US, Gulf & Israeli Perspectives of the Iranian Threat.

When in need to be solaced for my late lack of inspiration, I like to compare myself to great authors whose suffering precluded their creativity and their sense of wording.

I have been unable to phrase a single sentence for longer than a week now. I can’t write without hearing every word sounding wrong in my head. The mind is polluted, racked by anguish; extreme and violent feelings–hatred, resentment, arrogance, escalation–rising in magnitude. I need to step back, keep my head cold, and wash away those passions clouding my judgment.

I hope to be able to offer, soon, my personal thoughts on the protracted crisis happening in Lebanon since 2005. For the time being, I shall content myself with reporting what others are saying about the regional power struggle in the Middle East. I am quoting herein at length the text of a newsletter I received a few days ago from CSIS.

American, Gulf and Israeli Perspectives of the Threat from Iran

By Anthony Cordesman & Abdullah Toukan, January 24, 2011

Iran has emerged as a major national security challenge to the US, its neighbors, and Israel. This is not simply a matter of proliferation. It involves a wide range of potential threats, including asymmetric warfare. Moreover, Iran competes at a strategic level using non-state actors like the Hezbollah and Hamas, its ties to states like Syria and Venezuela, and support of extremist movement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most critical focus of this competition is in the Gulf area. This is the area where Iran can already exert a major military threat, and where the flow of petroleum exports is critical to the entire global economy. The Gulf, however, cannot be separated from Iran’s ceaseless effort to export Arab-Israel tensions and conflicts, and use Israel as an excuse for its military build-up.

The end result is that four major sets of actors are now involved in the Gulf area in dealing with Iran: The US, the Southern Gulf or “GCC” states, Iraq, and Israel. Each perceives the threat differently, and each poses a different set of threats to Iran. These perceptions also cannot be separated from the fact that Europe, other oil importers, Turkey, other Arab states, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia also interact and compete with Iran.

The Burke Chair at CSIS is developing a series of briefs that address these issues, based on the work of Anthony Cordesman and Abdullah Toukan. They present the data affecting key issues in graphic and map form, as well as survey key trends and technical issues. The first of these briefs is now available on the CSIS web site. This two-part report is entitled US, Gulf, and Israeli Perspectives on the Threat from Iran, and is available at:

Part 1:http://csis.org/files/publication/110121_Iran-US-IsraeliPersp_1.pdf

Part 2:http://csis.org/files/publication/110121_Iran-US-IsraeliPersp_2.pdf

This brief examines the critical role enemy exports play in determining the strategic impact of Iran’s competition with regional states, the US, and Israel. It compares the different perspectives they have of the Iranian threat, and examines the full range of the Iranian military build-up, including conventional forces, asymmetric forces, missiles, and nuclear programs. It also addresses the balance of military capabilities, the challenges in different security strategies for countering Iran, and how Iran’s forces might evolve in the future.

This set of briefs will be followed by a risk analysis of the impact of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs on the situation in the Gulf. It will also examine the options for deterring and containing Iranian competition, as well as the cost-benefits of preventive military action. Future studies will model possible conflict scenarios between Israel and Iran; and the US and Iran in detail.

——————

The Burke Chair has also a number of other reports on Iran:

A new report analyzes the nature of the competition between Iran and the US in each Arab Gulf country, paying special attention to Saudi Arabia’s major role in this competition. The full report, “U.S. AND IRANIAN STRATEGIC COMPETITION: Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States” can be downloaded at:

http://csis.org/files/publication/101207_US_Competition_with_Iran_Saudi_Arabia.pdf

A four-part overview of the military dimension of the U.S.-Iranian competition can be downloaded in a combined document here:

http://csis.org/files/publication/100813_combined_burke_report.pdf

Part One is entitled Iran, the Gulf, and Strategic Competition: Key Interests and Key Scenarios and is available on the CSIS web site at:

http://csis.org/files/publication/100812_IranGulfThreatBrief-Scenarios.pdf

It shows that Gulf energy exports will be a vital and growing part of the global economy through at least 2035. It shows the value of such exports, and the fact that – regardless of the statements of every US President since President Ford and the political posturing of the US Congress, the Department of Energy projects the US to be just as strategically dependent on oil imports in 2035 as it is today – a dependence that is much greater if US dependence on the overall health of the global economy is taken into consideration. At the same time, maps and charts show the vulnerability of the Gulf and nearby targets in the upper and Southern Gulf. It shows Iran’s access to key shipping routes and key chokepoints like the Strait of Hormuz.

