GCC Security, Risk Assessment, and U.S. Extended Deterrence

The Burke chair has just published a new report entitled “GCC Security, Risk Assessment, and US Extended Deterrence” which is available on the CSIS web site at https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/legacy_files/files/publication/110202_GCC_Secur_US_Extended_Deter.pdf.

As the US shapes some aspects of it security posture in the Gulf region, several factors remain clear:

  • Iran remains an emerging challenge deeply involved in strategic competition with the US and its friends and allies in the region.
  • The war against terrorism and extremism in going to be a long war that is likely to go on for the next 10-20 years. The Gulf region is going to be one of the centers of this conflict as terrorism is on the rise in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al Qa’ida is not suddenly going away and new organizations are certain to emerge. Nations like Yemen and Somalia also present serious long-term risks of becoming centers of terrorist activity.  There will be an increase in global dependence on energy liquids from the Gulf from 28% in 2008 to 31% in 2035 in spite of the favorable projections about world-wide production of new energy liquids. If there is a crisis or war in the Gulf the overall global economy (and indirectly every job in America) will be affected. 
  • As a result of a strong rise in oil prices and an improved investment climate coupled to the economic growth of the MENA states, GCC foreign direct investments have strongly increased and played a key role in the economic development of the MENA region. Despite the current economic crises, economic growth is forecasted for the GCC states, making them an appealing region for foreign investments. The GCC countries are found to be the Lowest Risk in Economic Performance, and third in both the Geopolitical and the Business sectors. The GCC plus Iran contain about 55% of the total world proven crude oil reserves, 41% of the natural gas reserves and provide 28% of the world oil supply.
  • To maintain such a standing and possibly enhance them, Security and Stability has to be guaranteed. The U.S. and other Western allies to the GCC are in the process of trying to provide these requirements in the face of the instability caused by Iran’s various actions; in particular its Nuclear and Ballistic Missile Program, as well as the lack of any progress in the Palestinian-Israeli Peace negotiations.
  • If the US is to deter other regional states from proliferation in reaction to Iran, and make its statements about offering “extended regional deterrence” a credible option, it must show it will do its best to create effective regional partners in the Southern Gulf, as well as try to build a strategic partnership with Iraq.
  • U.S. extended deterrence has taken the form of statements that the full range of U.S. military capability in both conventional and unconventional weapons will be available and ready to be committed to defend its allies and friends against any threat. The U.S. should start implementing a strategy to influence the decision making bodies in Iran as to the devastating consequences if the GCC and any other allies are attacked or threatened. The U.S. should work with the GCC and its allies in the region in defining “redlines” that if crossed by Iran, then what economic and military response will the U.S. take, including military strike options against Iran.
  • Should deterrence fail, the U.S. should provide the GCC countries with Ballistic Missile Defense Systems and Early Warning and Command Control facilities.  These systems will limit the damage should they be attacked, and will enhance the conventional deterrence capability of the GCC. In addition the US should provide modern combat aircraft that can be launched within a very short window of time in order to block any first attack wave and to have the capability to quickly move the war into enemy territory, using both Defensive and Offensive Counterair Missions.
  • The US has already made progress in these areas. It has long been a major arms supplier to the Gulf Cooperation Council states and has worked with the GCC states in joint exercises, and has quietly developed a high level of cooperation in counterterrorism. It has worked with these states in developing counters to Iran’s steadily increasing capabilities for naval asymmetric warfare, and operations against offshore and coastal targets.  The US is also upgrading the air defense forces of many GCC states in order to provide missile defense capabilities, which will give them a significant “edge” in air superiority against Iran, help protect their borders and coasts against other states, and assist in countering any serious terrorist attacks.
  • It also has worked with its Gulf allies to develop long-term procurement plans that will improve their capabilities, limit the credibility of any Iranian threats of intimidation, help defend themselves against terrorist or extremist attacks, and fight alongside the US against any escalation to large-scale conflict. New US arms sales to Saudi Arabia are part of this effort, although major additional sales are underway or planned for key states like Kuwait and the UAE, and the US works closely with Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar and has bases or contingency bases in these countries.
  • These are arms sales that will help secure the flow of energy exports to the global economy and help limit oil prices; they reinforce deterrence rather than threaten it; and they all reduce the size of the force the US must deploy or be ready to project into the region. They will also help ensure the US strategic position in the region.

This report is one in a series on Iranian-US strategic competition.  Other recent reports include:
“U.S. and Iranian Strategic Competition: Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States” (https://www.csis.org/analysis/us-and-iranian-strategic-competition-3)
  “US, Gulf and Israeli Perspectives of the Threat from Iran” (https://www.csis.org/analysis/us-gulf-and-israeli-perspectives-threat-iran)
 “Strategic Competition With Iran: The Military Dimension” (https://www.csis.org/analysis/strategic-competition-iran-military-dimension)
“Iran, Iraq, and the Changing Face of Defense Cooperation in the Gulf” (https://www.csis.org/analysis/iran-iraq-and-changing-face-defense-cooperation-gulf)