Due to the experience in the region of military coups, most regimes will not be willing to relinquish central control and to delegate authority to the military units. In times of calm, this is no problem; in times of tension, it severely restricts the ability of the regime to develop doctrines of graduated response or to maintain escalation dominance.
Research and development organisations in these countries will probably not relinquish control over the weapons. Unlike the case of the Manhattan project, the A.Q. Khan apparatus continued to play a major role in Pakistani nuclear policy, while maintaining its own proliferation network, independent of any "national" decision-making process. This pattern will probably be followed in Iran, where the Revolutionary Guards are already involved in research and development and will probably continue to have operational control over any weapons.
It is doubtful that the countries of the region will integrate into their systems the doctrines of command and control and the wide range of technical safeguards that evolved in the US and the Soviet Union over decades of Cold War.
Since Hiroshima, the world has become accustomed to defining the "use" of nuclear weapons in terms of their most devastating consequences — attacks on large urban civilian populations. The shadow of Hiroshima and the taboo on use of nuclear weapons loomed not only over their strategic against civilian populations but also over a broad gamut of uses of nuclear weapons: the use of small, low-yield tactical weapons against military targets (even when such use may reduce collateral damage); testing of nuclear weapons near the borders of political adversaries; or brandishing nuclear weapons in the context of conventional conflicts.
The countries of the Middle East will probably be more predisposed than the Cold War protagonists to brandish their nuclear weapons, not only rhetorically but through nuclear alerts or nuclear tests, leading to escalation. Once one country has taken such measures, the other nuclear countries of the region would probably feel forced to adopt defensive measures, leading to multilateral escalation. However, such multilateral escalation will not be mitigated by Cold War-type hotlines and means of signalling and none of the parties involved will have escalation dominance. This and the absence of a credible second-strike capability may well strengthen the tendency to opt for a first strike.
True, we may safely assume that the leaders and peoples of the Middle East have no desire to be the targets of nuclear blasts. However, the inherent instability of the region and its regimes, the difficulty in managing multilateral nuclear tensions, the weight of religious, emotional and internal pressures and the proclivity of many of the regimes in the region towards military adventurism and brinkmanship do not bode well for the future of this region once it enters the nuclear age.
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