Anthony Cordesman, a highly respected military and security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), released his 4th working draft with Alexander Wilner on Iran’s military forces on June 25. The paper is part of a volume on US and Iranian competition in the Gulf (the second part focuses on the nuclear dimensions). The authors begin by stating that the prospects for a military clash between the US and Iran have grown increasingly likely:

In the wake of recent failed negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, it seems increasingly unlikely that a political solution will be reached regarding Tehran’s increasing uranium enrichment. As a result, some form of military clash between the US and Iran, while by no means certain, is becoming increasingly likely. Such a clash can take many different forms, and each presents different levels of risk.

Ret. Col. Pat Lang, a former top Pentagon Middle East and South intelligence analyst, explains why he disagrees with the premise of the paper on his blog, Sic Temper Tyrannis:

The essential competitiion in the Middle East is between Israel and Iran, not Iran and the US.  If there is such a rivalry, it is largely created by a willingness on the part of the US to assume Israel’s strategic liabilities as its own.

Iran contributes to that willingness by making threatening noises and playing stupid diplomatc games but it is hard to conceal the fact that absent an Iranian attack on US assets or people or a serious threat to the US homeland the issue of hegemony in the Middle East, is a regional issue.

Unless the US is, in fact, the policeman of the world, why should we concern ourselves with Iranian “assymetric capabilities?”