e world order and enhanced the previous efforts of the United States of America to establish a balance of power security system against the Soviet Union. Furthermore, the end of formal domination of the United Kingdom since 1971 brought to the debate the issue of security studies and related questions in the Persian Gulf region.
The milestone of the Persian Gulf security developments is occurrence of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 that challenged the US interests in the Persian Gulf. In this regard, as the Persian Gulf had an important role to the U.S. economy and industry the U.S. policymakers took different policies toward Iran and Persian Gulf region but these policies have always been faced with serious challenges from Iran and other countries in the region. This study seeks to evaluate the influences of the US security regional policies toward the Persian Gulf after the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Also it evaluates the influences of the struggle between the U.S. and Iran in the Persian Gulf. This chapter will develop a definition of regional security and the vital role of peace and security among regions and nations. In addition, it will present a brief history of the US regional security policies in the Persian Gulf region. Finally, it will discuss the statement of the problem, research questions, research objectives and the significance of the study.
Figure 1: The Middle East & Persian Gulf region
Source: indymedia.org.uk (2012)
1.2 Background of the Study
Regional security and the interdependence of security have always been at the core of security studies by scholars in this field. In security systems studies, states are the basic units in the international system and their autonomy is affected by the regional sub-systems. In the state-centric view, the basic assumption is that states are the primary actors in the international system and are also the legitimate providers of security. In a region like the Persian Gulf, regional states of the Persian Gulf area (Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman), have a vital role in security policies of the region.
On the other hand, super powers and external powers in important regions of the world including Persian Gulf region have their benefits and interests. In this regard, they want to create a balance of power in favor of themselves and in this process, they attempt to maintain or change the security systems of such regions. Logic of balance of power is penetration of external powers in these regions and penetration is caused by indigenous regional rivalry among local states in the regions. So securization and desecurization of each state in the region is in interaction with other states of the region and finally this interaction leads to national security of all regional states.
The background of the study will be discussed in three parts: the importance of the Persian Gulf geopolitics, US past attempts for building security system in the Persian Gulf region and today’s feature of the Persian Gulf region.
1.2.1 The Importance of the Persian Gulf Geopolitics
The Persian Gulf region has its importance in its particular geo-economic, geostrategic and geopolitical situation. In this regard, the Persian Gulf region has been the focus of regional and extra-regional powers throughout the course of history. Economically, almost two thirds of the proven oil reserves in the world (65percent) and more than one third of the global natural gas reserves (40percent) are located in the Persian Gulf region. Moreover, 20percent of the world’s oil trade is done through this region. According to the latest statistics, almost 23 million barrels of oil (nearly 27 percent of global production) are produced daily by the Persian Gulf states. Also, according to the International Energy Agency’s estimate, in 2025, the Persian Gulf states will be exporting daily 36.4 million barrels of crude oil (Simbar & Ghorbani, 2011). On the other hand, two other advantages of the fossil energies of the Persian Gulf distinguish the region from others: 1) lower costs of exploitation of crude oil and natural gas in comparison with other regions; 2) the crude oil reserves are located close to efficient and developed transport routes with access to various markets (Simbar & Ghorbani, 2011). Geopolitically, the Persian Gulf is located in the area where Europe, Africa and Asia meet. This means that it is directly affected by events in those continents. From the geo-strategic perspective the Persian Gulf has been a military pathway to access other regions that is among the factors making the region important to major powers of the world.
The major indexes and geopolitical feature of the region is its highest volume of fossil fuel exports to the world. Proven crude oil reserves of the Persian Gulf coastal states of Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain stand at around 65percent of the world’s total oil reserves and 28percent of the global oil supplies. Saudi Arabia has nearly 25percent of the world’s crude oil reserves, followed by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and the UAE. Therefore, the four Persian Gulf coastal states of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait, jointly possess over 55percent of proven global oil reserves. So Persian Gulf is the most well-known energy pole of the world (Asif & Khan, 2009).
Figure 2: Distribution of global Oil Reserves. (EIA, 2009)
The Persian Gulf coastal states (Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and Yemen) also score high in terms of crude oil production. In 2002, they produced 27percent of the world’s total production. The region’s natural gas reserves stand at around 45percent of world’s total gas reserves. According to energy international agency (2006), approximately 80percent of all 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)