scenario.txt March 26, 1997
Here are examples of scenarios that may be useful in writing your papers.
From Raymond Tanter, Rogue Regimes: Terrorism and Proliferation. New York: St.
Martin's Press, 1997
Chapter Two: Iran
Even before Iran entered a rogues gallery of enemies that sponsor international
terrorism and/or engage in trafficking in weapons of mass destruction, there were
contingency plans for an assault on Iran in order to save it from the Soviet menace.
In the Cold War Pentagon, a defense "of" Iran from Soviet attack could warrant an
attack "on" Iran. Whether Iran was friendly or not was irrelevant to whether it would
be saved from Soviet attack.
A Soviet invasion of Iran was one of the major Cold War threat contingencies. The
Pentagon considered a Soviet invasion of Iran to be almost comparable to Moscow
ordering an invasion of a NATO country. Realignment in Europe without war would be a
consequence of a Soviet invasion of the Gulf. Soviet control of Gulf oil on which
Western Europe depended made this contingency was very serious. That contingency,
however, was not very probable. Also, if there were a war on the central front in
Europe, there could be a diversionary military move by Moscow in the Gulf. The
contingency of a Soviet invasion of Iran produced a worse case scenario for the
Pentagon, especially in the context of war along the central front in Europe.
During a war with NATO, Gulf oil facilities could have been prime targets for Moscow.
Simultaneous crises in Europe and the Gulf would have delayed a Gulf buildup by about
two weeks. Regarding an invasion of Iran by Soviet combat forces or a combination of
Soviet and Iraqi troops, the Pentagon considered the ground and air military balance,
effect of deployments by the United States in a simulated NATO buildup, as well as
American-Iranian vs. Soviet-Iraqi resupply capabilities.
With respect to Gulf contingencies and Soviet projection forces, the Pentagon was well
aware that Soviet troops were closer "as the crow flies, i.e., they were some 7,000
versus 15,000 nautical miles from the Gulf area. Also, they maintained seven airborne
divisions at a high state of readiness. But the United States in the first 30 days of
a crisis could have projected by air and sea more capable ground forces than Soviet
troops. Only after the sealift began would the Soviets have enjoyed the benefits of
proximity. A constraint on the Soviet sealift, moreover, was that it would have been
sensitive to the availability of the Turkish Straits and either the Suez or land
routes via Syria.
Other Cold War threats included the most important one--a Soviet incursion via the
Fulda Gap of a divided Germany into the heartland of Western Europe. Even as American
forces anticipated these major threats, Pentagon analysts began to plan for new
dangers of an indirect nature. Pro-Soviet regimes in Afghanistan, Cuba, and Libya
acted as surrogates for Moscow, and thus they were fair game for Pentagon planners.
Chapter Three: Iraq
The impetus for the Wohlstetter study came from a concern at the Department of Defense
that a growing preponderance of Soviet power in the Gulf area coincided with
comparative weakness of the West in that region. He highlighted a paradoxical
reassurance that dominated conventional wisdom of the early 1980s: The Soviets would
never attack in so vital an area where the West was at a disadvantage; because to do
so would mean World War III, Moscow would be deterred. Wohlstetter was critical of
this "sunny scenario," and he extended it to show how absurd it was: If the Soviets
would not strike at vital points where the West was weak, they also would not attack
where the West was strong; as for non-vital areas, moreover, the Soviets would be
irrational to risk attacking for marginal gains. Thus, according to the "wishful
thinkers," a Soviet invasion of the Gulf area was inconceivable.
A specific problem debated at the Department of Defense during the early 1980s was the
threat to Kuwait from Iraq. In addition to Iran, the Iraqi threat involved a direct
invasion of Kuwait, and the use of implicit Iraqi power to coerce Kuwait and the Arab
Gulf states. Regarding non-Soviet Gulf contingencies, the threat from Baghdad to
Tehran was the most serious and probable. Iraq and pre-Revolutionary Iran were in
approximate balance. But the post-revolutionary situation found Iraq militarily
preeminent in the Gulf. The role of Iraq was critical for a successful Soviet invasion
of Iran. In a scenario with Iraq and Soviet projection forces against Saudi Arabia and
projection forces from the U.S., overall force ratios would have been very unfavorable
to the United States.
To address the problem of unfavorable force ratios and thus meet non-Soviet Gulf
contingencies, there was a need to wean Baghdad from Moscow. One of the advocates of a
tilt towards Iraq in the Carter Administration was National Security Advisor Zbigniew
Brzezinski. Washington should seek to moderate Iraq's policies regarding Iran while
balancing Baghdad's power. In addition, there was a need to meet the threat in the
Gulf on its own terms. To do so would have required joint consultations with the
allies. At issue was how to create an allied force to confront a combined Soviet-Iraqi
threat without compromising western capability needed outside of the Gulf and without
destabilizing host countries like Saudi Arabia.
Such goals required an upgrading of the American forces in the Indian Ocean;
deployment of United States and allied forces through the Indian Ocean, and as
politically feasible, into the Gulf; military exercises separately and jointly with
local forces; a year-round presence of at least one carrier task force group; as well
as pre-positioning of equipment and supplies to facilities that could handle a rapid
buildup of ground forces and tactical aircraft. Such a combat presence had to be
politically acceptable, able to defend itself against land-based attacks, and capable
of projecting enough fire power ashore to deter an Iraqi-Soviet military move in the
From a balance of power perspective, Iraq bordered on hostile states like Iran, Syria,
and Turkey. They posed a threat to Baghdad. Pro-Iraq officials at the White House and
State Department were inclined to follow a balance of power approach rather than a
policy to contain Iraq; Pentagon officials tended towards a containment approach, and
they prepared for a worst-case scenario--war with Iraq.
As the 1990s close, consider war scenarios for the future of the Gulf region. Whether
the United States continues to pursue a posture of containing and confronting Iraq
depends in part on scenarios that develop in the region.
