Building Security in the Persian Gulf

Building Security in the Persian Gulf

Building Security in the Persian Gulf

Building Security in the Persian Gulf


Following the war in Iraq, the United States, along with its allies and friends, faces the need to define a new, long-term strategy for the Persian Gulf region. The United States' continued, indeed permanent, engagement in the region has already been determined by its interests, but many elements must be considered and questions answered, including the following: What are the best strategy and approach to promoting long-term security and stability in the region in a manner consonant with the basic interests of the United States, its allies and partners, and participating regional countries? What means can be found to reduce the long-term burdens imporsed on the United States by its involvement in the region in terms of military engagement, risks and expenses, and opportunity costs? Can Iran be drawn productively into security arrangements for the Persian Gulf, or will it decide instead to challenge security in the region? What regional security structure can be developed with the potential to include all regional countries and provide lasting value? To answer these questions, the author analyzes the future of Iraq, the role of Iran, asymmetric threats (including terrorism), regional reassurance, the Arab-Israeli conflict, regional tensions, and the roles of other external actors. The work recommends criteria, parameters, potential models and partners, arms-control and confidence-building measures, and specific steps in diplomacy and military commitments for a new security structure for the Persian Gulf region that can meet U.S. interests at a reduced cost and gain the support of the American people.


The United States is now in the process of reducing its force presence in Iraq, and there is a December 31, 2011, deadline for final withdrawal. This process is being very carefully planned and executed, and considerable effort and analysis have gone into it. Less well considered and planned is what happens afterward, not just in Iraq but in the region of the Persian Gulf, particularly in regard to regional security. This is not only shortsighted: It could have a serious impact not just on the region but also on major U.S. (and allied) interests in the Persian Gulf and vicinity. It is now well understood that, when the U.S.-led Coalition invaded Iraq in March 2003, not enough thought and planning had gone into what would need to be done after the conflict. With this experience as background, it is important that the same not happen again regarding other critical issues in the region.

Many important questions will need to be answered about what should happen next. This work addresses several such questions that are related not to specific aspects of the endgame within Iraq itself but rather in the surrounding region. At the same time, rather than concentrating on immediate tactical questions, it primarily takes a longer view, focusing not so much on the drawdown of U.S. and Coalition forces as on what could be done in the medium to long terms to help foster security in the Persian Gulf region as a whole. Thus, in addition to considering some short-term factors, this work develops criteria and parameters for a new security structure for the region of the Persian Gulf.

This work has two primary goals. The first is to determine and develop means for increasing the chance of achieving long-term security within the Persian Gulf and environs (as far west as the Levant and as far east as Iran and, in some regards, Afghanistan and Pakistan). The second, within the context of fully securing U.S. interests and those of its allies and partners, is to reduce the long-term burdens imposed on the United States in terms of (1) military engagement and the financial cost of providing security; (2) risk, including to U.S. forces; and (3) opportunity costs, especially in relation to East and South Asia, the Russian Federation, and management of the global economy.

For an assessment conducted outside the U.S. Department of Defense on the process of withdrawing forces from Iraq, see Perry et al., 2009.

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