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Why US May Pivot to Persian Gulf Again

Updated: May 15, 2023

The recent revelation by John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, regarding the intention to enhance American military presence in the Persian Gulf raises fundamental questions about the nation's Middle Eastern foreign policy.

The region will become more unstable as a result of this choice, which will also jeopardise regional nations' attempts to settle their differences through negotiation. This is especially true in Yemen and Syria, where Saudi Arabia and Iran have been at odds for a while.

The news follows Iran's seizure of two ships in retaliation for US’ seizure of an Iranian petroleum tanker in the Persian Gulf. Tensions in the area have increased following Iran's recent detention of an oil tanker flying the flag of Panama.

While the US and Israel have recently arrested more than a dozen Iranian vessels, the US Navy asserts that Iran has interfered with at least 15 commercial ships over the past two years. The region will only experience greater war and instability as a result of this hit-for-hit strategy.

To guarantee freedom of travel in the Middle Eastern waterways, particularly the Strait of Hormuz, the US has justified the military build-up. Given the history of US involvement in the region, this premise is somewhat debatable. The US has a lengthy history of meddling in the Middle East, from aiding military takeovers to endorsing despots and invading nations. These activities have harmed attempts for peace and security in the area and added to the instability there.

Tensions have only increased as a result of the US pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2018 and the failure to hold substantive talks with Tehran. Discussions between the US and Iran on restoring the nuclear accord came to an end last year, despite President Joe Biden's campaigning for returning to the agreement. As a result, Tehran felt alone and exposed, which prompted the recent retaliatory moves in the Persian Gulf.

President Biden has advocated for a restructuring of US foreign policy in the Middle East to concentrate on "great power conflicts" with China and Russia. The gradual expansion of American military forces in the region, however, runs counter to this strategy. This choice will only worsen the region's instability and undermine the efforts being made by Tehran and Riyadh to end the disastrous wars in Yemen and Syria.

As it happens, the US's intention to extend its military presence in the Persian Gulf will further fuel the region's already high levels of conflict and instability. In order to end the current crises, the US needs to reconsider its Middle Eastern foreign policy and put more of an emphasis on diplomacy and communication. In the long run, this will suit the interests of Washington as well as those in the region.


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