Escalation in the Middle East and Persian Gulf

by Francis Fukuyama

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In the Persian Gulf/Middle East, the combination of high mutual superpower stakes, endemic political instability among the states there, and the existence of strong military forces in close proximity, guarantees that crises in the region will continue having the potential to trigger direct U.S.-Soviet military conflict, and consequently the use of nuclear weapons. If the superpowers are to avoid the sorts of challenges to each other's fundamental interests that are likely to lead to war, they must be able to perceive and correctly evaluate the other's underlying stake. The author outlines the stakes of the two superpowers, then reviews two possible precipitating causes of a U.S.-USSR confrontation in the area: (1) Soviet intervention in Iran, (2) and escalation of Arab-Israeli war. Finally, he outlines actions that could reduce the probability of nuclear war under four categories: (1) doctrine and policy, (2) forces, (3) procedures, and (4) cooperative measures.

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