A Multi-Polar Nuclear Middle East – How Will it Operate

The failure of efforts to dissuade Iran from its military nuclear program makes it imperative to study the potential impact on the region if Iran succeeds in becoming a state that possesses nuclear arms. The prevailing opinion today is that the current American administration does not regard the exercise of military force against Iran in an effort to prevent its nuclearization as an option at this time. Against this background, the administration is studying the idea of extending a nuclear umbrella (extended deterrence) to countries in the region if Iran crosses the nuclear threshold, in exchange for a commitment by its recipients to refrain from developing their own nuclear programs. However, precedents on this issue (for example, Eastern Asia), are not applicable in the Middle East, and there is a basis for assessing that such a development would be perceived by the countries of the region (in particular, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey) as something that also requires them to attain nuclear arms. Such a process is indeed complex and takes time, but anticipated trends of proliferation following a collapse of the regime in Pakistan or North Korea are liable to shorten the timeframe – especially for countries like Saudi Arabia, Libya and Syria.

Full Text: “A Multi-Polar Nuclear Middle East – How Will it Operate,” working paper for the 2010 Herzliya Conference. 37 pages.