Are the United States and Iran headed for a direct military confrontation? The Canon Institute for Global Studies (CIGS), a Tokyo-based independent think tank where I direct its foreign policy/national security shop, conducted a 24-hour policy simulation (or so-called war game) last weekend over a contingency in the gulf region.

Some 40 participants — incumbent government officials, regional experts, scholars of international studies, businesspersons and journalists — gathered Saturday morning and each played his/her role as officials or reporters of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the U.S., Russia, China and Japan. I am profoundly grateful to their intellectual contribution to the war game in which they performed so realistically that the outcome of the simulation became something worth examining. Although CIGS will eventually publish a more detailed report on this event, here I wish to share with readers my take on the game.

Before that, I must confess something. I, probably for the last time, played the role of a simulation controller. A controller must not only organize and supervise the game process but also draft and finalize a scenario and produce imaginary news video clips, which we call "MHK News," to show the participants during the 24-hour simulation.