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Thursday, June 16, 2011     GET REAL

Rand: U.S. pledges on Iran no longer reassure neighboring states

WASHINGTON — Middle East states were not expected to change their policies toward Iran regardless of guarantees by the United States, a report said.


The report by the Rand Corp. said U.S. allies in the Middle East were not expected to change their opposition to Teheran's nuclear weapons program. Rand, in a report for the U.S. Air Force, asserted that Israel as well as Gulf Cooperation Council states would not be assuaged by U.S. promises to protect them from an Iranian nuclear strike.

"The reticence on the part of the GCC states, especially Saudi Arabia, arises from likely domestic political opposition, their expected continuing interest in keeping open some cooperation with Iran, and their potential concerns that such a military expansion may only embolden rather than deter Iranian aggression and make them potential military targets," the report, titled "Iran's Nuclear Future: Critical U.S. Policy Choices Prepared for the U.S. Air Force," said. "Relying too heavily on U.S. nuclear capabilities, in Israel's view, could erode its own nuclear deterrent."

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The report, released earlier this month, warned that Iran could decide to use its nuclear weapons arsenal under threat of regime collapse. Rand urged the U.S. Air Force to conduct exercises and test a new bunker-buster to prepare for any war with Iran.

"Iran's military doctrines and conventional capabilities provide it with alternatives to using nuclear weapons in a conflict, and given the overwhelming superiority of both U.S. conventional and nuclear forces, any Iranian use of nuclear weapons would hold enormous risks for Iran," the report said. "Thus, Iran is likely to use nuclear weapons only under a narrow set of circumstances that would revolve around Iran viewing itself as vulnerable to U.S. conventional military defeat and threatened as a regime by U.S. conventional military operations."

The report said GCC states, despite ordering advanced U.S. defense systems, could come under Iranian missile strikes. Rand identified the most vulnerable of the Gulf Arab states as Bahrain and Qatar, which contain significant U.S. forces.

Rand, however, raised the prospect that Iran would target Saudi Arabia, which does not contain a major U.S. presence. The report said such an attack would affect the entire region without necessarily prompting U.S. retaliation.

"In the future, Iran could decide to target Saudi Arabia rather than U.S. military forces with its nuclear weapons, thereby demonstrating Iranian capabilities while potentially avoiding a U.S. nuclear response," the report said. "Such an attack would risk significant backlash from the Arab world, however, and Iran could not be guaranteed that the United States would not retaliate."

The report said GCC states would be dissuaded from seeking U.S. guarantees in fear of a backlash from their people. Rand also said U.S. military intervention could escalate rather than ease regional tension.

"Requests from the smaller GCC states — Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the UAE — for such guarantees could come if Iran's nuclear posture reaches an ambiguous stage; these states would be vulnerable, given their own limited defense capabilities and the existence of outstanding bilateral issues with Iran that could provide a pretext for conflict," the report said.

"At the same time, the GCC states will be reluctant to request such guarantees because they would not want to further undermine their legitimacy by appearing to be U.S. protectorates," the report added. "In addition, these states would not want to be seen by Iran as lining up with the West in a containment strategy that would make them direct rather than indirect parties to a conflict when they are trying to present themselves as bystanders."

For its part, Saudi Arabia could reject U.S. defense cooperation and seek to acquire its own nuclear arsenal. Rand said any Saudi request from Washington for security guarantees must remain secret.

"Given domestic sensitivity to defense cooperation with the United States, Saudi Arabia could seek more robust security guarantees than current U.S. commitments, but it would likely wish for them to remain secret," the report said. "This accounts for the uncertainty in our evaluation as to whether Saudi Arabia would seek this reassurance measure even if Iran were to declare its nuclear posture and acquire ICBMs. Saudi Arabia may also prefer to pursue its own nuclear deterrent rather than relying on more open U.S. guarantees."


The Saudis are not fools. The so-called "US Umbrella" is used by the US to keep its "friends" in line, not to protect them from thier enemies. It has, thus far, only been used to protect Iran from Israeli preemptive attack, an attack which would have given the Saudis far more protection than the US "Umbrella".

Syd Chaden      6:26 a.m. / Saturday, June 18, 2011

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