Regions: Middle East

Middle East ScoringMiddle East

In 1946, Truman had to threaten to send warships to the Mediterranean to compel the Soviets to remove troops from Iran. Thus began the Cold War struggle in the Middle East. Since this region provided Western economies with their lifeblood—oil—it also provided the USSR with an irresistible opportunity to meddle. US support for Israel gave the Soviets an opening to the Arab world that they would repeatedly exploit.

Time: Early War
Battlegrounds: 6
Countries: 10

General Considerations

The Middle East is the only region on the board that is consistently biased towards one side throughout the game.  By design, the USSR almost always has the advantage in this region, amplified by the fact that OPEC is a de facto extra Middle East scoring card.  It is quite rare for the US to score Domination: usually the primary goal is simply to prevent a USSR Domination (or worse, Control).

Early War

Four things will define the Middle East in the Early War:

1) The USSR Turn 1 headline: if the USSR can headline Suez Crisis (or Arab-Israeli War with a 50/50 shot), it can knock out the US base in Israel and cut off most US access to the western half of the region.

2) The Iran coup: this almost always goes the way of USSR.  With a Suez Turn 1 headline, the US would be lucky even to get Presence in the Middle East.  If the US is knocked out of Iran but can stay in Israel, the US has a fighting chance to avoid Domination if it can mitigate …

3) Nasser, which really determines the outcome of two Middle East battlegrounds, since Egypt is the only meaningful Early War path to Libya.

4) Also important are Jordan and Lebanon.  Both of them mitigate Arab-Israeli War, and Jordan more importantly is usually the only US route into Iraq/Saudi Arabia.

What usually ends up happening is that the US is out of Iran but finds a way to get presence in the west, either with just Lebanon, or by making its way over to Jordan or Libya.  Occasionally, the US can hang onto Iran and possibly score a quick and dirty Domination if they also take Lebanon.  The flip side of that scenario is that the US loses both Iran and Israel, and is forced to coup in just for Presence.

Either way, the best the US can hope for is usually just escaping the Early War having stopped USSR domination.

Mid War

Muslim Revolution is the great specter looming over the Middle East in the Mid War.  If the US had been counting on Iraq and Saudi Arabia, that’s six seven influence lost and irreparable with a single play.  In addition, if the US had relied on Libya and/or Egypt, there’s a very real possibility the US can’t get back into either country if it has no adjoining influence in Israel or Tunisia.  OPEC just kicks the US while they’re down, essentially equivalent to a Domination scoring for the USSR only.  Accordingly, the US will be desperate to send either or both off to space.

The sole ray of light for the US is Egypt, where Sadat Expels Soviets and Camp David Accords can undo the effect of Nasser.  Since Sadat in particular is a 1Op card, it’s very difficult for the USSR to mitigate or discard on the Space Race, and is therefore almost certain to happen at some point during the Mid War.

Shuttle Diplomacy is generally less helpful than it appears.  The reason is that the USSR typically leads in battlegrounds 4-2, in which case the saved battleground is rather meaningless.  Even if the battlegrounds are split 3-3, Shuttle Diplomacy does not usually give the US domination unless the US has enough countries overall.  It is essentially an uncertain 3VP card at best, and so the US will usually not play it for the event barring special circumstances.  Of course, if the USSR plays Shuttle Diplomacy (and it usually will, since there are far worse US events to be sending to space), then there is no reason for the US not to take advantage of it.

Generally, the USSR will keep some combination of Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia (optional).  As long as they can take (or hang onto) one of the western Mideast battlegrounds (often Egypt/Libya, sometimes Israel), they should score an easy Domination.  Control is difficult but not entirely out of reach.

The US goal is to survive.  This is much easier if they had already stolen Libya in the Early War: so long as Sadat comes out before Middle East Scoring, they only need one more battleground to stop Domination.

Late War

Muslim Revolution and OPEC are likely to strike again, but this time can be prevented with AWACS Sales to Saudis and North Sea Oil, two mediocre events made somewhat good by their indirect effect on the Middle East.  Nevertheless, the USSR is likely to continue dominating the region, one of their few bright spots in a world tilting heavily towards the US.  Iranian Hostage Crisis, Marine Barracks Bombing, and maybe Iran-Iraq War add a little fuel to the fire, but generally they only slam the door shut on the US rather than leading to any cataclysmic change in the region.

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9 Responses to Regions: Middle East

  1. SnowFire says:

    Tiny nit: Having had it happen to me recently in a game which went from US Domination of the Middle East to Soviet *Control* (of course without any ME Scorings on the Domination), Muslim Revolutions on Saudi Arabia / Iraq kills SEVEN US Influence, not six. You have to blow a 4 ops to take Iraq short of something weird (you couped back into Iran, then did a random realignment roll against the 1 influence in Iraq to knock the Soviets out?).

  2. Tuomo says:

    In the event that the USSR places one influence in Israel (1/1) in Early War to get to other areas of interest, when should the US think about taking control of the country? 4ops are quite a bit. Would they be better spent somewhere else? What if Israel is 1/2? Should the US even think about it then?

    • theory says:

      I rarely bother with Israel until maybe late in the Mid War. 4 Ops is just too much this early in the game.

      If you have access to the other battlegrounds, then no question you should take those first, since Libya/Egypt/Iran are half the cost of Israel.

      If you don’t have access (e.g., Nasser is in power in Egypt), then even if you take Israel, the USSR can just respond by taking those 2-stability battlegrounds and your Israel influence isn’t doing you much good.

  3. MV says:

    One significant disadvantage for the US in Middle East is that the Soviets can normally start their turn by couping one battleground country and there are some very nice targets such as Iran and Egypt (both in turn provide access to other battlegrounds) in the ME. Now the US can try to protect them by overcontrolling but the threat of muslim revolution is always there…

  4. fairgr says:

    Some notes on the effects of Muslim Revolution on the region:

    If the U.S. controls a battleground other than Israel and the U.S.S.R. has some spare ops in the Mid War, piling at least as much influence into the U.S.-controlled battleground as the stability of that country is a strong play. That way that country becomes immediately U.S.S.R.-controlled after the Muslims finally decide to revolt.

    The U.S. should place influence in the Middle East in a manner such that Muslim Revolution cannot result in the loss of access to key battleground countries (e.g. at least one influence in Iraq, Saudia Arabia, and Jordan).

  5. Dan says:

    Just wanted to add one small but significant point. This card can be a FANTASTIC headline for the US on Turn 1 if you are playing with the +1 influence to the US modification. As pointed out, the Soviets enjoy a consistent advantage in this region throughout the game. In the Early War, the US usually can only hope to block USSR Domination. But headlining the ME Scoring card on Turn 1 gives the US 4 VP’s, assuming that the 1 extra influence goes into Iran. Even if you aren’t playing with the 1 influence addition to the US, it’s still a good headline IMHO since it is a null scoring and allows you to use all AR’s to conduct ops. The only way to defend against this is if USSR headlines Nasser, which I don’t think I have ever seen done. Just wanted to add that…

    • BamBix says:

      Happened to me yesterday. I headlined ME scoring, opponent headlined Nasser. He didn’t have a great hand, if I recall correctly.

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