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By: Prof. Dr. Walid ‘Abd al-Hay.
(Exclusively for al-Zaytouna Centre).

Early private security companies began immediately after World War II, however, the Zionist movement was a forerunner in this domain, for in 1937 it established the first private security company Hashmira.[1] On an international level, these companies prospered at the end of the Cold War in early 1990s. This is despite the fact that before that period, the US had officially began hiring these companies for their campaigns against drug traffickers in Latin America, then it expanded the contracts with them to include the Balkan conflict and the breakup of Yugoslavia. Afterwards, the contracts increased as the wars in Afghanistan and the Gulf erupted. However, the highest activity appeared when Barack Obama intended to minimize US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and reduce the defense budget.[2]

The policy of reliance on private security companies brings many benefits to western countries, especially the US and UK, where their headquarters are based. These benefits include the reduction of expenditures of defense ministries, reducing the human losses in the ranks of the armed forces ranks by relying on the recruitment of mercenaries from different regions of the world, avoiding diplomatic embarrassment and international law discussions resulting from military interventions by using the private security companies as a cover, and gaining internal support by appearing peaceful and—to a certain extent—not directly engaging in international armed conflicts.[3]

As for the Arab countries, in 1979, the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was the first to agree on establishing a private security company “Care Services.” Its first contract was with the US embassy in Cairo, which asked for a special security team to protect the embassy along with the Marines, for there were demonstrations against the Camp David Accords, [which Egypt signed] with Israel.[4]

In Israel, the private security company Hashmira was established (as mentioned above), which currently has 15 thousand employees. Then it became a branch of the giant security company G4S, which is based in London and has branches in Arab countries, including Egypt. This private security company was called “Care Services,” whose former head Major General Sameh Saif al-Yazl said that the Egyptian army “had financed parties and political forces to fail the Muslim Brothers [MB] movement in Egypt.”[5]

There are two levels of Israeli relations with the private security companies:[6]

First Level: The Israeli private security companies: Available reports about private security companies run by Israeli official and semi-official agencies indicate that there are 300 Israeli companies scattered over a large number of countries. It contributes to the security work—in cooperation with political organizations, especially right-wingers—in more than seventy countries, including Arab countries. Their contribution include training, arms transfer, intelligence collection, kidnapping, torture, prison administration, guarding settlements, and overlooking the 96 checkpoints in the occupied territories, of which 57 are fixed checkpoints in the West Bank (WB), and 39 are crossing points between the 1967 territories and the Green Line. Since 2005, the Israeli authorities have started to privatize these checkpoints. The most prominent Israeli private security companies are:[7]

1. Modi’in Ezrach
2. T&M
3. Moked Matara
4. Nof Yam
5. Galshan Marketing Human Resources Guarding & Security
6. Avidar Security
7. Ben Security
8. Reshef Security
9. Beni Tal Security
10. ISC International security consulting
11. Mikud group

Second Level: The network of relations between the Israeli official agencies and multinational security companies. On this level, Israel cooperates with private multinational security companies. The most prominent of those are:[8]

1. The Academi company (previously Blackwater), which was known for its activities in Iraq and Syria. It was founded in 1997, and in 2014, Academi merged with “Triple Canopy … along with other companies that were part of the Constellis Group package … all gathered under the Constellis Holdings.” It cooperates with Israel in the fields of electronics and intelligence.[9]

2. ICTS International, a Dutch firm, founded in 1982 by former members of Israel’s internal security agency and El Al airline security agents. The firm and its subsidiaries specialize in aviation security services with an annual sales revenue of around $100 million.[10]

3. Northbridge Services Group, which has relations with the Israeli foreign ministry, and recruits mercenaries for special operations.[11]

4. Triple Canopy, is a Virginia-based company that carries out security operations for Israel since 2005. During Obama’s term its operations in Israel increased. It recruits mercenaries from all over the world, especially Latin America, and has contracts worth up to $1.5 billion.[12]

5. Prosegur is a Madrid-based company, founded in 1976. It includes 150 thousand employees. In the 1980s, as per Peruvian reports, the company’s activities flourished in Latin America, when kidnappings, murders and bombings were expanding in Peru. It has activities in Israel, particularly security services.[13]

6. Aegis Defence Services is a British company, founded in 2002. Aegis is under contract, worth $293 million, to provide security support services to US facilities in Iraq. It has activities in Israel, particularly intelligence collection.[14]

7. GK Sierra is a Washington-based company, founded in 2007. In 2009, the firm started offering investigation and intelligence options among its services. It has a Tel-Aviv office and operates in WB. The company is said to employ high-ranking Mossad operatives, which has led to accusations that it is in fact part of the Israeli Intelligence Service. [15]

8. KBR is a Houston-based company, whose one of its most famous members is Marc Zell. He is a Likud member, close to Benjamin Netanyahu, pro-settlement advocate, and an advocate of linking the Iraqi oil to Israel. The company has 27 thousand employees, and an income of $540 million annually. [16]

9. Corps Security company, a British company founded in 1859. Of its three thousand workers, 2% are former Israel army members.