Scenarios regarding Iraq
Kurdish Civil War Resumes: Coalition Cracks Down on Saddam
A first scenario is the most likely and perhaps easiest to handle with containment,
confrontation, and perhaps rollback of Iraqi combat forces. It is a resumption of the
Kurdish civil war in northern Iraq followed by tit-for-tat escalation and expansion of
fighting between Iraq and Coalition forces in both northern and southern Iraq. This
scenario implies some tacit cooperation between Tehran and Washington to contain
Iran Attacks or Subverts Arab Neighbors:
A second set of scenarios consist of Iranian attempts to destabilize Arab states like
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman. In this event,
Washington would have to consider whether to embrace Baghdad as a counter to Tehran.
These are more difficult to manage than would be the case if Baghdad were the culprit.
Because Iran's air force poses a moderate threat to high value targets in the Gulf
region, Tehran's warplanes could launch small-scale surprise attacks with great
destruction and with even greater psychological impact. Ships and transshipment
facilities in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates would be fruitful targets for
Iranian assault. But an attack on Saudi Arabia is the least likely because of the
deterrent threat of retaliation. Regardless of damage, an assault on Saudi Arabia
would raise the threat of concerted American and Arab Gulf state retaliation on key
As a result of enhanced capabilities acquired during and after Desert Storm, Saudi
Arabia is better able to protect itself than in times past. But even with
American-supplied Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), the Saudi Air Force and
ground-based air defense system may not be able to counter a surprise Iranian
airstrike on Saudi oil installations. The time and distances are just too short. About
100 Iranian F4 fighter-bombers could strike oil fields in the Eastern provinces of
Saudi Arabia anywhere from bases in Bandar-e-Abbas, Iran in just a few minutes.
Despite the short time for response to an Iranian air assault, Riyadh considers
Iranian-inspired subversion to be the more likely threat to occur than airstrikes.
Another contingency of concern to Riyadh is for Iraq to be under Coalition force
assault while Iran strengthens its diplomatic ties in the region. The Saudis would
worry about Iranian diplomatic moves to improve Tehran's relations with Turkey and
Pakistan. These moves would be designed to protect Iran's flanks. Tehran also could
expand its relations with other third world countries in proximity to the Gulf. A
shield of compliant rulers from friendly neighboring states would help secure the
Islamic revolution at home, lower United States influence in the region, and allow for
a more vigorous challenge to the Gulf states. Hence, Riyadh would be very concerned
about contingencies, such as Iraq under siege from Coalition warplanes while Iran was
on the upswing in military capabilities.
In this second scenario, Iranian-sponsored subversion would be directed at the Gulf
states in order to foment popular uprisings among Gulf Shiite Muslims. If the
Iran-Iraq War had ignited a broad-based Shiite revolt in Iraq, that instability could
have created smaller-scale flare-ups in Bahrain and perhaps even in Saudi Arabia and
Regarding other contingencies including Saudi Arabia, there could be a recurrence of
the July 1987 riots in the Kingdom. About 400 people died in Iranian-inspired rioting.
Shiite pilgrims from Iran clashed with Saudi security forces near the Grand Mosque in
Mecca. Also, some 1,400 pilgrims died in July 1990, after a bridge and tunnel accident
In addition, Saudi Arabia has accused Tehran and Damascus of masterminding attacks on
American-Saudi military facilities in Riyadh and Dhahran during 1995 and 1996. Such
riots and bombings could escalate tensions between Tehran and Riyadh to the point of
involving American air strikes against Iran in defense of the Kingdom. Because of the
proximity of Kuwait near the borders of Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, any conflicts
involving Saudi Arabia and Iran would threaten Kuwait as well. Consider the
contingency of a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait versus Iran. Washington
could deter or defend against such a contingency better if there were an alignment of
convenience between Iraq and the United States.
Besides Saudi Arabia, there are tensions between Iran and smaller Arab Gulf states.
In December 1982, during the Iran-Iraq War, Iran undertook to induce the United Arab
Emirates (UAE) to be more responsive to Tehran and less sensitive to Riyadh. The
Emirates responded by seeking a balance between the two. So long as Iran did not
defeat Iraq, Iranian efforts to tip the balance in its favor would fail. Iran's
approach, however, was disingenuous. It was designed to win support from the Arab Gulf
States and pave the way for a reassertion of Iranian influence in the post war era.
During Tehran in the mid-1990s, the UAE has been the most outspoken of the Gulf state
critics of the dual containment policy of the Clinton Administration. The Emirates
feel that Iran will adopt a more aggressive posture towards them when the
comparatively pragmatic Iranian President Rafsanjani yields to the more radical
Speaker of the Majlis--the Iranian assembly--Natiq-Nouri.
During September 1993, Sheik Zayed's regime was involved in a long-standing dispute
with Iran over the administration of the island of Abu Musa. The conflict escalated
during April 1992, when Iran declined to permit hundreds of expatriates back into that
island. It is jointly administered by Iran and the United Arab Emirates under a 1991
accord. And to make matters even more difficult, the UAE has had other conflicts with
Iran over the two Tunb islands in the Gulf. In the context of enhanced tensions over
Abu Musa and the Tunb islands, this contingency could be met more effectively if there
were cooperation between Iraq and the United States.
Bahrain is another Arab Gulf state in fear of Iran. After the Iranian Shiite
revolution in 1979, Tehran stimulated instability among Bahrain's Shiite Muslims.
Also, Iran revived its claim to islands in dispute between Bahrain and Iran. And
during 1981, Bahrain reportedly thwarted an Iranian-inspired plot to foment revolution
in the Emirate. Similarly plots occurred in 1985. Again, tente between Baghdad and
Washington would help deter Iranian moves against Bahrain and would facilitate the
defense of that state in the event of deterrence failure.
Oman has been worried about its security, especially after the Iranian revolution and
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. And during the Iran-Iraq War, Oman signed defense
agreements with neighboring Arab states against the Iranian threat. In order to block
the rise of Soviet and then Iranian influence around the entrance to the Gulf, the
Sultan of Oman signed a 1980 accord with Washington. That arrangement provided for
American military assistance in exchange for United States access to Omani bases.
Because of the location of Oman at the southern end of the Gulf, there is less of a
need for accommodation between Iraq and the United States for the defense of Oman.
