During the Cold War, communist Czechoslovakia was one of the largest arms exporters to the Middle East – at least among the Soviet Bloc countries. The fourth volume of this mini-series describes the history of arms export from Czechoslovakia to Iran, Iraq, the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen), and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) between 1948–1989.
During the early 1950s, and on demand from Moscow, Prague invested heavily in the development of a domestic arms industry, aiming to supply its products to other members of the Warsaw Pact. Within just a few years, Czechoslovakia launched the license production of numerous Soviet military aircraft and heavy weapons. Accompanied with the massive military build-up of the entire Warsaw Pact, this brought the economy to the brink of collapse, prompting Prague to search for export customers outside the Soviet bloc – at a time when numerous developing countries in the Middle East were on the search for arms. This combination resulted in the use of the spare capacity of the Czechoslovak arms industry for the production of small arms, heavy infantry weapons, artillery and anti-aircraft guns, armoured vehicles, huge amounts of ammunition, and training aircraft for the Empire of Iran (later the Islamic Republic of Iran), Iraq, the Imamate (later Arab Republic) of Yemen (North Yemen), and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen). Arms exports were accompanied by the training of Iraqi and Yemeni military personnel both in Czechoslovakia and at home.
Using declassified original documentation from the archives of the former Czechoslovakia, this is the most comprehensive – and most thoroughly illustrated – account of the Czechoslovak military involvement in the Middle East during the Cold War published to date, and is a unique source of reference.