mid-1960s, American interests in the Persian Gulf region were furthered by Britain continuing to serve as security guarantor. America’s main interests in the Persian Gulf at that time – ۱۹۶۸- was concentrated on three major goals: maintaining interstate order, keeping the oil flowing and keeping out other rival powers – Soviet Union – from the region.
۳.۶.۱ American policy objectives in Iran
American policy objectives in Iran in the 1970s were shaped by regional and global developments. The regional developments were: 1) British withdrawal from East of Suez and the Persian Gulf region in 1971; 2) the Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean. The global were: 1) the Vietnam War; 2) the detente between the U.S. and the ex-Soviet Union.
On August 8, 1972, after the announcement of the Nixon Doctrine in the Persian Gulf in 1968, the principle of the US policy in the Persian Gulf was stated by Josef Sisco, Secretary of State as: “
Noninterference in the internal affairs of other nations; encouragement of regional cooperation for peace and progress; supporting friendly countries in their efforts to provide for their own security and development; encouraging the international exchange of goods, services and technology (Department-of-State, 1972).
One year later, in July 1973, US policy objectives in the Persian Gulf were stated as:
Support for indigenous regional collective security efforts to provide stability and to foster orderly development without outside interference; the peaceful resolution of territorial and other disputes among the regional states and the opening up of better channels of communication among them; continued access to [Persian] Gulf oil supplies at reasonable prices and in sufficient quantities to meet our growing needs and those of our European and Asian friends and allies; enhancing of our commercial and financial interests (US-House, 1973).
James Noyes. the US Defense Department spokesman defined U.S. security interests in the Persian Gulf as: “Containment of Soviet military power within its present borders; access to Persian Gulf oil; continued free movement of United States ships and aircrafts into and out of the area” (US-House, p. 39).
Briefly, US foreign policy toward the Persian Gulf region in the second half of the twentieth century was focused on protecting the oil flow, supporting the Israeli regime and pro- western regimes in the region, maintaining political stability to confront communism, combating communist influence, keeping the conservative regimes ruling the region in place, struggling against terrorism, mediation in the Palestinian-Israeli struggle, and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction [WMD] (Monshipouri, 2002).
۳.۶.۲ The U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf
In viewing the sum of all interests of the U.S. and western bloc in the Persian Gulf, it can be concluded that the main U.S. interests are as follows: (1) the most important U.S. interest in the Persian Gulf region is maintaining the free flow of oil to world markets. Saudi Arabia alone has more than a quarter of the world’s total proven reserves; Iraq has the second largest reserves, possessing over 10 percent of the world’s total, while Iran, the UAE, and Kuwait have about 9 percent each. So securing fossil energies of the region will soothe the U.S. concerns about fossil energies of the region because the Persian Gulf petroleum resources are and will be for the foreseeable future, a vital factor in the economic health of the United States and its allies (Byman & Wise, 2002). (2) The second main interest of the U.S. in the region is preventing, or at least containing the spread of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction); the most serious trans-regional danger for the U.S from the Gulf region is the continuing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and long-range ballistic missiles. Iran and Iraq are the countries of greatest concern to the United States as WMD proliferators. A nuclear and missile-armed Iraq (before the fall of Saddam Hussein) and Iran would be a threat not only to their immediate neighbors and U.S. forces operating in the Gulf but also to Israel and U.S. allies in Europe. (3) The third basic interest of the United States in the region is ensuring the security of its friendly local regimes. The United States has developed close relations with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman. Although the initial reason for U.S. efforts for building ties was the large oil reserves, the Arab states also insist on relations of their own. However, the United States will almost certainly view any significant political change with concern and in general it favors the status quo. (4) The United States’ interest in democracy and human rights is another implication for the U.S. to act in the Persian Gulf region. More conservative Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have no free democratic institutions such as parliament or free press or political parties, and other basic instruments of democracy (Byman & Wise, p. 5). (5) Freedom of Navigation; the U.S. must be assured that the oil produced in the region can get to the market. The Strait of Hormuz is the most important maritime passageway in the world as 90 percent of the petroleum exported from the Persian Gulf in 2000 transited the Strait of Hormuz, two-fifths of all the oil traded internationally in the world. (6) Fostering political development in the conservative states; since rapid revolutions such as Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution would have the most dangerous outcome for the interests of the United States and the West, and the United States therefore needs to foster political and social development in the region.
Table 3: Past Challenges to U.S. Interests in the Gulf
External Subversion or Terrorism
Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (1990)
Iranian support for Shi’a radicals in the Gulf (ongoing, particularly in the 1980s)
Radical seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca (1979)
Iranian and Iraqi attacks on Gulf tankers during the Iran-Iraq war (1987-1988)
Iranian support for 1981 coup attempt in Bahrain
Shi’a riots in Bahrain, Kuwait, and the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia (1979-1981)
Iraqi threats to Kuwait (1994)
Iranian efforts to capitalize on shi’a unrest in Bahrain (1994-1996)
Radical attacks on U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia (1995)
Iranian and Iraqi WMD programs (ongoing); Iranian seizure of Gulf islands claimed by the UAE (1971 and 1992)
Iranian-affiliated radicals’ attempts to assassinate the Emir of Kuwait (1985) and terrorist attacks in Kuwait City (1983)
Iranian-backed unrest at the hajj
Shi’a unrest in Bahrain (1994-1996)
Source: (Byman & Wise, 2002, p. 21)
۳.۶.۳ Reasons of American indirect presence after Britain withdrawal
Although the relationship between Britain and America on security affairs during World War II was excellent, the British government’s decision to withdrawal from the Persian Gulf region was condemned by Washington. On 6 January 1968, American Secretary of State, Dean Rusk sent a letter to London concerning rumors that London’s withdrawal from east of Suez and Persian gulf had a fundamental sea change for western alliance and should not be undertaken unilaterally (Jeffrey R. Macris, p. 289).
The reasons for the United States decision to not replace Great Britain in the Persian Gulf were: 1) American public feelings about the Vietnam War, which increasingly dominated the foreign policy and administrative function of the U.S. government in 1968 and U.S. mired in Vietnam. 2) as a result of the detente between US and the ex-Soviet Union, there could not be any formal pact involving the United States; 3) opposition of nationalist movements of the region to any U.S. direct involvement in the Persian Gulf; 4) The conflict in Vietnam had robbed the US military equipment that might have facilitated fighting in the Persian Gulf region; 5) Also the U.S. congress members pledged that no such Vietnam entanglements would emerge as a result of the U.S. replacing the British in the Persian Gulf region.
On the one hand, there were two main reasons for the American to involve themselves in the Persian Gulf region: 1) need for energy and security of energy flows to industrial countries and controlling the oil flow to the western and Asia- pacific countries (Naji & Jawan, 2011). On the other hand, it was clear that the United States in the bipolar system from the Cold war era was looking for maximizing its hegemony within the international system. 2) The Arabs of smaller southern emirates began to request from Washington military assistance and American protection because of their concern about larger neighbors; as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Paul Warnke cautioned Secretary of