by Michael Rubin
2nd part of 2
These various political restrictions to basing rights hinder levels of US troops in the region, and hence any attempts to prepare for containment. Any serious containment strategy will likely require more than the 42,500
To effectively contain Iran would require upgrading regional facilities to expedite deployment in event of hostility; deploying advanced anti-aircraft weaponry around regional states' economic assets—such as oil fields and industrial infrastructure—which would likely be targets of an Iranian first strike; and perhaps most significantly upgrading regional militaries to wage war independently against Iran for several days until the Pentagon can send reinforcements to the region.
The import of this latter factor is made apparent by an analysis of the strategic balance in the region. At present, US regional allies neither have the troops nor the material to themselves contain
In terms of materiel,
Iran and Saudi Arabia have near parity in combat aircraft numbers — 280 against 290 —although Saudi Arabia has a qualitative edge as its F-15s remains superior to Iran's MiG-29s and Su-24s in an air-to-air capacity.
Given this military balance, the
However, while such advanced equipment can provide regional militaries with a qualitative edge over the Iranian military, again political restrictions exist that will prevent the sale of sensitive equipment. In particular, a traditional desire for
Even when the executive branch deem weapons sales to moderate Arab states permissible, Congress often intervenes to derail sales of advanced weaponry to Arab states. Most famously, this occurred with the failed attempt to cancel a 1981 sale of advanced airborne early warning and control systems aircraft to Saudi Arabia, but more recently Congress has intervened to sidetrack sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions technology to Saudi Arabia, even as the Bush administration has approved their sale to the UAE, Oman, and Israel.
As US Army Lt Col William Wunderle and US Air Force Lt Col Andre Briere argue in a Winter 2008 Middle East Quarterly article, any strategy to contain a nuclear Iran will require the US government and Congress to rethink and reformulate calculations on restrictions to arms sales in the region, based on the understanding that the GCC states represent the front line of Israeli defence against a mutual Iranian threat and that no GCC state itself poses a serious threat to Israeli security. While a politically sensitive issue, it is.
Beyond the military procurement, training is as important to improve the ability of regional militaries to act autonomously. Here, regional militaries vary in their preparedness. Saudi reluctance to host foreign forces in its territory hampers its contribution to containment and to the protection of its critical infrastructure such as the Jubail, Ras Juaymah, and Ras Tannurah refineries in the Eastern province, and the East-West Crude Oil Pipeline (Petroline), which bisects the country and ends at the Red Sea
One further constraint on the
President Bush has since 2002 made democratisation a cornerstone of his policy toward the
This has ensured relative continuity in
Contain or restrain?
With negotiations over
Neither the Bush administration, candidates to succeed him, nor Congress have yet proposed streamlining of the weapons procurement process, augmented deployments of forces, especially air force and navy, to the region, upgrading of existing facilities or establishment of new bases, or re-prioritisation of security and democracy concerns along Iran's northern flank. This suggests that the
Michael Rubin, editor of the Middle East Quarterly, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and senior lecturer at the
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