As a result of scenarios involving hostilities between Arab Gulf states and Iran or
Iranian-inspired efforts to destabilize these regimes, they would like to see an Arab
counterweight to Iran, and that could only be Iraq. These scenarios argue for
Washington to have a tacit alignment with Baghdad as a counter to Tehran.
American attacks in the Gulf on Iranian shipping and U.S. cruise missile attacks on
military positions within Iran would that imply that Baghdad and Washington would be
in a position to cooperate against a common adversary, Tehran. And if Saddam fell
from power, that could be a pretext for an incremental reintroduction of Iraq into
the family of nations. With Saddam out, tacit alignment with the United States is a
distinct possibility. In fact, Saddam's demise could allow for an explicit alliance
between western countries and Iraq. Such a contingency would be quite worrisome to
Israel as well as to Iraq's neighbors.
In the context of escalating hostilities instigated by Iran against the Arab Gulf
states and in the Arab-Israel zone, as well as the ouster of Saddam, these conditions
would give rise to the possibility for a deal between Baghdad and Washington. The
grand bargain is already explicit in the sanctions regime imposed on Iraq by the UN.
Iraq would have to comply fully with UN Security Council Resolution 687. Its main
purpose is to prevent Baghdad from becoming once again a military threat to Iraq's
neighbors or to the Gulf region as a whole. It calls for the destruction, removal, or
rendering harmless all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, including all of its
chemical and biological weapons, research and development, as well as manufacturing
and support facilities. And Baghdad would have to demonstrate that it would not seek
to acquire or develop nuclear weapons or engage in nuclear weapons research and
development, support, or manufacturing.
In exchange for full Iraqi compliance, economic warfare against Baghdad would be
lifted. The deal permits Iraq to sell up to $1 billion in oil every 90 days in order
to pay for humanitarian relief supplies, reparations, as well as operating expenses
of UN monitoring units in Iraq. For Washington to agree to a lifting of international
sanctions, American leaders would not have to shift their policy from one designed to
overthrow the Saddam regime, if it falls on its own. With another leader in power,
the United States goal would shift from retribution to rehabilitation. There would be
no need to move the goal posts as Baghdad approaches compliance.
The likelihood of a grand bargain between Washington and Baghdad, however, is low. It
is unlikely that Saddam will be ousted and very unlikely that Tehran will act
militarily against Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Arab Gulf states. Meanwhile, the
United States has to remain alert to the danger imposed by both rogue states, Iran
and Iraq, while Washington keeps open the option of tacitly cooperating with either
against the other.
Future Scenarios regarding Libya
Renewed Military Action
Iraq's Saddam promised the world a "mother of all battles," in the Gulf, as a means to
frighten away challengers from across the seas. And Qadhafi drew a mythical line in
the water--the "Line of Death," across which American warships would pass only at
great risk. Neither Saddam Hussein's battle nor Muammar Qadhafi's line proved to be
so frightening as their rhetoric implied.
With respect to Libya, the American Navy successfully challenged the international
waters of the Gulf of Sidra in August 1981. And during 1986, the United States
initiated another challenge based on the 1981 model. In January 1986, the Navy began
a series escalating military exercises in the Gulf of Sidra. The goal was to increase
pressure on Libya. And on March 24, 1986, the enhanced compulsion took the form of a
freedom of navigation challenge. Libya responded to the American challenge with
force. But the Pentagon's rules of engagement allowed American commanders on the
scene to make a disproportionate retaliation. This encounter in the Gulf of Sidra in
March 1986 resulted in the destruction of two Libyan ships by U.S. Navy vessels.
On Saturday, April 5, 1986, a bomb exploded in the La Belle disco in Berlin, a club
frequented by American troops. My former colleagues in the White House, Howard
Teicher and Oliver North, reviewed a transcript of two electronic intercepts from the
People's Bureau [Libyan Embassy] in East Berlin to Libyan intelligence headquarters.
As a result of this evidence of Libyan complicity, the President Reagan gave the
order to retaliate against Libya. And on April 15, 1986, United States warplanes
bombed sites in Libya declared by the President to be "terrorist centers." The planes
damaged one of Qadhafi's home at one of the barracks, and unfortunately killed his
infant daughter. But they inflicted major damage on other sites that were military in
If Qadhafi were deterrable, Washington's 1986 air strikes could have served to deter
him from further adventures. He would temper his desire for anti-American actions,
sponsorship of international terrorism, and development of weapons of mass
destruction. The world would see a reformed, quieted Qadhafi.
Though the air strike crippled his morale, Qadhafi's anti-western fear and hatred
still serves to strengthen his political base. In 1986, there was growing opposition
against Qadhafi, but the American air strikes rallied the Libyan people around their
symbol against imperialism. His personal defiance taps into the collective national
experience of being dominated by outside forces. Qadhafi learned to hate the West
through watching the imperialist powers "pillage" his country. By personally defying
Washington, Qadhafi is trying to bolster national unity behind him. In this respect,
Qadhafi's is encouraged to defy Washington at any cost.
But Qadhafi is slowly being shut out of the Arab community. If Qadhafi is shunned by
other Arab nations, then his goal of pan-Arabism would be unrealized. In this regard,
Qadhafi may be motivated by fear of loss. His fear of losing prominence may cause him
to act in defiance of the West in a pathetic attempt to increase his importance on
the world stage.
One future scenario for the use of force against Libya may build on the 1986
precedent. Before launching assaults against Libya, the United States interagency
process analyzed at least two options. As described by Howard Teicher, a player at
the White House in that confrontation, here is what took place. By early 1985, a CIA
officer detailed to the National Security Council staff as head of the Intelligence
Directorate, Vincent Cannistrato, had the action on devising new methods to increase
pressure on Qadhafi. He had been head of the CIA Libya task force. He wrote a paper
on vulnerabilities and opportunities to influence Qadhafi via covert actions.
