Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


speculate how much longer Israel can wait before launching

preventive attacks on known and suspected Iranian nuclearrelated

sites. The head of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service,

has told the Knesset (parliament) that Iran’s nuclear

weapons program represents “the biggest threat to Israel’s existence

since its creation.” 7 During the 1991 Persian Gulf War,

Saddam Hussein’s forces launched Scud missiles at Israeli cities

that were capable of delivering chemical warheads. US officials

convinced Israeli leaders to withhold a response and to

allow the United States to take the lion’s share of the responsibility

for deterring Iraqi WMD use and disrupting and defending

against Scud attacks on Israel. Whether the United States

would offer an explicit nuclear guarantee to Israel and whether

Israel would allow its security to depend on a US commitment

to respond to nuclear strikes from Iran are open questions.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other predominantly Sunni

states in the region have expressed a renewed interest in nuclear

energy. This interest in nuclear technology by oil-rich

states in the Middle East is judged by many to be a thinly veiled

hedge against Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon capability. If

Shi’a-dominated Iran is unchecked in its development of a nuclear

arsenal, Sunni Muslims are likely to anticipate that they

will be among the targets of coercion—or worse. On the margins

of a UN meeting on 16 December 2008, six Arab states—

Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia––and the

United Arab Emirates met with Secretary of State Rice and expressed

their concern about Iran’s nuclear policies and its regional

ambitions. A news report greatly understated their concern

when it said, “These countries have very deep interests in

how this issue is resolved.” 8 Iran’s nuclear weapon aspirations

could trigger nuclear proliferation by one or more of these countries

that are not currently beneficiaries of US extended nuclear


An official of the United Arab Emirates stated that the United

States should consider countering an Iranian threat by offering

Middle East allies protection under a nuclear umbrella. 9 Saudi

officials are reported to have made statements that, in response

to an Iranian nuclear threat, they would prefer to rely on a US

nuclear umbrella. However, if they believe the “United States

lacks the will or capability to defend Saudi Arabia against a


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