10. G4S company, which has 650 thousand employees, its activities are distributed over 120 countries, has 14 branches in the Arab countries, including 9 in the Gulf. It has established 1,500 complexes of electronic security systems in the world. Its annual net profit is $20 billion, and its most important activities in the occupied territories are: [17]

a. Running the Israeli detention and interrogation facilities in which Palestinian detainees are tortured.
b. Installing and providing maintenance to the surveillance equipments of the Separation Wall.
c. Providing security services to settlements.
d. Providing security services to the headquarters of the Israeli police in WB.

Israeli analyst for security and military affairs Yossi Melman has reported that dozens of private Israeli security firms, among which is the Swiss-based Asian Global Technology (AGT), have been operating in Arab countries, like Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.[18]

A study by Jon D. Michaels, the UCLA professor of International Law, on the connection between the events in the Arab region, foreign military contractors, and Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater reveals that they have the ability to exploit the opportunity of “disruptions,” or changes and instability-similar to what has happened in the Arab Spring—and even promote them through the recruitment of media experts who have high “cinematic” craftsmanship, and by taking advantage of the regional historical disparities to give “legitimacy” to field practices. [19]

The Role of the Security Companies in the “Disruptions” in the Arab Region

Before going into the details of the activities of these security companies in the Arab world, one must note the following:[20]

1. The income of private security companies operating in the Arab countries has risen from $5 billion in 2011 to $12 billion in 2012, to $14 billion in 2013, to $14 billion in 2014…, i.e., in four years their profits were $45 billion. The French Foreign ministry has estimated the profits of these companies at around $400 billion. It is noted that the mean income of these international security companies, to most of which Israel contributes, has risen from $55 billion in 1990 to $202 billion in 2010.[21]

2. What does it mean when a Blackwater commander, Colonel Nicholas Petros get killed at the Yemeni al-Anad military base?

3. What do about 244 thousand employees of the G4S security company do in the Middle East and Asia? They are found largely in the Gulf countries, especially in the UAE.

It is necessary to note that the explosion of changes and revolutions, along with the accompanying events and unrest in the Arab countries (the Arab Spring) by the end of 2010, are, in essence, due to objective causes: political tyranny, poverty, illiteracy, corruption, subordination, military defeats, tribal, sectarian, and doctrinal structures, etc. These issues cannot be addressed in this article, rather what will be addressed is how the international private security companies took advantage of these conditions to deepen the political, the security, and consequently the economic turmoil, a goal that serves Israeli goals.

The private security companies, especially those that are organically linked to Israel, have found an opportunity to invest in the conditions of this region to their advantage. This happened especially since the countries of this region have sufficient financial capabilities to pay them (One of the companies objectives). They took advantage of the internal rivalries, and began to recruit and transfer their employees and weapons to deepen the general turmoil (an Israeli objective).

The most prominent activities of these companies in the Arab region can be identified through the list of 23 military and security services discussed in a study that was requested by the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defense, including: armed combat; guarding military bases; military logistics; management of military bases; management of military contractors; military training; security sector reform; gathering and analyzing military information; military consulting; armed protection; unarmed protection; surveillance; management of prisons; crowd management; security intelligence collection and analysis; counter-“terrorism” services; anti-piracy services; anti-hijack/kidnap services; crisis management; security consulting; investigative services; and cyber warfare. [22]


During the 2010–end of 2019 period, the most prominent activities of security companies in the Arab countries have been:[23]

1. Killing operations: Perhaps the role of Blackwater in Iraq does not need more details, but interestingly, it has changed its name: from Blackwater during the first phase in Iraq to Xe Services LLC, for there was an increasing criticism to Blackwater over its killing operations. In 2010, at the beginning of changes and contemporary political “turmoil” in the Arab region, it changed its name to Academi. It is noted that in February 2010, it was stated that the Blackwater company acquired 500 AK-47s from a US-operated weapon depot, which was later judicially proven (September 2010). This has happened just before the beginning of events and changes in the Arab region. [24]

2. Protecting diplomats as in the case of Israel, Iraq and other Arab countries. Despite the violence of Blackwater (Academi), it is protected by the US government since none of its members was prosecuted, despite the fact that international law prohibits the recruitment of mercenaries.

3. Manufacturing military equipment, especially espionage and surveillance devices and software. DynCorp International is considered one of the most active espionage companies. In 2010, it started its important espionage programs, having about 300 espionage, counter-espionage and special operations experts. The company is accused of sex trafficking of children, smuggling and drug trade.

4. Protecting ships and cargo, military logistics, maritime and land transportation. Founded in 1996, Fort Defense Group Corporation is the most prominent in this field. The company has concentrated its main activities in Somalia, the Gulf of Aden, Iraq, Israel, and WB. The company’s fighters participated in military operations in Iraq, as well as escorting oil tankers from the port of Umm Qasr, and escorting American missions heading to the Gaza Strip.

