The military balance in the Gulf region has become steadily more complex with time. Conventional forces have been been reshaped by massive arms transfers, and changes in major weapons, technology, and virtually every aspect of joint warfare, command and control, sensors, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems.
Missile warfare is changing radically as diverse mixes of ballistic and cruise missiles, UAVs and UCAVs, and missiles are deployed. Precision-guided, conventionally armed missiles are becoming a key aspect of regional forces, and so are missile defenses. The threat of nuclear proliferation remains, and at least one state – Iran – is a declared chemical weapons power while the Assad regime in Syria has made repeated use of chemical weapons.
At the same time, asymmetric forces, “proxy” forces, and various forms of military advisory and support missions are playing a growing role in local conflicts and gray area operations. So are local militia and security forces – often divided within a given Gulf state by sect and ethnicity. Terrorist and extremist forces continue to pose serious threats, as do political tensions and upheavals, and the weaknesses and failures of some regional governments to meet the needs of their people.
The most serious sources of Gulf conflicts are now the tensions between Iran and the Arab Gulf states, and the role played by terrorists and extremists, but civil war and insurgencies remain an additional threat - as do the links between Iran, Syria, and the Hezbollah. The growing role of Russia and Turkey add to regional instability as does the uncertain role of the U.S. and its focus on linking sanctions to Iran’s military activities.
No one analysis can cover all of these military developments, but the Burke Chair at CSIS has prepared a graphic analysis that focuses on key developments in Gulf military forces, and selected aspects of regional security.
Click here for the full story, on the CSIS website.