Option one called for a limited, phased strategy to resume air and naval challenges
in the Gulf of Sidra. This option assumed that there would be increased restrictions
on American citizens doing business in Libya. The paper did not rule out joint
planning with Egypt but focused on how to respond to Libyan actions. Option two
intended to oust Qadhafi from power. This alternative assumed military planning with
Egypt and Algeria and covert support that included lethal assistance to Libyan
Vice President Bush, Secretary of State George Shultz, Director of Central
Intelligence William Casey, and National Security Advisor McFarlane supported option
two, designed to oust Qadhafi from power. Weinberger and the Joint Chiefs of Staff
opposed any strategy that would entail the use of force. Their reasoning was that the
purposes were too unclear, and that not enough attention had been given to likely
Soviet response to American attempts to destabilize Libya.
Washington adopted option one--working with Cairo to destabilize Libya and unseat
Colonel Qadhafi. But President Sadat vetoed it in a meeting during 1985, between
Poindexter and Sadat in Egypt. Libya had given support for the Abu Nidal terrorists
who skyjacked an Egyptian airliner in 1985 and had conducted massacres in the Rome
and Vienna airports. On the basis of this evidence, President Reagan decided to
retaliate, but this time it was Sadat who backed down. During the late 1970s, there
was a military confrontation between Libya and Egypt. President Sadat had asked the
Carter Administration to cooperate with him to unseat Qadhafi. Carter, however,
vetoed the option of conducting coordinated military planning with Cairo for an
attack against Libya. Perhaps it was Sadat's memory of the 1970s that influenced his
decision not to go along in the mid-1980s attack against Libya.
As usual, State and Defense were in disagreement. State was in favor of air strikes
against Libya, and Defense was not. Secretary of Defense Weinberger opposed
retaliation and warned the President that air strikes would endanger the large number
of American citizens in Libya and create a hostage-taking situation. American oil
companies continued to operate in Libya. The firms pumped hundreds of thousands of
barrels of oil per day. The Department of Defense also expressed doubts about the
complicity of Libya in the attacks against the Rome and Vienna airports. In spite of
the Pentagon's opposition, the President decided to retaliate.
Over a decade later, in the late 1990s, the likelihood of another confrontation
appears to be growing. But this time, hostilities are likely to be on the land and on
the seas. In an implicit threat to use military force, a Clinton Administration
Defense Secretary, William Perry, said on April 3, 1996, that the United States would
not allow Libya to complete an underground chemical weapons production facility.
Perry made the remark to reporters after discussing the factory with Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak. Perry said that he had discussed a variety of evidence with
Mubarak. "I showed him photographs," Perry said. "They demonstrate that the Libyans
are not now producing chemical weapons, but they have an extensive program under way
to develop a chemical weapons production facility."
Western intelligence agencies hold that Libya is building a chemical weapons factory
at Tarhunah, 40 miles southeast of Tripoli, the Libyan capital. The plant reportedly
is being built into a mountain, which would make it difficult to destroy in a
military strike. Asked if the United States would allow completion, Perry simply
replied: "No." The Tarhunah facility is designed to replace a plant at Rabta, 55
miles southwest of Tripoli. The Rabta facility was reopened in the fall of 1996, five
years after a suspicious fire, and Libya insists it manufactures pharmaceuticals.
In light of the prospects of a renewal of military action from an incremental
escalation in the Gulf of Sidra or a decision to prevent the completion of the
chemical weapons facility, it is hardly conceivable that there will not be a
resumption of fighting between Tripoli and Washington before the end of the century.
In summary, the U.S. perceives post-Cold War threats from Libya, and Washington
impose sanctions on Tripoli. Because the allies see greater future dangers if
American sanctions destabilize Libya, there is a transatlantic schism in threat
perceptions and policies between America and Europe.
Peace and War Scenarios regarding Syria
Whether the United States pursues a posture of embracing or containing Syria depends
in part on scenarios that develop between Damascus and Jerusalem. Three possibilities
are peace, no-peace no-war, and war. If Washington would like to facilitate a peace
scenario, then the approach of Moshe Maoz seems to be most relevant. He suggests that
Assad has made a strategic commitment to peace; hence, Washington should test the
validity of the Assad pledge. Not doing so would leave open the possibility of a
deterioration of the situation on the ground and make the other two scenarios likely.
A peace scenario stems from the assumptions that both Israel and Syria have made
strategic commitments towards peace. In this respect, Ze'ev Schiff, a leading Israeli
political/military analyst, wrote a seminal essay on the relation of peace to
security. Schiff said that, "If peace with Syria is the strategic goal toward which
Israel is driving, and if the Syrian decision to make peace with Israel and end the
conflict is indeed a strategic concept--as President Assad said in Geneva--then the
chance for peace is very great."
The assumption of Schiff is that commitments by Damascus and Jerusalem are necessary
but not sufficient conditions for success of the peace process. The missing
ingredient is the American role. The U.S. approach has been like that of a host at a
cocktail party, serving the food and drinks but not interfering too much in the
conversation among the partygoers. In order to facilitate the peace process between
Israel and Syria, however, a more active role on the part of Washington might be
required. But an active role need not focus on Damascus. Ignoring Assad and making
progress on the withdrawal of most of the Israeli military from Hebron may have
resulted in a Syrian demarche to resume negotiations with Israel during December of
1996. Indirect pressure on Syria via progress on the Palestinian front keeps helps to
avoid slippage in the journey towards peace on the northern front.
Neither peace nor war is the method adopted by Assad between 1974 to 1991. At that
time, there was stalemate in negotiations between Israel and Syria, yet war did not
occur. From the 1974 disengagement accord between Israel and Syria brokered by Henry
Kissinger until the commencement of the Madrid talks in 1991, there was a freeze in
Israel's relations with Syria. Damascus did not choose military action, however, to
unfreeze the political stalemate. Rather, Syria chose to wait for a change in the
strategic situation, which occurred with the end of the Cold War and the end of the
hot war in the Gulf.
In 1997, Assad may calculate that a middle ground approach is the best means of
keeping the pot boiling without falling into the hot water of a war with Israel. In
this regard, Assad could achieve the following objectives: extract from Israel a high
price that could include Israeli recognition of the Syrian presence there, disrupt
the process of rapprochement between Israel and the Arab states as well as the
Palestinians, drive a wedge between Israel and the United States, and lay the
groundwork for renewal of future negotiations under more promising conditions, e.g.,
after the next elections in Israel.