5. Managing and reforming the military in developing countries, especially after the end of conflicts. The private military company MPRI is the most prominent in this field, particularly in Iraq, it acts in concert with the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

6. Providing mercenaries, where Aegis Defense Services is the most prominent in this field. The company has offices in Iraq, Bahrain and Sudan. Founded in 2002, headed by a former British army officer, and employs 20 thousand mercenaries, who are sent upon demand. In 2005, the company was involved in a scandal in Iraq, when it was revealed that the company’s employees shot at the peaceful demonstrators. [25]

7. Guarding oil areas controlled by parties other than the state concerned. One of the most prominent companies in this field is Erinys International, which sent about 6.5 thousand soldiers to guard important Iraqi oil facilities during occupation.


The successive announcements of operations in the name of extremist organizations, in distant and separate Arab regions, “may” be an attempt to create impressions of achievements that would motivate more recruits to enroll. It would indicate also that further turmoil and moral exhaustion of the Arab community may occur. It seems—to the author of these lines—that the alliance of private security firms is behind these specific operations, which serve all parties of the alliance, whether they were companies or countries. Each party has its own various motives.


As previously indicated, the profits of these companies have increased, and so have their branches. The growing military tendencies of some small countries or countries lacking military expertise (such as some Gulf countries), make them increase their dependence on such companies. In addition, the pressures of globalization and the existence of major forces (who are very influential in the Arab region) behind these companies that sponsor and protect them from international laws, indicate that the future involves “parallel militarization,” i.e., security companies rather than conventional military establishments. Thus adding confusion to the scene and making external penetration easier.

[1] Counter Terror Expo Take Two: G4S Technology, site of Corporate Occupation 5/1/2010,
[2] For more details on the development of private security companies, see:
Christopher Kinsey, Corporate Soldiers and International Security: The Rise of Private Military Companies (UK: Routledge, 2006), pp. 34-58; and Tea Cimini, The Invisible Army: Explaining Private Military and Security Companies, site of E-International Relations (E-IR), 2/8/2018,
[3] Elizabeth Umlas, “Protected but Exposed: Multinationals and Private Security,” in Small Arms Survey 2011: States of Security (UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
[4] Security Companies… “The Private Interior Ministry,” site of almasryalyoum, 13/5/2015, (in Arabic); and see, 7 Questions About the Falcon Company Entrusted with Guarding Egyptian Universities, site of Sasapost, 11/10/2014, (in Arabic)
[5] See: About Sameh Saif al-Yazl, site of BBC, 4/4/2016,; and Major General: The Egyptian Army Had Financed Many Parties to Face the Brothers, site of Arabi21, 12/2/2014,
[7] “Private Security Companies and the Israeli Occupation,” Report by Who Profits Research Center, January 2016,
[8] Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army (US: Nation Books, 2007); and “Private Security Companies and the Israeli Occupation,” Report by Who Profits Research Center, January 2016
[9] Jon Swinn, Deeper Than Blackwater, site of Expose the Enemy, 10/6/2019,
[11] Sam Schaffer, Lord Have Mercenary: Military Contracting and the Global Armies of Today, site of Georgia Political Review, 16/3/2015,
[14] Herbert Wulf, Internationalizing and Privatizing War and Peace (UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp. 157-160.
[17] Shir Hever, The Privatization of Israeli Security (London: Pluto Press, 2018), chapters 3 and 4; “Private Security Companies and the Israeli Occupation,” Report by Who Profits Research Center, January 2016; and
[18] Israeli Companies Operate in the Gulf, site of Middle East Monitor (MEMO), 9/3/2015,
[19] Jon D. Michaels, Private military firms, the American Precedent, and the Arab Spring, site of The Free Library, 2012,,+the+American+precedent,+and+the+Arab+Spring.-a0297309352
[20] Christopher Wood, Private Military Companies and International Security, site of E-IR, 21/3/2013,; Berenike Prem and Elke Krahmann, Private Military and Security Companies (Oxford University Press, 2010); Elke Krahmann et. al., The Role of Private Security Companies (PSCS) in CSDP Missions and Operations, European Parliament, Directorate-General For External Policies Of The Union, Policy Department, April 2011,; and Nikolaos Tzifakis, “Contracting out to Private Military and Security Companies,” Centre for European Studies (CES) Research Paper, 2012, pp. 13-14.
[21] Deborah D. Avant, The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security (Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 8.
[22] Krahmann et. al., The Role of Private Security Companies (PSCS) in CSDP Missions and Operations, pp. 39-40
[23] Jon D. Michaels, “Private Military Firms, the American Precedent, and the Arab Spring,”
Stanford Journal of International Law, June 2012; Kirsten J. Fisher and Robert Stewart (editors), Transitional Justice and the Arab Spring (London: Routledge, 2014), p. 123; and Mark Mazzetti and Emily B. Hager, Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder, The New York Times newspaper, 14/5/2011.
[25] On training of mercenaries and armed opposition in Arab countries, see Kim Sengupta, Inside the ‘Blackwater of Jihad’: The private security company training extremists in Syria, The Independent newspaper, 13/3/2017.

Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 27/1/2020

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