Military Planning for a Middle East Stockpiled with Nuclear Weapons

By Russell, Richard | Military Review, November/December 2006 | Go to article overview

Military Planning for a Middle East Stockpiled with Nuclear Weapons


Russell, Richard, Military Review


The media is loaded with coverage of the international crisis over Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program. The 24/7 news cycle is focused on the latest tit-for-tat in the West's ineffective diplomatic effort to get Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment and other suspected nuclear-related activities. Media coverage has also focused on the likelihood of American military action against Iran's nuclear-power infrastructure. However, the media has paid little or no attention to the longer term implications of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons.

It is easy to envision Iran working toward robust capabilities to enrich large quantities of uranium as well as producing stocks of plutonium for nuclear weapons under the guise of civilian electricity production. But the United States is reluctant to threaten or use military force to punish Iran and to disrupt its nuclear program because U.S. international political capital and military capabilities are wearing thin with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Absent the United States, the Europeans-or the Israelis, for that matter-could not project sufficient military power to do anything more than dent Iran's geographically remote and dispersed nuclear infrastructure. In 10 to 25 years, Iran might be capable of producing large stocks of fissile material, harnessing it into warheads, and marrying the warheads to a large inventory of ballistic missiles capable of reaching most of the Middle East and swaths of southern Europe.

American military commanders and strategists have to squint and try to peer over the horizon to see the longer term security challenges posed by an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. What would the regional fallout be? How would regional states react? What would the impact of these reactions be on regional stability? How would these changes affect American force projection capabilities? How should the United States adapt its posture and forces in the region? We can offer only speculative and tentative answers, but having a sense of the trends and directions is critical to putting the American military on the right footing today to be better prepared to face tough strategic challenges in the coming decades. We cannot turn on a dime in transforming and repositioning the American military to tackle the problems posed by a nuclear-weapons-saturated Middle East, but we could plot a smart course in that direction.

Playing Nuclear Weapons Catch-up

Nuclear detonations, or more likely, regional suspicions that Iran is hiding a nuclear bomb in the basement would, over the long run, probably accelerate already strong security incentives for regional states to follow suit. The major regional states of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey would not want to be vulnerable to coercive Iranian political power derived from a nuclear weapons advantage. These states would want their own nuclear forces to deter Iranian threats and to ensure their national, regional, and international prestige. Moreover, they would not likely have a great deal of confidence in an American nuclear security umbrella as an alternative to their own nuclear deterrents. Riyadh, Cairo, and Istanbul would likely worry that the United States would hesitate to come to their aid in a future military contingency with a nuclear-armed Iran. Their security calculus would be similar to that of France when it acquired its nuclear "force de frappe" during the cold war in Europe.1

Saudi Arabia will be engaged in a bitter political competition with Iran for power in the Persian Gulf and would want a nuclear weapons capability to keep pace. Nuclear weapons would also bolster the Saudis' domestic prestige against militant Islamic extremists seeking to oust the royal family, and they would increase the country's political stature as the protectorate of the Sunnis against the regional Shi'a political revival led by Iran.

To support its nuclear weapons capability, Saudi Arabia would likely turn to its security partners in Pakistan and China. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Military Planning for a Middle East Stockpiled with Nuclear Weapons
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.