In the "no-war, no-peace scenario," Syria could continue its practice of brinkmanship
and tacit support of terrorist groups. Doing so enhances its bargaining position
vis-d-vis Israel. Also, attacks against Israel by Syrian surrogates help keep the
Golan Heights item on the agenda of the peace process. In the American-led
negotiations, Israel has stopped most negotiations with Syria. the initial impetus of
the cessation was because of a series of suicide bombings. Because of the role of
Palestinians in the bombings and due to the timetable of the Oslo accords of 1993 and
1995, the Israeli-Palestinian dimension has received more attention than issues
concerning Syria. The closer Israel and the Palestinian Authority come to normalizing
relations, however, the worse Assad's bargaining position would be when the talks
resume between Jerusalem and Damascus. Although Syria needs to keep the pot boiling,
it has to be careful not to let the peace process proceed too far without the active
participation of Syria.
In the absence of diplomatic progress on the Syrian front because of a perception on
the part of Assad that this is the best course of action to get the peace process
moving, the parties could head towards the slippery slope to war. Assume the
persistence of the policy of the government of Israel as a "peace for peace," approach
rather than "land for peace," as envisioned in UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and
338. In this event, Ze'ev Maoz believes that the government might as well prepare the
country for war in the not-too-distant future. The likelihood of an accord on terms
that Assad could accept are lower without the magic of diplomatic momentum.
In the context of stalemate on the Syrian front, Maoz reasons that Assad would face
two inter-Arab scenarios, each creating incentives for war. According to the first
scenario, the peace process on the Palestinian track would continue, and the Arab
world would maintain its rapprochement with Israel. In this scenario, there would be a
significant risk of perpetuating Israel's rule over the Golan Heights. A Syrian attack
on Israel would pose a dilemma for the Arab nation. In the best case for Damascus, it
would receive military and/or economic support from several Arab states. In the worst
case for Damascus, it would still have Arab political support. Such support would be
manifest as pressure on Washington to move the negotiations with Israel forward.
According to the second scenario of Ze'ev Maoz, there would be a radical change in
Israel's relations with Arab states because of a stalemate on the Palestinian track
and Jordanian disappointment with the dividends of its won peace with Israel. in this
event, a war with Israel could restore Syria to its position as a leader in the peace
process--thus bringing the Palestinians, and even the Jordanians, in line behind the
Syrian position. In both scenarios, an inability to ignite the peace process through a
military initiative against Israel could exacerbate Assad's domestic political
A second possibility stems from the fact that Syrian frustration over the internal
political situation might increase to the point where Assad is willing to bear
additional risks. The area in which Syria has the capability of causing genuine
psychologically damage to Israel is to attack its heartland with missiles. Damascus
has emphasized massive procurement of missiles, in order to balance Jerusalem's air
superiority. Syria has over 300 ballistic missiles, including SCUD-C's, whose range is
more than 500 kilometers. Damascus even has developed an ability to manufacture this
missile independently. Syria manufactures these missiles in underground installations
that Damascus built with the assistance of China, Iran, and North Korea.
For other examples of scenarios, there are some in the following sources:
Caspar Weinberger and Peter Schweizer. The Next War. Washington DC: Regnery Publishing
Steve Glain, "The Endgame in North Korea: Regime Could Go With a Bang, A Whimper_Or a
Handshake," Wall Street Journal, February 27, 1997, A12.
Scenarios regarding Korea
War and Peace (or neither) Scenarios
A. Status Quo+ (neither war nor peace): The current regime keeps
stumbling through natural disasters, defections, and starvation. Kim Jong-il makes
necessary adjustments to keep alfloat.
B. Explosion (desperate actions from a paranoid in the basement):
As a desperate attempt to quell fears and civil strife, North
Korea lashes out and attacks South Korea.
C. Implosion: The current regime collaspes, and North Koreans
flood to South Korea and China in search for relief of hunger.
D. Happy Ending (motivated bias): An underestimation of threat
that leads to the hope that North Korean compliance can be
bought with grain.
East Asia's eternal flash point could ignite sooner than expected.
Policy-planners expect North Korea to experience one of three scenarios: desperate bid
by Pyongyang to unify the peninsula by force; an economic and political implosion that
would fuel a mass exodus of refugees into China, Japan, and South Korea; or diplomatic
concessions from North Korea in return for western food and investment, which might
reverse its economic deterioration and maintain the regime in Pyongyang.
Scenario I: Status Quo +
The current regime continues to limp along, slowly deteriorating, but not falling.
This is neither a war nor peace. The West continues to make consillatory gestures of
"grain for peace," which as the effect of propping up the regime and staving off the
inevitable. For years, even before Kim Il-sung's death, analysts have predicted a
collapse of the North Korean regime. But like the "Ever-ready Battery," the regime
keeps on, "going and going and going..."
Though the regime has experienced a famine, floods, and other disasters, it continues.
But the status quo cannot hold. The "plus" in status quo refers to the subtle
adjustments of the regime to the need of external assistance. Kim Jong-il is in the
process of expanding North Korea's horizon enlisting economic assistance from major
powers like United States, Japan, China, and even its nemisis to the south, The
Republic of Korea.
Scenario II: Explosion- reaction of a trapped paranoid
If Pyongyang explodes across the border against the South, it could start a war with a
salvo of 170 mm shells from its 240 howitzer batteries along the 38th parallel. The
North Korea army then would make a southward charge using all means at the regime's
disposal. Methods would include land and sea forces, especially submarine units. The
goal of the quick strike would be a fait accompli, an accomplished fact. But the
purpose of the assult would not be military over South Korea and forced unification of
the pennisula. Rather, Pyongyang's aim would be seizure of Seoul as a diplomatic
bargaining chip to play during the peace talks.
