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)
1.2.3 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 arrangement, which has lurched from crisis to crisis.
The time is ripe for scholars to offer ideas that can help stabilize the region. The nations of the Middle East and especially the Persian Gulf have suffered greatly from military conflict over the past four decades, including the ongoing conflict in Iraq, the 1991 war in Kuwait, and the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. The existing Persian Gulf security system, without participation of all states, only offers the chance to stabilize the region for the short to medium term and is not compatible for a long time. For the time being, the formation of a Persian Gulf wide cooperative security forum would increase regional security and give recognition to all legitimate security concerns and could play an increasingly important role as the forum matures (Kupchan, 2007)
There are more subtle developments that permit a new and better security system to be built after Saddam’s removal from power in 2003. One is the growing acceptance by elites in Saudi Arabia and the smaller Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states of the need for domestic reform. The other development, obscured by rhetoric on both sides, is the growing possibility that America believes any arrangements without the presence of all states in the Persian Gulf region cannot be stable as has been shown and Iran can be certain that the U.S has its interests in the Persian Gulf.
It is submitted that increase in Iran’s importance and its enhanced regional role; emergence of a new Iraq with a different nature; changes in the nature of security challenges, have necessitated the formation of a new regional security system in the Persian Gulf based on political, cultural and security realities of the region. The Persian Gulf’s traditional security system has been designed chiefly around the traditional threats and particularly based on the situations of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Policies such as “Nixon’s Doctrine”, “balance of power”, and “dual containment”, for imposing imported security systems based only on the demands and interests of trans-regional players, have been the main components of such a security system. Today, according to new developments in international relations, such an arrangement that multiplies the causes of tension and mistrust between states in the region and external powers, is based on mutual misperception about roles, positions and objectives of other countries in the region is not in compliance with regional realities, and just as was demonstrated during the crises of recent years – the first and second Persian Gulf wars – it did not have the required efficacy. For the same reason, the current conditions and realities of the region without doubt demand a new regional security arrangement. The hypothesis of the present thesis is that the Islamic Republic of Iran has always sought to create conditions in which the security of the Persian Gulf region is assured through indigenous means, free from interference by outsiders.
1.3 Problem statement
The Persian Gulf region with the discovery of oil in Iran in 1908; grew significantly in importance to Britain and then other powers of Europe and US. This region has been the world’s critical energy repository for the past several decades. The eight Persian Gulf states are currently estimated to contain approximately 63.3 percent of the world’s reserves of crude oil and 33.3 percent of its natural gas and the world is projected to grow more dependent on oil from the region (Bagat, 1999). After the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 the US security strategy for the region (Twin Pillar Policy) was collapsed and the Iranian Revolution created anti-American sentiment among the Iranian.
After the Islamic revolution different US administrations repeated their efforts to find an effective Persian Gulf security system to maintain their interests in this region. But most of these policies depended on unilateral interference and readiness of the United States to maintain a military presence in the region that was not compatible with the interest of Iran and few other Arab states of the region (Pollack, 2003). So, the cycle of instability and conflict that has plagued the region is the most important problem of the region. However, many security policies has been carried out for the Persian Gulf region from the Americans since 1979, but analyzing the main challenges and current conditions of the Persian Gulf it appears that the region still suffers a lot of crises and lacks peace and stability and the region has lurched from crisis to crisis.
Therefore, the problem identified in this research is related to in-depth understanding of why the security policies of the US after Islamic revolution in Iran toward Iran in the Persian Gulf could not maintain peace and security in the region. In other words, why region suffer unstable security and lack of peace at least after the Islamic revolution in iran and also how do conflicting aspirations and perceptions of the Islamic Republic of Iran and U.S. could impact on the security arrangement of the Persian Gulf region.
1.4 Research aims and Objectives
In accordance with the principles of regional security and the