Gulf Threats, Risks and Vulnerabilities

Terrorism and Asymmetric Warfare

While much of the world has focused on Iran’s missile developments, and possible nuclear capabilities, this is only one of the risks that threaten the flow of petroleum products from the Gulf – a region with some 60% of the world’s proven conventional oil reserves and 40% of its natural gas. Far more immediate threats have emerged in terms of asymmetric warfare, terrorism, piracy, non-state actors, and other threats.

The Burke Chair at CSIS has developed a new briefing that provides an overview of these threats, showing current trends and highlighting the strategic geography involved. This brief looks beyond Gulf waters and examines the problems created by Iran’s ties to other states and non-state actors throughout the region. It highlights Iran’s capabilities for asymmetric warfare, but it also examines the threat from terrorism and the role it can play in nations like Yemen. It looks at the trends in piracy and in the threat in the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean.

The key issues addressed are:

  • Terrorism
  • Asymmetric Warfare;
  • Maritime and Border Security;
  • Combating Piracy;
  • Critical facilities and Infrastructure;
  • Role of Chokepoints; and
  • Role of State and Non-State Actors

Countermeasures include:

  • Prepare for all types of threats, and full spectrum of terrorism and asymmetric warfare;
  • Jointness and inter-ministry cooperation;
  • Regional and international cooperation
  • Focus on both active and passive defense;
  • Broad, non-compartmented situational awareness with real world operational response - critical value of IS&R and C4I;
  • Intelligence Cooperation
  • Gaming and “red teaming”
  • Design civil and commercial facilities and infrastructure for deterrence and defense.

This briefing is entitled Gulf Threats, Risks and Vulnerabilities: Terrorism and Asymmetric Warfare, and can be found on the CSIS web site at

This report is the third report in a series of three. The two previous reports in the series are available on the CSIS website:

Additional work on Iran’s military and nuclear capabilities and the threats they pose to regional security are available at:

In addition, a new CSIS/Praeger book on Iranian military and asymmetric forces, Iran’s missile and WMD programs, and the challenges they pose to regional/international security and US Policy, entitled Iranian Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Birth of a Regional Nuclear Arms Race? will be published September, 2009.