Part Two is entitled Iran, the Gulf, and Strategic Competition: The Conventional Balance and is available on the CSIS web site at:

http://csis.org/files/publication/100812_IranGulfThreatBrief-ConvBal.pdf

It shows that Iranian conventional forces remain weak, and are aging more quickly than Iran can as yet modernize them in spite of major efforts to create a military-industrial base. It also shows that the military expenditures and arms imports of the Southern Gulf states are vastly larger than those of Iran, and they have much larger forces of modern military equipment. Given the fact that the US brings a far more decisive lead in air, naval, and missile warfare to the table; Iran is anything but the “hegemon of the Gulf.”

Part Three is entitled Iran, the Gulf, and Strategic Competition: Asymmetric Warfare and is available on the CSIS web site at:

http://csis.org/files/publication/100812_IranGulfThreatBrief-Asymm.pdf

It shows that Iran has far greater capability for asymmetric (or irregular) warfare than conventional warfare and has developed a wide mix of land, air, and naval capabilities that can threaten its neighbors, challenge the US, and affect other parts of the Middle East and Asia. These capabilities include Iran’s ability to threaten and intimate its Gulf neighbors, and threaten Gulf exports. They also include the capability to use state and non-state actors as proxies or in threatening and manipulating a range of neighboring states, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Israel. These forces are the key military elements of Iranian strategic competition and are steadily increasing in size and capability.

Part Four is entitled Iran, the Gulf, and Strategic Competition: Missiles and Weapons of Mass Destruction and is available on the CSIS web site at:

http://csis.org/files/publication/100813_IranGulfThreatBriefMissile-WMD.pdf

It shows that Iran continues to develop the capability to produce nuclear weapons, has chemical weapons, and may have a biological weapons program. It also shows that Iran has made the development and deployment of long-range missile forces a key priority. At present, these missiles may lack the accuracy and lethality to pose more than a terror threat, but they already give Iran some capability to pressure and intimidate its neighbors and other states in the region, deter attacks on Iran, and deter reprisals for its use of asymmetric forces. There is a significant prospect that Iran will be able to equip some missiles with nuclear warheads in the next three to six years – a development which would be a far more powerful deterrent and way of using military force to support its efforts at strategic competition.

An analysis of GCC and Iranian military capabilities titled “GCC-Iran: Operational Analysis of Air, SAM and TBM Forces” is available at:

http://csis.org/files/publication/090819_GCC_Iran_AirPower.pdf

Iran, Iraq, and the Changing Face of Defense Cooperation in the Gulf. This analysis is available on the CSIS web site at:

http://csis.org/files/publication/101028_GulfDefCoop.final.pdf

U.S.-Saudi Security Cooperation and the Impact of U.S. Arms Sales found at:

http://csis.org/publication/us-saudi-security-cooperation-and-impact-us-arms-sales

A series of four briefings by the Burke Chair – entitled Saudi National Security and the Saudi-US Strategic Partnership – addresses these issues, as well as the overall trends in regional security. These briefings are available on the CSIS web site, and each has a different focus:

Part One: The Civil & Economic Aspects of Security

http://csis.org//files/publication/100517_SaudiBrief_I_Econ.28.4.10.pdf

Part Two: The Conventional Military Balance, Missile Warfare, and the Impact of Weapons of Mass Destruction

http://csis.org//files/publication/100517_SaudiBrief_2_MilConv28.4.10.pdf

Part Three: The Regional Security Environment: Asymmetric Warfare, Peripheral Threats, and Terrorism

http://csis.org//files/publication/100517_SaudiBrief_3_TerrorThreat28.4.10.pdf

Part Four: The Defense Aspects of Saudi Security

http://csis.org//files/publication/100517_SaudiBrief_4_NatSec28.4.10.pdf

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