emergence of a commercial security sector has provided them with new tools to be used for the same aim. Be it in Dubai, Jordan or Lebanon, regimes – or specific groups or individuals within the regime – have been very quick to adapt to this phenomenon and take advantage from it.
The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.