U.S. Deterrence in a More Multipolar Middle East

Analyzing the impact of a reduced U.S. presence on the possibility of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

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The United States government has vowed to be less militarily engaged in a seemingly more multipolar Middle East. As a consequence, regional states may no longer be certain what the United States might do in the event of nuclear proliferation. In a nine-month study, CSIS analyzed how a reduced U.S. presence and rising Chinese and Russian engagement in the region in the 2027 to 2032 timeframe might affect the calculations of Israel and Iran as potential proliferators.

CSIS used a tabletop game to explore what we consider the most likely proliferation scenarios in the 2027 to 2032 period, including Israel or Iran formally declaring their nuclear status or conducting a test. The game explored escalation and de-escalation pathways, international coordination and rivalry, and consequence management. 

CSIS used the findings of the game to inform expert interviews with former decisionmakers in the United States and abroad, exploring chains of events that could produce alternate outcomes. The elite interviews were used to develop a series of options for crisis response and consequence management.

For more information about the findings of these exercises, please contact Danny Sharp (dsharp@csis.org).

This work was sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.