If Pyongyang pursues Soviet military doctrine, an assault on the south would include
an artillery shower followed by a lightning attack. South Korea's half a million plus
army along with about 36,000 American armed forces deployed along the de-militarized
zone would be out manned by North Korea's one million manned army. U.S. counteraction
would included "stealthy" attacks by the hard to detect B-2 and F-117 warplanes. The
tactical aim would be to cut off the eyes and ears of Pyongyang by destroying its
command, control, and intelligence. Such a strategy would destroy railroads and
bridges, followed by direct American engagement through helicopters such as the
During an invasion by the North, there would be an evacuation of all American
citizens, Japanese, Canadians, and British as well. During a tense period in 1994,
this American evacuation plan was 24-72 hours away from initiation.[cite Ambassador
James Laney from Glain article]
Scenario III: Implosion
The implosion scenario begins with food shortages, famine, and natural disasters. If
there were a deterioration of the economic, there could be an escalation of the flow
of refugees from north to south. Only half the food necessary to feed the population
If the regime in Pyongyang collapses, Seoul has a contingency plan to handle the
influx of refugees from the north. South Korea would establish "counter-brain washing
centers" Refugees would be deprogrammed of their communist beliefs acquired over a
lifetime. Reunification could cost as much as a $1 trillion dollars, and Seoul has not
budgeted for reunification.
The implosion scenario has two facets. One is that the refugees from Pyongyang region
will automatically turn to the south, beginning the long walk to the "land of milk and
honey." The other facet is that villagers from the country side will not know where to
turn. They have been programmed to believe that North Korea has been better off than
the world and South Korea. They have also believed that China has always and will
continue to be North Korea's only ally. Hence, it is likely that these rural refugees
will turn northwest towards the Yalu River.
Karen Elliott House, "Let North Korea Collapse," Wall Street Journal 21 February
Clinton Administration: Reassuring a Paranoid in the basement of fear
"North Korea is dying, and Washington would be wise to stop extending its death throes
with pills of promised aid and placebos of diplomatic dialogue."
"For a terminally ill regime, there are no miracle cures. [Time to call Dr.
The Clinton Administration's position is that a desperate, cornered North Korea may
lash out militarily at South Korea, where 37,000 American troops are deployed. Hence,
the regime must be pacified and its rule perpetuated.
The risk of military attack remains so long as the Pyongyang regime remains in place.
Irrespective of whether the Clinton Administration winks at grain sales, the risk is
There is no reason to believe that Pyongyang can be bribed into better behavior. There
is no reason to believe that the risk of a suicidal military assault will decrease in
a few years.
The Clinton Administration negotiated an accord with North Korea in 1994. The United
States would lead an international effort to finance and build light water reactors to
produce electricity for North Korea. In exchange, it agreed to abandon suspected
plutonium-producing nuclear facilities. The Administration claimed that the main
benefit of the accord is that it initiated a dialogue with Pyongyang that would
eventually pay off with moderate reforms by North Korea.
Scenario IV: Happy Ending- motivated biases: underestimation of threat
The international community would provide assistance in proportion to diplomatic
concessions, and the result would be to prop up the regime.
The Happy Ending scenario is the most convenient and least painful outcome for the
world.. "Washington normalizes ties with Pyongyang in return for concessions, such as
Pyongyang's renunciation of terrorism last year. Japan follows with assistance in the
form of reparations for actions taken against Korea during World War II. South Korea
industry invests in the North. Taiwan invests as a means for gaining leverage over
northeast China. Beijing has already encouraged overseas Chinese to invest in North
Korea. Doing so implies that Beijing does not wish to see either explosion or
This scenario hinges upon shaky assumptions. The first assumption, that Pyongyang will
be persuaded into compliance, thus normalizing ties, has failed in the past. The 1994
accord between United States and North Korea showed that there North Korea is a
terminally ill regime in which West is only prolonging their agonizing death. Time to
call Dr. Kevorkian.!
A divided Korea is in the interests of China, Japan, and Russia. These three states do
not relish a unified, nationalistic state of Korea nearby.
Washington appears to come out on top in the Happy Ending scenario: The U.S. could
maintain its influence while withdrawing its costly troop deployment from South Korea.
Also see Graham Allison, Albert Carnesale, and Joseph Nye, Hawks, Doves, and Owls (New
York: W. W. Norton, 1985.
International Political Aviary
In the "birdhouse" called Washington, there are hawks, doves, and owls. In the
context of avoiding war, hawks see the proximate cause of war as one-sided weakness.
This incapacity tempts an adversary to exploit advantage. The classic example is the
case of "Munich." That city is a symbol of British and French appeasement of Nazi
Germany. The two allies sold out Czechoslovakia in 1938, as a way of buying off
Hitler. To avoid such a war, hawks suggest a policy of "peace through strength," and a
demonstrated will to use that capability. Leaders of threatened states will be
deterred from going to war if they perceive the odds of losing to be greater than the
chances of winning.
A threatened North Korea will be deterred from attacking if the leaders calculate the
odds of losing to be higher than the chances of success. Additionally, the United
States and South Korea need to make it clear to the North that if the risks of going
to war exceed the gains, it should be deterred from launching an attack. Issuing
credible threats to the leaders in Pyongyang is a surefire way to achieve effective
deterrence. When North Korea attacked South Korea in 1950, one reason was because the
United States failed to make clear its interests in protecting the South, its
commitment to do so, and the capacity to carry out the threat. Hawks prefer
containment and confrontation to deter war.
For doves, the main cause of war is when threats intended to deter lead to a decision
by the imperiled state to risk preventive war before a situation deteriorates even
further. A preventive war involves long-term premeditated behavior on the part of at
least one of the parties. The goal is to forestall a change in the balance of power.
When threats fail to deter and instead provoke, they may lead to decisions to make war
to avoid war! Leaders of endangered nations may risk war now in order to avoid a sure
defeat later. An illustration of a preventive war by design is when Israel attacked
Egypt in the 1956 Sinai Campaign. Because of an arms race between Iraq and Egypt,
Cairo began to acquire arms that could be used against Israel. To avoid a situation
where Egypt could start a war later that Israel could not win at that time, Israel
decided to attack before its predicament worsened. To evade such a war, doves would
have suggested conciliation and accommodation by Egypt to reassure Israel.
