proven natural gas reserves of the Middle East lie in the Persian Gulf. The area produces around 32percent of world’s total crude production (Eia, 2006). The dependence of The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) states on Persian Gulf oil is much more than the United States. Whereas the United States imports 45percent of its oil, 25percentof which comes from the Persian Gulf, OECD imports 57percent of its oil from the Persian Gulf and Japan 70percent. In this context, while the OECD annually spends USD$200 billion on Persian Gulf oil, the United States alone accounts for half that sum (Chubin, 2001).
Table 1: World Conventional Oil Production
World Conventional Oil Production
(Source: Energy International Agency, 2009, p: 38)
*Organization of petroleum exporting countries (OPEC)
On the other hand, political risk is exacerbated by choke points in transit routes. Nearly 40percent of world oil exports pass through the Strait of Hormuz, nearly 28percent through the Strait of Malacca, and nearly 7percent through Bab-al-Mandeb, the narrow strait connecting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden (Pascual & Zambetakis, 2010, pp. 14-15). Because of the importance of crude oil in the industrialized world, foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Middle East and especially the Persian Gulf region, expanded by more than 200percent between 2001 and 2006 and also multinationals raced to gain a foothold in this fast-growing region (Maloney, 2010, p. 43). At the same time, Gulf states’ foreign assets have more than doubled since 2003, with estimates ranging from USD$1.8 trillion to USD$2.4 trillion (Boer, Farrell, & others, 2008).
Richard Sokolsky, an adjunct research associate at the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C. believes that the Persian Gulf also will remain the main source of Western energy supplies over the 2010 decade and the portion of Western Europe’s total oil consumption imported from the Persian Gulf will increase to 35percent, compared to 14percent for the United States. According to the 2006 International Energy Outlook Report, the volume of US energy imports from 29percent in 2004 will increase to 32-33percent of its energy demands in 2030 (Yazdan-fam, 2007-08) and Persian Gulf is the main source of US oil imports. Also, according to a 2008 International Energy Agency report, staying on the present path would bring about a 70percent increase in oil demand by 2050 (Florini, 2010, p. 150). Henry Kissinger, after the 1973 oil price shock, argued that U.S. security had been directly affected by the imported energy:
In the last three decades, we have become so increasingly dependent on imported energy that today our economy and well-being is hostage to decisions made by nations thousands of miles away [. …] The energy crisis has placed at risk all of this nation’s objectives in the world. It has mortgaged our economy and made our foreign policy vulnerable to unprecedented pressures (Strange, 1998, p. 201).
The Persian Gulf is also an effective geo-strategic center in the international system. Its role in generating religious and political thoughts; Iran’s geographical position between Russia and the newly-established republics and their link to the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean; Saudi Arabia’s access to the strategic waterways of the Sea of Oman, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean; stretching to the Suez Canal and the European continent through the Strait of Babol-Mandab (Saeed Taeb & Khalili, 2008). In this regard, Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, US naval officer and author of key works on naval strategy in 1902 expressed the belief that Britain should take up the responsibility of maintaining security in the (Persian) Gulf and its coasts – the ‘Middle East’ – so that the route to India would be secured and Russia kept in check (Bilgin, 2004)
۱.۲.۲ U.S. Past attempts to build a security system for the Persian Gulf
The security of the Persian Gulf, especially since the discovery of oil resources in this region, has always been a critical issue among the regional member states, the international community and the industrial world. Before the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, the Arab Persian Gulf states had an unimportant role in the security of the Persian Gulf region. Just before 1971, Britain saw itself as responsible for ensuring the region’s security, its vast oil reserves and the flow of free trade until World War II (Saeed Taeb & Khalili, 2008).
The US sought to establish a new security system to fill the power vacuum in the region after Britain’s disengagement from east of Suez (and also the Persian Gulf area) in 1971. The US policy was based on the firm belief that Western (indeed global) prosperity is tied to the security of oil supplies from the Persian Gulf. Given the hard lessons learned in Vietnam, Washington did not want to send its troops to the Persian Gulf. Instead, the Nixon Administration formulated the ‘twin-pillar’ policy: reliance on two regional powers (Iran and Saudi Arabia) to protect oil resources from any hostile threat. Of the two, Iran was regarded as being militarily more capable of securing western interests and politically more stable than Saudi Arabia. The Iran’s Shah was thus given almost unlimited access to the most sophisticated US weaponry and gradually came to be regarded as the “Policeman of the Persian Gulf” according to “twin pillar policy” of Nixon administration (Hurewitz, 1972, p. 33).
Two important developments led to the collapse of the “twin-pillar policy” at the end of 1979. First, the Pahlavi regime in Iran was overthrown and replaced by the Islamic Republic and the leadership of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Second, Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan and were in a position to pose a direct threat to oil supplies from the Persian Gulf. These two developments caused hard changes in U.S policy in the region, promulgated in the ‘Carter Doctrine’. According to this new policy: “any attempt by outside forces to gain control of the Persian Gulf region would be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the U.S.A and as such would be repelled by any means necessary, including military force” (Bagat, 1999). Thus, Washington shifted from relying on regional powers to a readiness to use its own military force to defend oil resources. In line with this new strategy, Carter authorized the creation of the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force. (Later renamed the U.S. Central Command [USCENTCOM])
During 1993-1997, the Clinton Administration expressed the policy of “dual containment,” According to this policy; US effort was to keep Iran and Iraq weak rather than alternately tilting toward one or the other to preserve a power balance between them. On the other hand, during the Clinton dual containment policy, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Sheikhdom of Kuwait were primarily concerned about the conventional threat from Iraq and saw Iran as a counterweight to Iraqi power. The dual containment policy also had little success in curbing Iran’s and Iraq’s activities.(M. J. L. Mraz, 1997)
۱.۲.۳ Feature of the region after U.S. attack of Iraq
Ever since Britain’s announcement that it planned to withdraw from east of the Suez Canal in 1971, there have been repeated efforts to find an effective Persian Gulf security system. There are five characteristics of the Persian Gulf strategic environment that have the greatest impact on future U.S. strategy in the Persian Gulf region: a global dependence on regional oil exports; the rising threat posed by violent sub-state forces; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; uncertain political, economic, and social reform trends; and the future stability of Iraq.
The facts show the failure of attempts by regional and outside actors alike to develop a functional security system; because today’s system (until January 2009) depends on the readiness of the United States to increase dangerous wars and to maintain a military presence despite local countries with weapons of mass destruction in the region. With Persian Gulf oil supplies as vital as ever to the global economy, the quest for reliable security has never been more important. Yet, even during conflicts and wars in the Persian gulf region , there has been little public debate in the region, Europe, or the United States, and little genuine analysis, on the shape of a post-war system to help break the cycle of instability and conflict that has plagued the region. Although opponents of war argue that it is destabilizing the region, they have no practical ideas on how to improve or replace the current security