'Parameters of Stable Deterrence in a Proliferated Middle East'

The Nonproliferation Review, 7:1, Fall-Winter 2000

25 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2017

See all articles by Gerald Steinberg

Gerald Steinberg

Bar-Ilan University - Department of Political Studies

Date Written: December 1, 2000

Abstract

This article examines the emerging deterrence system in the Middle East by disaggregating deterrence into four basic components. Using this framework, it analyzes the Israeli nuclear deterrence policy, and systematically reassesses the interaction between Iraq and Israel prior to and during the 1991 Gulf War.

Despite the particular and perhaps unique context, including Iraqi efforts during the war to trigger Israeli military involvement in order to achieve the political objective of disrupting the US-led coalition, deterrence strategy provided the framework for Israeli decision making. Moreover, there is strong evidence that deterrence was also a key factor in the Iraqi calculus. From the Israeli perspective, the strategy of deliberate ambiguity, based on a threat spectrum ranging from conventional to nuclear, was seen as successful, but in need of reinforcement.

The evidence from this case also indicates that despite initial fears, decision making on all sides was rational, and catastrophic outcomes were avoided. However, the absence of communication channels and the high levels of misunderstanding and misperception made the deterrence relationship tenuous and uncertain, and in another confrontation or crisis, a successful outcome is far from assured. Uncertainty remains the dominant factor in the context of regional confrontation and deterrence scenarios.

Keywords: Israel, deterrence, Iraq, Gulf War, nuclear weapons

Suggested Citation

Steinberg, Gerald, 'Parameters of Stable Deterrence in a Proliferated Middle East' (December 1, 2000). The Nonproliferation Review, 7:1, Fall-Winter 2000. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3060289

Gerald Steinberg (Contact Author)

Bar-Ilan University - Department of Political Studies ( email )

Ramat Gan, 52900
Israel

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