Both hawks and doves share in common an assumption that nations act rationally in
their decisions to make war. "They roost on the same rational branch and argue about
the best place to sit on it." At issue between hawks and doves is where on the branch
do threats cease to deter and begin to provoke. In other words, when do deterrent
threats become provocative threats? Hawks answer rarely; doves reply often. In their
responses, both assume leaders are capable of perceiving the credibility of threats,
the imbalance of power arrayed against them, and the likelihood of the consequences of
their defensive actions.
By contrast, owls take into account the inability of leaders to think rationally. Owls
do not roost on the tree of rational decision-making. They nest on the limb of actual
life rather than the assumed branch of rational action. In particular, owls focus on
misperception as a constraint on decision-making. While hawks see the proximate cause
of war to be weakness and doves attribute war to provocation, owls stress perceived
loss of control. World War II is the classic case for hawks; World War I is the
classic situation for owls. In the period before the outbreak of that war, members of
the Dual Alliance (Germany and Austria-Hungary) and the Triple Entente (England,
France, and Russia) misperceived a loss of control. As a result, there were incentives
to take actions that led to miscalculated escalation and unintended war.
Hawks magnify threats and rely too much on force as a means of conflict resolution.
Doves underestimate dangers and overemphasize diplomacy. Owls seek valid estimations
of threat and attempt to balance force with diplomacy.
With respect to the Koreas, hawks and doves divide over what policy to follow. At
issue is whether Washington should mug the thugs in North Korea or hug them. Mugging
consists of beating the leaders in Pyongyang with the "sticks" of a total U.S.
boycott, the deployment of 37,000 American troops along the border between the Koreas,
and threats to use force against the North to deter it from going to war. Hugging
involves embracing the regime with the "carrots" of humanitarian relief, funds to
build nuclear reactors less capable of developing weapons, and ending the general
containment policy imposed on North Korea since the days of the Korean War.
Hawks prefer to contain and confront. They are hard-liners who see the leaders of
North Korea as an unsavory group of characters who deserve nothing but a big stick
approach until the regime falls. They believe that gain-driven Machiavellian leaders
dominate, and that continued mugging is in order. They argue that the risk of military
attack remains so long as the Pyongyang regime remains in place. Irrespective of
whether the Clinton Administration facilitates the sale of grain by private American
firms, the risk of war is inherent in the nature of the regime. And there is no reason
to believe that the risk of a suicidal military assault will decrease with time. In
other words, there is scant reason to presume that North Korea can be coaxed by
American rewards to behave in a less threatening manner.
In contrast to hawks, doves wish to embrace and accommodate. They feel that a
desperate, cornered North Korea may launch a suicidal military strike against South
Korea; thus, that regime must be pacified, and its rule should be prolonged. Because
there are fear-driven paranoids in Pyongyang, doves suggest that hugging is in order.
They argue that the risk of war is a consequence of how the West treats North Korea
rather than in the nature of the regime itself. They are soft-liners who also view the
leadership in Pyongyang as distasteful. Actions like private American grain sales and
public financing of nuclear energy production are ways to encourage conciliatory
behavior on behalf of North Korea. In any event, these measures will buy time, and the
simple passage of time may be instrumental in decreasing the risk of a suicidal attack
by the North. They have faith that American political and economic diplomacy can help
stave off disaster and facilitate less threatening behavior on the part of North
Those who advocate a soft policy towards Pyongyang may also do so because of a belief
that South Korea is strong, and the North is less of a threat than in the Cold War
days. National security "libertarians" suggest that Washington should withdraw all
American forces from South Korea over a four year period, offer to transfer to Seoul
whatever conventional armaments it desires to purchase, announce an intention to
terminate the United States- South Korea mutual defense treaty by the end of the
century, continue improving relations with Pyongyang by meeting the obligations
Washington assumed under the 1994 Agreed Framework, offer to mediate territorial
disputes between the South and North, encourage South Korea to expand its security
cooperation with Japan, and promote the participation of Seoul in regional security
The libertarian approach sees a South Korea that has twice the population of the
North, with an economy 18 times larger, and thus Seoul has the capability to match
Pyongyang in defense spending. In the absence of a hegemonic Soviet threat,
libertarians maintain that the American defense of South Korea loses its connection to
United States security. With the lessening of the threat from North Korea, moreover,
the rationale for Washington to defend Seoul is even less compelling.
The Administration stresses diplomatic carrots over economic and military sticks. But
given the history of North Korea and its present rogue status, it is puzzling that the
Administration believes that Pyongyang can be influenced by a policy of alleviating
punishments and augmenting rewards.
The soft-line approach of the Clinton Administration is to shift away from the
approach of the Cold War days. The original American sanctions approach was
pessimistic and overestimated the threat from the North: Pyongyang was a child of the
Cold War. Its behavior would change only with the fall of the regime and reunification
of the Korean Peninsula under the sovereignty of Seoul. Initial American sanctions
sought to destabilize the North Korean regime because of its invasion of South Korea.
On top of the Korean War, comes other egregious conduct, including seizure of an
American intelligence vessel and construction of nuclear facilities with a capacity
for producing weapons grade plutonium.
Current U.S. sanctions policy towards North Korea is optimistic and underestimates the
threat from the North: Despite its Cold War parentage, Pyongyang's behavior is ripe
for change. The Clinton Policy assumes that the post-Cold War era is an opportune time
for the regime to mend its ways. Optimists also assume that the ruling clique acts
from a basement of fear rather than a window of opportunity. An end of the
international welfare safety net afforded by the Cold War, death of the long-time
dictator of North Korea, and a series of natural disasters make Pyongyang more
vulnerable to reason and reward.
Only in the event that the North Korean regime is driven more by fear that by
opportunity, does the Clinton Administration approach make sense. The post-Cold War
optimists in Washington may lead the United States down a slippery slope to assure,
embrace, accommodate, and perhaps even appease the oppressors in Pyongyang.
