Dr. Anthony H. Cordesman, Arleigh Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and is Co-Director of the Center’s Middle East Program, is one of the best analysts of the Gulf region, in my estimation. Below is the address he delivered to the National Council on US-Arab Relations (NCUSAR) last month in Washington, DC.

He accompanied his speech with a slide presentation (link below) that spells out the specifics of the issues he addressed. I suggest you look at those. Perhaps you could even use the audio link to his presentation while you view the slides.

Revisiting Arab-US Strategic Relations: Security Cooperation in the Middle East
Anthony Cordesman

ANTHONY H. CORDESMAN: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. As General Nash mentioned, they have suddenly cut my presentation from six hours to 12 minutes. (Laughter.) And I am going to race through a set of slides. They will be on the web [52-page PDF document]. But one of the key points here when we talk about security cooperation in the Middle East is, it is extraordinarily complex; it is extraordinarily diverse; it is not a matter of dealing with the region. It is a matter of dealing with subregions in countries. It is occurring at a time when we are making fundamental shifts away from a focus on conventional forces and conventional conflicts to issues like counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and asymmetric warfare, where not only the United States, but its friends and allies, have to make major changes in the way they organize and plan their security forces.

And let me stress that one phrase; this is not a matter of cooperation anymore with armies, navies, and air forces. It is a matter of cooperation which must extend to the security services, to the groups which deal with counterterrorism. And it must include, at least at some level, elements of the police. Without that integration, you do not have forces training and equipping to deal with the reality of what they face. And there is no clear line between counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, asymmetric warfare, and conventional warfare. We all try to categorize that, we all try to find definitions which somehow separate them.

They have, in practice, neither a meaning in terms of probability or operations. And what I have listed in these three slides on the changing strategic environment is simply a listing of those factors. To this, I would add one other dimension. We face a level of ideological division and tension within Islam and the Arab world, which has to be reflected in the way we look at security cooperation. It acts out in terms of the risk of terrorism, insurgency, ideological struggles linked to force throughout the region.

It also acts out in terms of U.S. relations with states in the region. We have to be extraordinarily sensitive to what this really does in terms of the armies, security forces, and motivations in the region and their perceptions of the United States. And security cooperation is not something where we somehow take the initiative. To work, it has to be partnership, particularly in the areas of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.

… But I would make the point to all of you, consider, for a moment, what a weak Israel armed with nuclear weapons without U.S. support would be. Would this be more stabilizing? And consider, too, what you have seen about Syria over the last 10 days. I don’t think anyone today is going to argue; there was a serious effort to create a nuclear program and that program has now failed.

When we talk about the southern Gulf, we face a very different situation. We have strong southern-Gulf friends and allies. We have Iran with very large military forces, uncertainty in the future of Iraq and Yemen. There is the risk of a whole spectrum of conflicts directly involving the vital strategic interests of the United States. The issue is oil. No one should have any illusions about that. It is also political ties, historical ties. And those figures do become far more favorable when you look at anything other than manpower.

Our allies can bring, potentially immense military assets to the problem of securing this region if we can improve the quality of cooperation. That’s true of armor, of aircraft, but above all, look at the economic resources involved. The fact is, when you look at Syria, which to some extent at least is a question mark, Syria’s economic power is negligible compared to that of its neighbors. When you look at the southern Gulf relative to Iran, you get an idea – that is the tall bar there relative to the blue bar – of just how much we could draw on with the proper levels of cooperation. And when we look at military spending in the southern Gulf, it is approaching $40 billion a year and will exceed it in 2007. And Iran is expending at a level of less than $7 billion.

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