Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 17/01/2012

MCU/PILPG Afghanistan simulation

In December 2011, the Minerva Initiative, Middle East Studies at the Marine Corps University, and the Public International Law and Policy Group held an Afghanistan reconciliation simulation exercise:

The intent of this event was to involve a variety of participants in order to simulate negotiations related to crafting an end to the conflict in Afghanistan. Reflecting the real-world situation to the greatest degree possible, we expected the proceedings to draw attention to issues of discord and to highlight potential roadblocks in future negotiations, as well as to stimulate thought on developing potential work-arounds and to delineate areas of common ground. One of the principal intended benefits of this simulation was to develop its utility as a teaching tool that could be replicated for those preparing to deal with the Afghanistan issue or for students of the Middle East or of general foreign affairs.

We were fortunate to be able to bring together a wide variety of participants, some having dealt with Afghanistan over many years, others without such direct personal experience but with wide- ranging expertise in other applicable fields. Participants included military officers, government and think tank analysts, diplomats, journalists, academics, NGO representatives, and contractors.

The players were divided into four teams representing Afghanistan (the current government and the political opposition), the Neo-Taliban, Regional Actors, and the United States and Non-US NATO. In most cases, within each main category, players were assigned to represent specific national or factional entities, reflecting the spectrum of interests and positions even within a single broad category. Players were asked to focus on four principal issues in their negotiations: the cessation of hostilities, the current and future U.S. military presence, constitutional issues, and minority and women’s rights.

In preparation for the negotiations, each participant received a read-ahead with both general background and specific guidance on the positions for the entity he/she was to represent. Over a four-hour period, various sessions were structured to enable individual delegations to formulate their positions on the key issues, to negotiate with other delegations, and to engage in shuttle diplomacy across delegation lines. Rapporteurs from PILPG followed the negotiation proceedings, recording the key ideas that emerged, and drafted this synthesis of the results.

The full PIPLG report can be read here. Other PILPG negotiation simulations can be found on their website.

INSS Iranian nuke simulation

The Institute for National Security Studies has now released the full summary of their October 2011 simulation of the aftermath of a successful Iranian nuclear test. The “principal findings” are quoted below. I have also added this to the list of ever-growing Iran simulation reports at Wargaming Connection.

Principal Findings

Iran does not intend to forfeit the nuclear weapons in its possession, but will attempt to use them to reach an agreement with the major powers to improve its strategic standing. Iran assumes that even if the economic sanctions are strengthened it will be able to withstand them, and in any event, the international community will eventually agree to a dialogue with Iran in order to establish new rules of the game. These are among the principal insights to emerge from a simulation conducted at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) on the ramifications of an Iranian nuclear test.

In the simulation, the US administration exerted heavy behind-the-scenes pressure on Israel not to wage a military strike against Iran, with an implied threat that an Israeli action would harm US-Israel relations. In an attempt to persuade Israel not to take military action, the United States suggested examining the possibility of a formal defense pact and/or of including Israel as a member of NATO.

In response to the new situation, Russia proposed to establish a Russo- American defense alliance that would ensure the security of the Middle East states. Members of the alliance that are not currently in possession of nuclear weapons would make a commitment not to develop such weapons. However, states that already have a military nuclear capability would not be required to disarm. The United States was the chief opponent of the initiative because of its doubts concerning Russia’s ability to provide security guarantees, and because of what it claimed are the difficulties in implementing the alliance and the ability in the framework of the alliance to prevent terrorist and subversive activity. The American solution in the short term is deterrence and containment of Iran through increased coordination and cooperation with US allies.

Israel made it clear to the United States that it opposes an outright rejection of the Russian initiative, and greater cooperation between the West and Russia is called for, if only so as not to undermine the front against Iran. However, Israel stressed consistently that it cannot accept a nuclear Iran, and that it will not commit to necessarily reject the option of military action against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, implying that this was the case even if it opposed Washington’s position. Indeed, the Israeli military option is likely to be a significant and potent issue, if not for Iran then for some ofthe main players. The simulation showed that this option, or the threat of realizing it, would also be relevant following an Iranian nuclear test.

An acceleration of nuclear proliferation in the region cannot be ruled out, even if it does not occur at a rapid pace, as has generally been envisioned. US allies, especially Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have questioned the willingness of the United States to extend deterrent backing in the event that Iran acquires military nuclear capability. This in turn has led them to examine parallel options and/or to accelerate their own nuclear development. Iran’s crossing the nuclear threshold will prompt Saudi Arabia to strive to reach a strategic balance with Iran, and the Kingdom will find it difficult to adopt a policy of denial. It appears that Saudi Arabia, perhaps more than any other actor in the Middle East, has the ideological-strategic motivation and the economic ability to examine the nuclear route, and it is reasonable to assume that it will do so by means of outside aid and/or acquisition of an off-the-shelf deterrent.

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