While post-Cold War optimists choose rehabilitation of Pyongyang, it was the Cold War
pessimists who opted for a policy of retribution towards this floundering regime. In
the past, the United States sought to punish the illegitimate regime in the north,
with little regards for changing its behavior. Because the Clinton Administration aims
to change the regime, Washington implicitly accepts the regime's legitimacy. If
Pyongyang plays the accommodation game with Washington, moreover, it is conceivable
that a full range of conciliatory measures may fall into the laps the power-holders of
Pyongyang plays on Washington's anxiety. The Clinton Administration fears implosion of
North Korea, with its population flooding across the border towards both China and
South Korea. The Administration also worries about military explosion by the armed
forces of the North against the South. This anxiety is so pervasive that Washington is
willing to take huge risks to give peace a chance, so to speak. Given these concerns,
Washington underestimates that threat from North Korea, engages in a flight of wishful
thinking, and concludes with a sunny scenario with a happy ending.
But there is a risk in discounting of the threat: The regime may misuse American
assistance. In preparation for an invasion of the south, Pyongyang could use U.S aid
to prop itself up instead of feeding its starving population. This intentional support
would prolong the inevitable collapse of the regime.
THE PROBABILITY THAT SYRIA WILL GO TO WAR -- INCREASING CONSIDERABLY
(Analysis by Ze'ev Maoz, "Ha'aretz", Aug 18, 1996, p.B3) [ MAOZ WAS A
The main significance of the political reversal on the Syrian
track is the considerable increase in the probability of a war against
other Arab elements as well. Therefore, as
long as the Netanyahu government continues its current policy -- whose
practical meaning is "peace for peace" -- it must prepare the IDF and
Israel's citizenry for war in the not-too-distant future.
In a situation where the chances of an agreement (on terms that will
satisfy Syria) have considerably decreased, Assad faces two inter-Arab
scenarios, each creating incentives for war. According to the first
scenario, the peace process on the Palestinian track continues in one form
or another, and the Arab world continues its reconciliation with Israel.
In this situation, there is a significant risk of perpetuating Israeli
rule on the Golan Heights. A Syrian attack on Israel -- as preventive
medicine -- would stand the Arab world on the horns of a difficult
dilemma. In the best case, Syria would be likely to receive military or
economic support from some Arab countries; in the worst case, Syria would
win Arab political support, at least in the form of pressuring the United
States to actively intervene toward moving the negotiations forward.
According to the second scenario, there would be a radical change in
Israel's relations with Arab countries due to a stalemate on the
Palestinian track and Jordanian disappointment with the fruits of peace.
Here as well, a war would likely restore Syria to its position as a leader
in the peace process -- thereby bringing the Palestinians, and even the
Jordanians, to fall in behind the Syrian position. In both scenarios, an
inability to ignite the process through a military initiative could
exacerbate Syria's political condition.
A second possibility stems from the fact that Syrian frustration over the
political situation might increase to the point where Syria is willing to
bear risks and make sacrifices. The only area in which Syria has the
capability of causing genuine damage to Israel -- if not militarily, then
certainly psychologically -- is an attack on the home front.
The risk to Syria is obviously a massive Israeli response against parallel
targets in Syria. The level of risk to Syria does not depend on Israeli
ability, but on the Syrian readiness to take casualties in order to
achieve political results. The level of risk -- not acceptable when there
are political alternatives -- could be acceptable in a situation in which
Syria feels that its back is against the wall or that time is working
The concept of "peace with the Golan" is a pipedream, which the Syrians will
not buy. Therefore, the choice is "peace or the Golan." If Israel chooses
to keep the Golan Heights under its sovereignty, the government must
publicly say to the nation that it is very likely that we will have to
defend this sovereignty by force. And it is possible that the principal
casualties -- this time -- will be citizens, on the home front.
HOW TO SAY "PROBABILITY" IN SYRIAN
(Analysis by Zvi Barel, "Ha'aretz", Aug 22, 1996, p.B3)
Professor Ze'ev Maoz, Director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies,
offered his scenario here; according to Maoz, there is a probability --
and under certain circumstances, a high probability -- of war with Syria.
Maoz bases this scenario on three basic assumptions. The first is wars are
not necessarily initiate to be won. "The longer that the freeze in
negotiations continues, the more Syria may be motivated to initiate a war
to thaw it," Maoz writes.
But relying on such scenarios means accepting the fundamental assumption that the
formation of an Arab coalition against Israel is still possible.
This assumption is not only crucial, but one must go to great lengths in
order to prove it -- since Assad's Syria has never gone to war against
Israel on its own.
Another serious doubt is the degree to which Assad would be prepared to
take a risk, alone, in order to record some kind of symbolic achievement
-- and to what degree a symbolic Syrian accomplishment would be sufficient
to get the peace process moving.
War with Syria could erupt -- but not because the peace process is stuck,
or because the IDF does not withdraw from Hebron, or because Jordan does
not receive the economic benefits it had expected. If it does erupt, it
will apparently start in some small village in southern Lebanon, where a
Katyusha will be fired at Kiryat Shmona or Nahariya. It will be a war
whose instigator will be difficult to identify Israel, Hizbullah or Syria.
If Syria joins this war, it will be because Israel is threatening an
achievement that Syria has already effected -- control of Lebanon.
WARNING OF WAR BEFORE ITS TIME
(Commentary by Ephraim Kam, "Ma'ariv", Aug 29, 1996, p. B2)
But a third route exists: not war and not peace. This is the method
adopted by Assad between 1974 to 1991, and it is possible that it will be
the most reasonable way, in his view, for the future as well. It is not a
passive way: This way will make it possible to extract from us a higher
price in Lebanon; to disrupt the conciliation process between us and the
Arabs; to try and drive a wedge between us and the United States; and thus
to lay the groundwork for the renewal of future negotiations with more
promising conditions - perhaps after the next elections in Israel.
Assad does not have enough security that the United States will want to use the
results of a war to change the coming political order closer to his terms.
For other examples of scenarios, see:
Caspar Weinberger and Peter Schweizer. The Next War. Washington DC: Regnery Publishing
Inc. 1996. Borders Books has copies of this book.
Graham Allison, Albert Carnesale, and Joseph Nye, Hawks, Doves, and Owls (New York: W.
W. Norton, 1985.