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Middle East goes nuclear

James A. Russell, Senior Lecturer, National Security Affairs, Naval Postgraduate School, ‘9 (Spring) “Strategic Stability Reconsidered: Prospects for Escalation and Nuclear War in the Middle East” IFRI, Proliferation Papers, #26, http://www.ifri.org/downloads/PP26_Russell_2009.pdf
Strategic stability in the region is thus undermined by various factors: (1) asymmetric interests in the bargaining framework that can introduce unpredictable behavior from actors; (2) the presence of non-state actors that introduce unpredictability into relationships between the antagonists; (3) incompatible assumptions about the structure of the deterrent relationship that makes the bargaining framework strategically unstable; (4) perceptions by Israel and the United States that its window of opportunity for military action is closing, which could prompt a preventive attack; (5) the prospect that Iran’s response to pre-emptive attacks could involve unconventional weapons, which could prompt escalation by Israel and/or the United States; (6) the lack of a communications framework to build trust and cooperation among framework participants. These systemic weaknesses in the coercive bargaining framework all suggest that escalation by any the parties could happen either on purpose or as a result of miscalculation or the pressures of wartime circumstance. Given these factors, it is disturbingly easy to imagine scenarios under which a conflict could quickly escalate in which the regional antagonists would consider the use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. It would be a mistake to believe the nuclear taboo can somehow magically keep nuclear weapons from being used in the context of an unstable strategic framework. Systemic asymmetries between actors in fact suggest a certain increase in the probability of war – a war in which escalation could happen quickly and from a variety of participants. Once such a war starts, events would likely develop a momentum all their own and decision-making would consequently be shaped in unpredictable ways. The international community must take this possibility seriously, and muster every tool at its disposal to prevent such an outcome, which would be an unprecedented disaster for the peoples of the region, with substantial risk for the


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