The Burke Chair is issuing the first Volume in a new series of reports on the Gulf Military Balance. This first volume is called The Gulf Military Balance, Volume One: The Conventional and Asymmetric Dimensions.

This volume builds on, updates, and expands previous work. It analyzes the balance of Iranian, US, and Gulf Arab forces in a wide range of possible contingencies, and gives equal weight to both conventional and asymmetric forces. The other two volumes – which will be issued shortly — focus on the missile and nuclear dimensions of the balance and on the development of Arab Gulf forces and their strategic partnerships with the US, Britain, and France.

An accurate assessment of the trends in the military balance in the Gulf is a critical part of US and allied decision making, and the conventional military balance is only one side of the story. Iran’s current strategy is to develop a combination of conventional and asymmetric forces that present a wide range of significant challenges to US policy makers, Arab Gulf states, and other allies and regional powers.

Iran almost certainly recognizes that US conventional superiority would give the US and its Gulf allies the upper hand in a serious conventional conflict where they could use the full spectrum of their abilities to attack a range of Iranian military targets. As a result, Iran is linking the steady expansion of its asymmetric forces to new uses of its conventional forces, and is building up its missile and nuclear capabilities, in part to deter retaliation against its use of asymmetric warfare, and in part to pose a major challenge to US and allied conventional superiority

If the US is to successfully neutralize this complex mix of threats that can be used in so many different ways and at some many different levels of escalation, it must continuously adapt its forward deployed and power projection forces to deal Iranian efforts to improve its capability conduct a battle of attrition in the Gulf or near it, and deal with contingencies like Iran’s use of free floating mines, unattributable attacks, and any other form of asymmetric warfare than threatens friendly Gulf states and the flow of world energy exports from the region.

The US, must also work with its Gulf partners and other allies to deter and defend against very different types of conflict and be prepared to face sharp limits on the amount of force it can use. US success depends on building up the capabilities of its strategic partners in the Arab Gulf, as well as improving its cooperation with more traditional partners like Britain and France.

The full contents of the Burke Chair study, The Gulf Military Balance, Volume One: and The Conventional and Asymmetric Dimensions are supported by a wide range of tables, charts, and maps.
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