Iran, Evolving Threats, and Strategic Partnerships in the Gulf

The U.S. and its Arab partners in the Gulf face a wide range of threats. These include the Islamic State and other Jihadist elements, civil war, instability, and divisions in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria. It is Iran, however, which poses the most severe military challenge, and one that goes far beyond its search for nuclear capability.

Iran has been able to greatly increase its military influence in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria – as well as in some southern Gulf states. Iran has built up a major sea-air-missile force that can conduct asymmetric warfare throughout the Gulf, at the Strait of Hormuz, and in the Gulf of Oman.

It has also built up a major missile force that currently has serious accuracy and reliability problems, but which can become far more lethal even if Iran is unsuccessful in acquiring nuclear weapons. Precision-guided conventionally armed missiles could radically change the regional balance, replacing weapons of mass destruction with weapons of mass effectiveness.

The Burke Chair at CSIS has prepared a briefing showing how these aspects of Iranian forces have developed and the key trends in the military balance in the Gulf as they affect each key aspect of the military balance as shown by measuring Iran’s forces, US forces, and the forces of the various state of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

This briefing is entitled Iran, Evolving Threats, and Strategic Partnership in the Gulf, and is available on the Burke Chair web site at here.

The brief provides maps, charts, trend analysis and key data on US military capabilities in the Gulf, and how the military spending, arms sales, and forces of the individual Arab Gulf states and the GCC compare with those of Iran. It provides a detailed comparison of both the total and high quality elements of conventional forces, as well as forces for asymmetric warfare, exerting regional influence, and missile warfare.

The brief will be regularly revised and updated over time. Comments, corrections, and additional data will be most helpful, and should be sent to Anthony H. Cordesman at

Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

© 2014 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.

Anthony H. Cordesman

Anthony H. Cordesman

Former Emeritus Chair in Strategy