The report entitled “The Arab Gulf States and Iran: Military Spending, Modernization, and the Shifting Military Balance” examines, in great detail, the military balance between Iran, its neighbours and the U.S.. Cordesman states: “The risks this arms race presents in terms of a future conflict have not diminished with time, and many elements of the regional arms race have accelerated sharply in recent years.”
Iran has been trying to spread its influence across the Middle East for years and it has been particularly involved in the internal affairs of Syria and Iraq.
However, there are a combination of factors that have resulted in what Cordesman describes as an “increasingly fragile and dangerous security environment”. These include the United States’ exit from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) earlier this year and Iran’s reaction to it. There are also the clashes with Iran in the Gulf and the bloody war in Yemen which is an indication that more conflicts are possible. There is discernible tension between the Arab Gulf states and the boycott of Qatar too.
The war of words between Iran and the United States has been concerning because the threats that have been issued cannot be dismissed as empty rhetoric. In July, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged Trump not to “play with the lion’s tail”, saying that he would regret it if he did. He went on to warn: “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars. You are not in a position to incite the Iranian nation against Iran’s security and interests.”
Trump, of course, did not let the threat lie, and he responded to the warning with a warning of his own. And he capitalised his full message on Twitter: “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”
Cordesman pointed out that Iran’s weapons, in the case of a war, are ageing and not very spectacular. Since the fall of the Shah, Iran has not been able to equip itself with decent modern weapons, although it must be admitted that it does have some advanced ballistic and cruise missiles.
Nevertheless, in a potential regional war, the Gulf States – with their modern and effective weapons – will have no trouble guaranteeing victory. Further strengthening their position would be the United States and Europe.
The Iranian regime is in a very delicate position. It has very little support in the region and even less support at home where the people have been calling for regime change for almost a year. Simply removing the Iranian regime from the equation would bring instant relief, not just to the people of Iran, but also to the regional conflicts.