Thinking About a Poly-Nuclear Middle East

The easy thing to say about the prospect of a poly-nuclear Middle East is that it would likely be more prone to conflict than today’s Middle East, and that the consequences of such conflicts could be very high. The basic problem is that the more players there are in a deterrence relationship, the more unstable it is likely to be. We cannot presume that all weapon-holders in such an environment will think about, or handle, nuclear weaponry in the same ways that the U.S. does. It seems commonly to be assumed that the acquisition of nuclear weapons will have the effect of “immunizing” a proliferator regime from extra-regional intervention and intra-regional invasion alike. However, if local conditions are sufficiently volatile, this might not necessarily follow.

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