Lade Inhalt...

Policy Paper on U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf

Written from the simulated perspective of the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)

Hausarbeit 2012 14 Seiten

Politik - Internationale Politik - Region: USA


Table of Content

1. Introduction

2. America’s Principal Interests in the Persian Gulf

3. Main Threats to U.S. Interests in the Persian Gulf

4. Roadmap to Protect and Promote U.S. Interests in the Persian Gulf

5. U.S. Military Involvement in the Persian Gulf
5.1 Circumstances of Greater Military Involvement
5.2 Recommended Kind of Military Involvement

6. Bibliography

1. Introduction

The Persian Gulf and its littoral states Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Oman have witnessed several conflicts over the last decades. They have seen the Iran-Iraq war from 1980-1988 and the two Gulf Wars with U.S. involvement, that made the Persian Gulf a highly volatile region. Historically, the actions taken by America in the region have been driven by mainly two interests: First, ensuring a continued flow of oil exports of the countries and second, preventing a regional hegemon dominating the politics of the Persian Gulf. These interests had been brought to paper with the Carter Doctrine in 1980 in light of the growing assertiveness of the Soviet Union in the Persian Gulf.

Since 9/11, there is also the interest of counterterrorism and today, another power after the Soviet Union tries to seize regional hegemony. The Persian Gulf is now home to a country ruled by a regime that wants to destroy the Israeli state and supports terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas to further destabilize the region. Furthermore, unrest or even clashes between Sunnis and Shiites in the Persian Gulf countries are possible as they are either majority or minority in a state and oppressed by the antagonistic ruling group. Iran is the main representative of the Shiites, while the GCC countries are ruled by Sunni leaders.

The goal of this paper will be to show awareness of the problems in the Persian Gulf, address U.S. interests in the region, identify threats to these interests and provide policy recommendations in how the United States should pursue its Foreign Policy in the Persian Gulf. As this analysis is written through the lens of the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs the Foreign Policy perspective drawn out in this paper shall check the Presidents policy and be ultimately determined by and for the interests and well-being of the American people.

2. America’s Principal Interests in the Persian Gulf

In a 2011 poll Americans where asked what the U.S. goals in the Middle East should be. The top five popular answers were preventing the spread of terrorism, keeping oil prices low, preventing attacks on civilians, encouraging the spread of democracy and helping to protect Israel (cf. Pew Research Center 2011). These polled goals should be considered in assessing the inherent American interests in the Persian Gulf and four of these principal ones will be elaborated in the following.

a) Preventing the spread of terrorism

The main goal of the U.S. Foreign Policy should be to protect the homeland and the citizens of America. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 taught America the lesson to be serious about counterterrorism in the Arab world. Especially the recent terrorist attack on the embassy in Benghazi shows the ongoing threat of terrorism and the urgency to deal with it. In the area of the Persian Gulf, the militant terrorist organization Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operates in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. AQAP is responsible for many terrorist attacks, among them the famous ones against the USS Dole in 2000 and the “underwear bomber”, who attempted a plane bombing on Christmas Day 2010. It is thereof in the vital American interest to support Persian Gulf countries in their fight against Islamist terrorism to prevent the further spread of it in the region.

b) Ensuring the continued flow of Arab oil exports

Oil export respectively energy security was and still is the main reason that drags America into the Persian Gulf. The American people are extremely sensitive if it comes to oil prices and are aware of its impact to the national economy. Therefore, stability and security of the Arab oil-exporting countries must be ensured and the Strait of Hormuz must be free for world oil exports.

Looking in the future, America may be self-sufficient and a net exporter of oil by 2030 due to energy efficiency and increased oil production because of improved drilling techniques (cf. Rosenthal 2012). Although America might not depend on Arab oil anymore in the long term, and it is wise to pursue that, it is still linked with a globalized world economy. The flow of Arab oil dictates the oil price and that is why free and secure oil export of the Persian Gulf continues to be important (cf. Mead 2007). Altogether, defending the Persian Gulf including the Strait of Hormuz is a necessary interest of the United States.

c) Security of Israel means containing Iran

Israel is a longstanding democratic ally of the USA in the greater region of the Persian Gulf and faces geopolitical hostilities and witnessed its statehood to be contested and attacked in history. Therefore America rightfully dedicated itself to Israel’s security and well-being and maintains a special relationship with the country and its people. Furthermore the American people expressed in events and demonstrations their longstanding and faithful support for the state of Israel (see Ros-Lehtinen 11/25/2012). America therefore must send a clear message to those forces in the world that committed themselves to the destruction of the state Israel that there is no doubt that America has Israel’s back. Today, America genuinely stands with Israel against any foreign enemy and supports its right of self-defense (cf. Ros-Lehtinen 11/16/2012). With regard to America’s commitment to Israel, containing Iran is not only a vital interest to the United States in light of the security of the state of Israel and its people, but it also means preventing a regional hegemon in the Persian Gulf. The threat presented by Iran will be further elaborated in the second point.

d) Stability of Persian Gulf Allies

All Persian Gulf countries except Iran and Iraq are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The United States is successfully cooperating with the GCC members built on mutual respect and shared interests. The GCC countries have proven to be reliable allies in the region in terms of energy security and balancing Iran. The GCC countries are ruled by Sunni leaders and worry about the growing assertiveness and hostility of Shiite ruled Iran. That’s why Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman allow U.S. bases at their national territory and Bahrain even houses the headquarter of the U.S. Fifth fleet, a crucial element of regional security in the Persian Gulf (cf. Cordesman 2011: 2f.). Continued support to the allies in the region is in the U.S. interest, because of the demand in working relationships with Persian Gulf countries that enable a U.S. military presence in the region. Moreover functioning governments in the Persian Gulf are a stronghold against the breed of terrorism and America cannot allow more safe havens for terrorists in the region, as Yemen is evolving to become one.

The well-being and stability of the GCC, its members and the GCC-American relationship is therefore a vital U.S. interest. Stability in the Persian Gulf ensures oil export, which is crucial for the world economy. As Freeman put it: “The world cannot afford instability in this region” (Freeman 2011: 35).

3. Main Threats to U.S. Interests in the Persian Gulf

a) A destabilized Persian Gulf

This point naturally evolves out of the former one. A destabilized Persian Gulf due to whatever reason would harm the interests of the United States and the world. There are three domestic developments to think of that could potentially destabilize the GCC countries:

First, revolutions of the “Arab (Re)awakening” leading to major upheavals in the region could allow more extreme anti-American forces to come to power. By now the U.S. managed to have well-working relations with the GCC countries, also in regard of the unresolved Israel-Palestinian Issue, but that could change under new governments. Second, Sunni-Shiite tensions in countries of Shiite majority with Sunni leaders could escalate, which is already observable in Bahrain. A Shiite ruled Bahrain could be driven towards Iran which is not in the interest of Saudi Arabia and also not of the USA because of its geopolitical importance and the Fifth fleet headquarter (cf. Freeman 2011: 32). Third to name is the spread of terrorism in the region. AQAP managed to set foot in Yemen and could operate from there even stronger in Oman and Saudi Arabia. As Cordesman argues, any sectarian tensions, but especially a Shiite unrest, could lead to fracture points in GCC countries allowing Iran to exploit them and giving it a greater leverage in the region (cf. Cordesman 2011: 3).



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
8.2 MB
Institution / Hochschule
Indiana University – Department of Political Science
Persian Gulf US Foreign Policy US interests



Titel: Policy Paper on U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf