The region from North Africa through the Levant to the Persian Gulf, including Afghani-stan, Iran, and Turkey, has important similarities from the perspective of U.S. interests and the security challenges it faces.
From the perspective of U.S. global strategy, the basic characteristics of the Middle East are that it is an indispensable source of energy for the core states and that it has a concentration of rogue regimes, along with some failed states. The region is characterized by instability, including:
Armed conflicts will remain a danger in the Middle East for the foreseeable future. A heavy concentration of weapons--including weapons of mass destruction (WMD)--is located primarily in the Arab-Israeli theater and the Persian Gulf. While serious, Arab-Israeli tensions may be less likely to involve the United States than was the case during the Cold War, when the superpowers several times were toe-to-toe on behalf of their respective friends.
U.S. forces are heavily committed to the defense of energy-rich states from rogues. Energy shocks from the Middle East can shake the core states: twice in the last 25 years (in 1973 and 1979/80), wild oil price fluctuations cut annual Western economic output on the order of 2 percent (approximately $400 billion). On the other hand, the stable oil prices of 198797 have contributed to taming inflation and reducing fears about resource shortages. Besides the obvious desire to avoid another oil price shock, the core states must be concerned about the uses to which a rogue regime might put windfall oil income, specifically, that it would be able to acquire advanced weaponry and a formidable WMD capability.
The core industrial democracies share a vital interest in ready access to ever-more energy supplies at stable and reasonable prices. The U.S. goal for energy security is an environment in which energy is available from a variety of types and sources and in which market forces, rather than political factors, determine availability.
Such an environment offers the best prospect for market stability, because it minimizes the impact of disruption in any one supplier, both by providing alternative sources and allowing markets to quickly pass through price adjustments. An additional part of the U.S. energy security interest is ensuring that the other core states share the burdens of energy security.
Both Iran and Iraq remain committed to revising the status quo in their favor, and the core states have an interest in preventing that from happening. Iran is a revolutionary regime, with an ideology that justifies meddling in other countries' affairs and destabilizing moderate Arab states (as in Bahrain) and disrupting the Middle East peace process. Iraq's ruler, Saddam Hussein, has invaded two of his neighbors (Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990) and shows every indication he will try again.
The Middle East faces a distinct threat of nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons, as witnessed during the Iran-Iraq war. The United States has an interest in preventing their use, especially against allied or U.S. forces. While the U.S. goal is eventually to rid the region of WMD, the pace and modality may differ depending upon the weapon and the country. As far as country-specific targets go, there is a strong international consensus that Iraq's past aggression shows it cannot be trusted with WMD, and so a mandatory international inspection regime is required. On the other hand, nuclear weapons have proven a useful deterrent against states that would otherwise threaten Israel's right to exist.
Besides Turkey, Israel is the only country in the region that can be considered to be fully part of the core, sharing values such as democracy as well as historic ties. The United States has a long-standing commitment to defending Israel's right to exist and has invested heavily in diplomacy to promote Middle East peace. The United States has, however, few interests in the shape of final Arab-Israeli accords except that they should be agreed to by all parties and should be sustainable.
The United States has developed close relations with several Arab states, especially Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the smaller Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. It wants these transition states to be fully integrated over time into the core democratic world and, to that end, has an interest in the political reform of moderate Middle East regimes. That includes such goals as deepening and broadening civil liberties, reinforcing the rule of law, encouraging civil society, and making government more transparent and accountable. However, that may not translate into early full parliamentary rule in every Middle Eastern country. Monarchic rule has become consistent with partial parliamentary power in Morocco, Jordan, and Kuwait; it has been a better system of government than what replaced it in Iran and Iraq.
Prevention of state failure, such as has recently occurred in Afghanistan, is a U.S. interest, not least because the failure of a state such as Algeria could spill over into Europe, either into the NATO allies or into the former Soviet Union.
The most vibrant challenge to domestic tranquility in the region comes from radical Islamists, who claim a religious basis for their violent opposition to core interests. The United States thus has an interest in demonstrating that it can work with devout Muslims, as it does with the Saudi Government. The problem with radical Islamists is their violent political agenda, not their religion; friendship toward the United States can be fully consistent with devout Islamic belief and practice. At the same time, Washington thinks that other governments should follow its example in not distinguishing among citizens on religious grounds and not promoting or discouraging any religion.
The world oil market continues to have an ample supply and therefore relatively low prices. While prospects are good for sustained increases in oil output, the price of oil will also depend upon demand.
If demand continues to rise quickly, then the Middle East share in world oil output could continue its recent rise, from the historic low of 27 percent in 1986 to 32 percent in 1991 and then 35 percent in 1996. On the other hand, if demand grows more slowly, the technological revolution in oil production and the more welcoming attitude toward foreign investment elsewhere could lead non-Middle East output to grow enough to stabilize or reduce the Middle East's share. In either case, the pattern of world oil trade will continue to shift, with more Persian Gulf oil going to Asia while Europe and North America import oil from Africa and South America.
While the role of market forces in the oil and gas industry is increasing, one area where geopolitics remains primary is the Caspian basin. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan could have 5 percent of the world's oil reserves and by 2008 might produce 5 million barrels per day (mbd), primarily from Azeri offshore fields in the Caspian Sea and the Kazakh Tengiz field northeast of the Caspian. Those three countries plus Uzbekistan have 5 percent of the world's gas reserves, with Turkmenistan having the largest reserves. U.S. firms are committed to billions of dollars in investment, primarily in the Azeri offshore and Kazakh Tengiz fields. The problem is how to get the oil and gas to market from the landlocked Caspian countries. Some pipelines are already under construction or renovation, including a 1.2 mbd oil pipeline from Kazakhstan via Russia to the Black Sea, two 0.1 mbd pipelines from Azerbaijan to the Black Sea (one via Russia and one via Georgia), and short gas pipelines to hook the Iranian gas network on one end to Turkmenistan and on the other end to Iran. While the Kazakh pipeline will carry most of that country's projected oil capacity, additional major pipelines will be needed for Azeri oil and Turkmen gas. All the projected routes have problems, which will make the choices difficult:
*Existing pipelines go via Russia. Adding more capacity to those pipelines raises fears of excessive dependence on Russia.
*Transport via Iran faces U.S. opposition and Azerbaijani suspicions of Iranian irredentism.
*Turkey is lobbying vigorously for pipelines across its territory to the Mediterranean. But the political geography is complicated: a pipeline from any of the producing countries would have to cross at least one transit country before getting to Turkey, plus the best pipeline routes inside Turkey cross unstable Kurdish areas.
*Other transport routes are equally difficult politically (to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan) or challenging economically (to China).
The Oil Supply
The world oil market continues to have ample supply and therefore relatively low prices. Despite an upward blip in 1996, crude oil prices in the mid-1990s have been about the same as in the mid 1980s, while the average price level for other goods rose about 30 percent over that decade. The cost of producing oil has been dropping, thanks to the reduced cost of drilling and to technology that has made possible a 40 or even 50 percent recovery instead of 30 percent in the past. As costs drop, more output is coming from less attractive oil fields, for example, deep offshore fields in Norway and the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. After years of decline, U.S. oil production is increasing. At the same time, more countries are welcoming foreign investment in the oil industry, with fewer protectionist restrictions. For example, because of foreign investment, Venezuela is on track to increase its oil output capacity from 3.5 to 6 mbd by 2002.
Middle East countries are also increasing their oil production capacity. Saudi Arabia has underway a program to raise its capacity from the current 9 to 14 mbd within the decade. The other GCC states--Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman--are increasing their capacity from 7 to at least 9 mbd. Were Iraq to abandon the stubborn opposition to UN resolutions, it could increase from the current 3 to 6 mbd within five years. Iran's plans to expand its capacity face serious financial constraints, not least among them U.S. threats of secondary boycotts against firms investing in Iranian oil and gas.
The U.S. policy of dual containment has had only modest success. The policy has not always been well received by U.S. allies, particularly in Europe.
*Iraq. Saddam Hussein's hold on power seems secure. His ruthless security services make coup or assassination attempts extraordinarily difficult. The exile Iraqi opposition is divided and largely ineffective, despite political and clandestine financial support from the United States for two of the larger groupings. Three northern governates are controlled by two Kurdish parties, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) of Massoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of Jalal Talabani, which have been fighting each other intermittently since 1994.
Saddam Hussein's intentions are not entirely clear. There is strong reason to believe he wants to control Kuwait if the opportunity presents itself. As witnessed by the 1998 inspection crisis, his most troubling behavior is the refusal to cooperate fully with the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), which is responsible for ensuring Iraq does not produce WMD or ballistic missiles with a range over 150 km.
The UN Security Council has unanimously supported UNSCOM, though it has of late become more reticent to act. Since late 1995, it has not declared Iraqi violations to be material breeches of the ceasefire; in the past, following such declarations, the U.S. use or threat of force has resulted in Iraqi cooperation. Regional support is dropping too: the Gulf States were unenthusiastic or critical of U.S. limited air strikes and an extension of the southern no-fly zone from the 32 degrees north latitude to 33 degrees against Hussein after his September 1996 move into Kurdistan. While they want an end to the Hussein problem, regional states other than Kuwait seem to have become relaxed about the threat from Iraq.
*Iran. The regime in Tehran faces popular discontent and the indifference of the senior clergy, who have little to do with the minority of the clerics active in politics. But the Islamic Republic is unlikely to fall, in part because it adapts to domestic pressure, expressed through hotly contested elections fought between candidates carefully screened to ensure their loyalty to the revolution. However, socio-economic discontent may grow, as the baby boom after the 1979 revolution reaches the labor force at the same time as the country's oil exports fall. Iran is caught between growing domestic oil demand, fed by massive subsidies, and aging fields; its official forecast is that the country will cease exporting oil in 15 to 25 years. Foreign financing and technology could extend oil exports, but Iran has not offered particularly good terms to investors, and the United States has banned involvement of U.S. companies. Furthermore, under the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, Washington has threatened secondary boycotts against foreign firms investing in Iranian oil and gas. While Iran has the world's second- largest gas reserves after Russia, the potential for finding markets in the next decade is rapidly shrinking.
There is a struggle underway for control of Iran's foreign policy, between the government of President Mohammad Khatemi and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. On the one hand, Khamenei supports policies such as the fatwa calling for Salman Rushdie's murder and support for terrorism against Israel as crucial to the Islamic Republic's legitimacy as heir to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Furthermore, Iran's claim to represent the world's radical Muslims can be seen as a powerful force-multiplier for Iran, providing it with access to places such as Bosnia in which it would otherwise never be a player, even though it has also tarnished Iran's image with moderates and made it a pariah in some circles. On the other hand, Khatemi has made overtures which can be interpreted as an effort at rapprochement with the United States. Iran's overall orientation, however, remains anti-American for the moment.
The United States has had limited success in generating support for its campaign against Iran's behavior. Russia is building a nuclear power plant and continues arms deliveries; President Yeltsin's agreement not to enter into new arms contracts has had little practical effect, since so much remains undelivered under a 1989 agreement, which Iran had to stretch out as its finances deteriorated. China seems to regard arms sales to Iran as a useful retaliation for U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. European Union (EU) members and Japan enforce their bans on sales to Iran of arms and dual-use technology, but they reject U.S. arguments and pressure for economic isolation of Iran. After the verdict in the 1997 Mykonos murder case in Berlin, the EU suspended its critical dialogue with Iran, but the EU remains committed to encouraging Iranian moderates rather than the U.S. policy of sanctions. GCC states regard Iran as their main long-term security threat but want to maintain dialogue with it. In other words, the United States is losing the propaganda war about Iran. Washington is seen as the barrier to dialogue, though in fact Ayatollah Khamenei and the other senior clerics categorically refuse to talk to the U.S. Government. U.S. sanctions are seen as ineffective, though in fact Iran has been unable to attract the foreign financing it needs to remain an oil exporter over the long run.
Iraq as a Potential Threat
Iraq remains a potent military threat. Although degraded by the Gulf War and sanctions, Iraq's land force is larger than and qualitatively superior to all the GCC states combined or Iran. With an active ground force of over 350,000 (and a reserve of 650,000), over 2,000 battle tanks, and 4,500 armored vehicles, Iraq dwarfs the GCC, although the Saudi Royal Air Force with over 300 modern combat aircraft is more than a match for Iraq's 316 aging aircraft, of which as few as 80 may be serviceable. Iraq retains sufficient ground forces near Basra to break out and overrun Kuwait quickly, unless there is adequate warning to reinforce the standing forces there. Furthermore, Iraq has demonstrated the ability to load and move forces quickly over substantial distances.
Iran as a Potential Threat
Iran appears to be pursuing unconventional weapons. Its nuclear weapons program is apparently advancing slower than had been believed in the early 1990s. However, after years of little progress, its missile program is finally moving ahead. Iran has a substantial inventory of missiles that can reach GCC states, including 400 SCUDs and SS8s. It is on track to develop domestic production of missiles in the next decade, quite possibly including missiles with the 1,000-km range needed to reach Israel.
As for conventional forces, Iran has focused on upgrading its naval and missile capabilities in the Gulf. Its assets include:
* 3 Russian KILO-class submarines
* 10 fast-attack craft with 4 C802 missiles each and 10 patrol boats being fitted with C802s
* Shore-based antiship missiles: Some C-802s (95-km range), 100 C-801s (40-km range), and 100 H-42s (20-km range)
* 2,000 modern mines
* 51 Swedish Boghammer boats capable of harassing shipping
* 3 frigates and 3 light frigates
* 6 landing ships of more than 2,000 tons each.
Iran has 297 combat aircraft, of which about 175 are operational. Iranian military leaders have described Iran's strategy in the event of a U.S. attack as being to block shipping through the Strait of Hormuz. While it might seem irrational for Iran to impede shipping through a strait vital to itself, that is in fact exactly what it tried to do in the "tanker war" of 198788, during the Iran-Iraq war. Although Iran could not close the Strait, it could pose considerable danger to shipping that could affect world oil markets and the willingness of civilian ships to bring in supplies vital to U.S. forces.
Both Israelis and Palestinians have become dissatisfied with the basic bargain underlying the 1993 Oslo Declaration of Principles, namely, Palestinian self-rule in return for Palestinian suppression of terrorism. Palestinians expected Oslo to be the beginning of a process leading to a Palestinian state in Gaza and nearly all the West Bank, but that is not the intention of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, who became prime minister in June 1996. Instead, both sides engaged in behavior that enraged the other: the Netanyahu government permitted construction of new Jewish housing in East Jerusalem and in settlements on the West Bank, while Palestinian Authority (PA) police initially stood by or joined in deadly riots aimed at Israeli forces in September 1996.
In 1997, Palestinian anger over the peace process spilled over into reaction against the U.S. role. Much of the Palestinian mainstream came to see the United States more as a supporter of Israeli positions in the negotiations than as a neutral broker. The spillover of anger at the Netanyahu government into dissatisfaction with the United States became common in the Arab world. Open criticism of U.S. peace process policy became common even from moderate governments generally friendly to the United States. As Arab governments and public opinion coalesced in anger at the state of the peace process, the positions of moderate Arab governments and hardliners such as Syria became closer not only on the peace process but on foreign policy in general.
On several issues besides the peace process, 1997 saw increased disquiet with the positions advocated by the United States. Several Arab governments friendly to the United States (Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar) called for reconsidering the sanctions on Iraq. Popular opinion in many Arab states indicates unhappiness with the impact on the Iraqi people of the UN sanctions, as well as with UN sanctions against three Arab countries (Iraq, Libya, and Sudan). Furthermore, owing largely to the credibility of American power, Arab public opinion has become less concerned about the threat of external aggression in the Persian Gulf, paradoxically eroding support for U.S. presence. There is a desire for a more vigorous Arab role, for less reliance on the West, and for a more unified stance among Arab states--in short, a revival of Arab nationalism.
The great majority of Muslims reject radical Islamism, which is doing poorly in most of the Middle East. Some governments have effectively responded to the threat of violent Islamism, using a mixture of repression and accommodation, typically cracking down hard on the organized violent opposition, while absorbing parts of the social agenda and allowing an opposition that works within the existing system. Jordan has been particularly successful, thanks to the development of moderate, nonviolent Islamism and to economic growth that tempered criticism of social injustice. Economic growth in Egypt has also drained the recruiting pool for radical Islamism, while effective (if at times strong-armed) police work broke the back of the violent groups, though they can still mount isolated attacks like that which killed 45 foreign tourists in Luxor in November 1997.
In Turkey, the Islamist Refah (Welfare) party became the lead governing party in June 1996. In order to hold together his coalition and to work with the military, Refah Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan had to abandon an anti-Western stance, agreeing not only to remain in NATO but also to extend the allied monitoring of the northern Iraq no-fly zone, and even to deepen military cooperation with Israel. The Turkish military, which takes seriously its role as protector of the secular state founded by Ataturk in the 1920s, demanded that Erbakan stop or reverse policies seen as promoting Islam in government affairs. Faced with increasing military pressure and other political problems, enough members of the junior coalition partner defected to cause the Erbakan government to fall in June 1997. The overall effect of this experience was to show that Refah cannot change Turkish foreign policy and to harden non-Islamist opposition to Refah.
The revolutionary Iranian model has become increasingly less attractive to people throughout the Middle East. The May 1997 Iranian presidential election was won by the underdog candidate, Mohammad Khatemi, who soundly defeated the candidate widely seen as the official choice, with 20 million votes, accounting for 69 percent of those voting (33 percent of the population). Khatemi emphasized the need for the rule of law, implicitly criticizing revolutionary vigilantes, and for moderation in culture and lifestyle--such as allowing blue jeans for men and lipstick for women. It is not clear if the pressure for moderation extends to foreign policy as well.
In the Arabian Peninsula, religious fundamentalism is the main outlet for criticism of the rulers. The GCC monarchies face serious domestic problems of the sort that are certain to give rise to political discontent, including:
In some parts of the Middle East, violent Islamism remains an acute problem. In Algeria, 70,000 people were killed in 199297 in the confrontation between the government and the Islamist opposition. President Liamine Zeroual won a second term with 61 percent of the vote in the November 1995 presidential election, in which three-fourths of the electorate cast their ballots despite the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) and Armed Islamic Group (GIA) call for a boycott. Violent attacks stepped up in early 1997 after the pro-government National Democratic Rally won 155 of 380 seats in the parliamentary elections.
The threat of violent Islamism remains high where there is a poor record of economic growth in the region. In the last decade, the Middle East (excluding Turkey and Pakistan) has had an economic track record almost as bad as that of sub-Saharan Africa. According to a 1995 World Bank study, the region is plagued by bad governance and inappropriate economic policies, which have led to $350 billion in capital flight. Plus, it is overly dependent on oil: the Middle East's nonoil exports are smaller than Finland's. The most politically explosive problem is acute youth unemployment. While population growth rates are declining throughout the Middle East, past high fertility means that the working-age population will grow by 3 million a year, nearly doubling in the next 20 years. Those countries with the best economic performance--Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia--are those that have the best governance and the most reliance on market forces. It is no accident that they are among the West's best friends in the area.
A basic U.S. goal for the next decade is to demonstrate that it has the means and the will to make rogues pay dearly for their aggression. The United States will certainly have sufficient forces globally eventually to reverse aggression by any potential Middle East rogue intent on monopolizing control over Gulf oil and gas. However, the most desirable environment would be one in which rogue states realize they could not prevail even in the initial confrontation, for otherwise they may falsely expect to get away with a fait accompli. The problem will be ensuring that the United States has sufficient presence and capability to surge forces into the area. The United States also wants to reach consensus with its core partners, especially those in Europe, on how to respond to the challenges from rogue regimes, such as in Iraq and Iran.
The main military-related environment-shaping goal relating to Arab-Israeli peace is to create confidence on all sides that borders can be secure after a peace treaty. This may involve some minimal use of foreign military units, similar to the Sinai Multilateral Force and Observers (MFO). But the key military instrument is the U.S. commitment to Israel's technological superiority, accomplished through technology transfer and military aid.
Preserving stability in the Persian Gulf is central to U.S. global strategy. For the first two decades after the British withdrawal from the Gulf in 1971, the United States tried to preserve stability without a direct role. Washington first tried supporting Iran's bid to be regional superpower, and then promoted a balance of power among the three major Gulf powers, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. These strategies were unsuccessful, leaving the United States no apparent option but to assume a direct security role in the Gulf.
The U.S. military has to be concerned about two major theater war (MTW) scenarios in the Gulf: a land attack by Iraq or a naval attack by Iran. The Gulf could also see small-scale contingencies (SSCs), such as subversion conducted by a foreign power (e.g., what Iran tried in Bahrain), but the U.S. military is less likely to be directly involved in such a conflict.
The principal means to avert a clash is to demonstrate U.S. will and ability to respond
to aggression in the Gulf. It is unrealistic to expect the Gulf monarchies to be able to
defend themselves, or that a multilateral force--say, from Arab states--will fulfill that
role. The United States is well positioned to provide the forces needed to defeat
aggression in the Gulf because of the key features of U.S. forces analyzed in earlier
The U.S. interest is to deter potential aggressors through a combination of presence and demonstrated ability and will to reinforce with larger forces from beyond the region. A particularly thorny issue is the presence required. The United States may be able to defend its interests in the Gulf with power projection and strike power to the point that little onshore permanent presence is needed. But a small and transient presence might be falsely interpreted as a lack of ability and will to defend the Gulf. At the same time, too prominent a presence could inflame nationalist or religious sensibilities. The Middle East has a history of such reactions to Western military presence. For instance, the creation of the Baghdad Pact in 1955 was one reason for the overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy, and the status-of-forces agreement with the United States was an important factor in the bloody rioting that shook Iran in 1963. The most important example was the Iranian Revolution, aggravated by the presence of 50,000 U.S. military contractors and trainers, as well as the popular Iranian perception that the Shah had become an American puppet. U.S. interests would be ill served were the presence in the GCC states to lead to a similar reaction.
The demonstration of power projection and strike power convincing enough to deter but without a permanent presence so large as to destabilize requires innovative techniques rather than the large, permanent bases used in Europe and East Asia. Thus, the United States relies heavily on pre-positioned equipment to demonstrate its ability to surge into the area.
U.S. power projection is also accomplished through extensive use of rotated units. In Kuwait, there has been a near-continuous presence of a battalion, with frequent presence of a brigade, often engaged in live-fire exercises. Air Expeditionary Forces (AEF), which are deployments for some months of a squadron or more along with all support equipment and personnel, have been sent to Bahrain, Qatar, and Jordan. Along similar lines, intensive use has been made of commercial ports, including about 200 calls a year at the Jebel Ali port in the United Arab Emirates. Several thousand airmen have been based in Saudi Arabia since Desert Storm, but the United States has not constructed any permanent facilities, so as to demonstrate that its presence is strictly a function of the continuing threat from Saddam Hussein.
To reassure the core states about access to oil, the United States aims to sustain confidence in the free flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. It could be argued that this can be accomplished in a variety of environments. For instance, the United States has placed priority on preserving free use of the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait has taken on a symbolic importance for world oil markets that may exceed its actual economic role. Using the two pipelines across Saudi Arabia to the Red Sea (one built for Iraq) and chemicals that speed flow through pipelines, Gulf oil exports could quickly be at two-thirds their current level without use of the Strait. Nevertheless, the Strait of Hormuz remains important because of its role in commercial shipping of all kinds, including the access to ports essential to surging men and materiel into the region during a crisis.
In the Persian Gulf, the United States faces the challenge of inspiring confidence simultaneously in two not entirely consistent aims: repelling aggression and treading lightly. GCC elites are worried about how lasting the U.S. commitment is, recalling that the British left in 1971 despite the fact that Gulf powers wanted them to stay. They are also concerned about the U.S. departure from Beirut in 1984 and Mogadishu in 1993 after taking casualties. At the same time, these same elites are worried that the United States may have too high a profile in the region. Cultural or religious conservatives, already concerned about what they see as the corrosive effect of American mass culture, worry about the impact of thousands of young Americans, including working women. Based on the historical experience of colonialism and special status for foreigners, local feeling is sensitive to perceived slights to local sovereignty, be it the need for overflight on short notice or for a status-of-forces agreement.
In the Levant, enhancing confidence means:
*Support for the peace process. In addition to the high-level diplomatic attention, support for the peace process includes aid. The $2.1 billion a year in aid to Egypt since the late 1970s, including $1.3 billion in military aid, has substantially increased acceptance of peace with Israel, by providing tangible evidence of a peace dividend. The $3.0 billion a year in aid to Israel, including $1.8 billion in military aid, is seen by the Israeli public as a barometer for American support for Israeli security.
*Maintaining Israel's qualitative edge over its Arab neighbors in military technologies. U.S. willingness to share technologies and to promote cooperation between Israeli and American defense industries has been more important than U.S. cash aid.
The more confident Israeli public opinion is about Israel's superiority over Arab militaries, the more likely Israelis are to take risks in the peace process, such as to withdraw from the Golan Heights or to reduce military presence in the Jordan Valley.
For the Middle East, the main issue is inducing partners to complement U.S. forces. The friends whom the United States would call upon for defense of the Gulf can be arrayed in three tiers.
*The GCC states will not be able on their own to repel external aggression from either Iraq or Iran. However, if resources are used more effectively than now, their forces could make a distinct contribution to a joint effort with the United States. These forces could provide some of the first line of defense while U.S. forces arrive in number. If that first line does not hold, the U.S. forces in theater will be forced to trade space for time.
*Other regional states that could contribute include:
*NATO states already make a small contribution to Gulf security, with French and British forces participating in Operation Southern Watch overflights of Iraq from Saudi bases. Given Europe's reliance on Gulf energy and its general ability to contribute to global security, many U.S. analysts are encouraging Europe to share more of the responsibility for Gulf security, as well as to agree with the United States on a common approach to rogues. Common NATO procedures and training provide the basis for forming a coalition in a crisis. European militaries generally lack the power projection capability to deploy quickly to the Gulf, so they may be looking for U.S. assistance at precisely the moment when U.S. transport assets are stressed. At the very least, the United States would want ready use of European facilities, such as airports and ports, during a crisis.
The quandary for the United States is that by demonstrating its overwhelming ability and will to prevail in any conventional confrontation, it inadvertently pushes rogues to adopt asymmetric strategies. It is no coincidence that this region has most of the states of proliferation concern and most of the world's state sponsors of terrorism. The problem for the United States is to find ways to make WMD and terrorism less attractive to rogues.
At the same time, the United States wants to encourage currently hostile states to change their basic security orientation. The principal defense instruments to this end are sanctions and the prospect of threat reduction measures.
*WMD dissuasion. The most important U.S. goal for shaping Iran and Iraq is to make acquisition of WMD and their delivery systems less possible, more risky, and less attractive. Regarding Iraqi WMD, the principal environment-shaping instrument is UNSCOM, which has established a monitoring program combining periodic inspections and on-site monitoring devices. The U.S. military supports UNSCOM with intelligence, and in 199295, America threatened or carried out military strikes against Iraq to force compliance with UNSCOM demands.
To slow down the development of Iranian WMD, the United States relies primarily on technology transfer limits. Iran has been uninterested in quid-pro-quo deals to alleviate Western concerns about its WMD. Iran has never seen its proliferation-troubling nuclear power plant at Bushehr as a bargaining chip for negotiations with the West. The United States has stated that regimes would suffer for use of WMD, though Washington has been ambiguous about how it would retaliate.
*Antiterrorism. To shape the environment and reduce the value of terrorism, the United States has implemented a wide array of initiatives to protect military forces in the Gulf. That, however, has left the problem of the vulnerability of American civilians, especially the 20,000 U.S. citizens in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia (the province in which the Khobar Towers bombing occurred). There is also a potential for terrorist attacks inside the United States, as was done at the World Trade Center in 1992.
It is unclear who has been behind recent terrorist episodes, such as the November 1995 bombing of the U.S. assistance team to the Saudi National Guard in Riyadh and the June 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers housing facility used by the U.S. Air Force in Dhahran. The United States has particular problems responding to ambiguous sponsorship of terrorism. Washington wants broad international support for any retaliation, in order to accomplish the goal of isolating the perpetrator and persuading it that terrorism does not pay, but such support is likely only if the evidence is overwhelming. The United States has found it useful to approach terrorism as a criminal matter in order to gain cooperation from other governments that might not otherwise be available. But treating terrorism as a crime committed by individuals makes it difficult to take action against a sponsoring government, since the latter can always claim the terrorists acted without authorization.
*Sanctions. Sanctions have limited success in persuading regimes to change policy but have been more successful at weakening the ability of targeted governments to carry out aggressive measures, such as reducing the resources Iran has available to purchase modern weapons. Despite the limited power of sanctions, they continue to be used against Middle East recalcitrants primarily because there are no obvious better nonmilitary measures and because there is strong domestic political support for such efforts.
*Case-specific sanctions. Syria is on the State Department list of terrorism-sponsoring nations, which by law means that the United States cannot provide aid and opposes loans from international organizations. As a result of government complicity with airplane hijackers in the 1980s, Lebanon and Afghanistan airlines are not permitted to fly to the United States. Because of the risk of kidnapping by terrorists, Lebanon was subject to a U.S. travel ban from 1985 until July 1997.
The U.S. military will continue to enforce sanctions in the Middle East. The United States has been the main participant in the Multinational Interdiction Force (MIF) that monitors ship traffic in and out of Iraq. The U.S. Navy provides on average 10 ships dedicated full time to this mission.
In addition to sanctions, the United States has used aid to induce countries into cooperation. After Egyptian President Anwar Sadat agreed to a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, Egypt began receiving $2.1 billion in aid annually. Similarly, after the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel reached agreement in 1993 on their Declaration of Principles, the United States sponsored a donors' conference at which $2.5 billion in aid over five years was pledged for the Palestinian Authority. The political climate in the United States is less receptive to aid now, but there is more interest in potential economic cooperation measures, such as access to Western markets on preferential terms and policies to encourage private sector loans and investment. There is a prospect Syria could get some such economic rewards were it to make peace with Israel.
*Threat reduction. Considerable threat reduction has been achieved in the Arab-Israeli theater:
In the Gulf, the principal threat reduction means so far has been to deprive rogue regimes of money and technology, in the case of Iraq combined with no-fly and no-drive zones plus a rigorous WMD inspection regime. In the future, especially if Iran or a post-Saddam Iraq becomes less hostile to the West, other means, such as arms control, might be considered. Conceivably, the United States might gain an advantage from applying, in the Persian Gulf, arms-control techniques similar to those in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) agreement (e.g., limits on the numbers of major military items, establishing limits on armaments in zones near borders, prior notification about military exercises, and observation of large exercises). The United States holds an important means to induce Iran and Iraq to agree to such CFE-like measures, namely, the offer to remove economic restrictions. For instance, the United States could support larger Iraqi oil sales in return for a permanent and monitored reduction in Iraqi forces in the zone near the Kuwaiti border.
The United States uses economic sanctions more often in the Middle East than anywhere else:
* Iraq. The sanctions imposed by the United Nations on Iraq in 1990 were among the most comprehensive ever put on a country both in the rigor with which they have been monitored and the breadth of items covered--everything except food and medicines. Concerned about the impact of the sanctions on ordinary Iraqis, the UN Security Council ever since August 1991 offered Iraq limited oil sales to finance humanitarian imports. In 1996, Iraq finally accepted the latest offer, made in Resolution 986, and humanitarian imports began in early 1997 at the rate of about $2.6 billion a year, including several hundred million earmarked for the Kurdish-controlled north.
* Libya. For its refusal to hand over the suspects in the bombing of U.S. and French civilian airliners, Libya was made subject in 1992 to certain sanctions by the United Nations, including reductions in number of Libyan diplomats, a ban on airplane flights, and a ban on imports of specified equipment for petroleum production. The United States took a tougher stance than the United Nations by imposing a ban on trade in 1984. The United States has urged more extensive UN action, and in 1996 Congress authorized secondary boycotts of firms breaking the UN import restrictions or investing in Libyan oil and gas.
* Sudan. Because the Sudanese government harbors fugitives from a 1993 assassination attempt against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak while visiting Ethiopia, the UN Security Council imposed restrictions on Sudanese diplomats.
* Iran. The United States imposed a unilateral ban on trade with Iran in 1995. In 1996, the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act authorized a secondary boycott of foreign firms investing in Iran's oil and gas.
GCC states could make more efficient use of the resources they devote to their militaries. Much of the problem is attracting skilled, motivated manpower, which is not easy in countries with generous social welfare programs, acute shortages of technically trained workers, and a poor work ethic. The manpower problem is not made easier by the perception that, in the end, the defense of the GCC depends on U.S. forces. The United States encourages vigorous training programs and cooperates closely in exercises and military education, but it would be unrealistic to anticipate that the manpower problem is going to improve sharply soon.
Arms deliveries to GCC countries are running at about $10 billion a year, much of which is not spent as well as it could be. The United States has limited leverage to influence the size and composition of arms purchases because GCC leaders are quite ready to buy elsewhere if the United States does not sell. The United States does not always use the influence it has and is frequently in the position of urging a GCC government to buy American. GCC public opinion suspects that arms sales are designed primarily to reward friends like the United States and to provide a vehicle for corruption, rather than to make GCC militaries more effective.
The prospects are mixed that U.S. allies throughout the Middle East could work together:
In countries where the military is responding to domestic disturbances, the United States can encourage militaries to respect human rights:
*The most important such situation for the United States is in Turkey, where the southeastern quarter of the country is under direct military rule in face of the Kurdish insurgency led by the PKK terrorist group.
*In other parts of the Middle East, the United States has less influence. For instance, it has few means to influence how the Algerian military responds to terrorism.
To accomplish the environment shaping strategies, the principal U.S. military activity in the Middle East will be to demonstrate the ability to project power into the region by bringing to bear robust forces and lethal strike power. The aim will be to deter aggression while, in line with the region's cultural and nationalist sensitivities, maintaining a presence with as small and unobtrusive a footprint as possible. The principal instruments will be a strong naval presence in the Gulf and nearby waters, extensive use of pre-positioning, and temporary deployment of units, sometimes on a continuing rotational basis. The level of presence will be continuously adjusted to meet the threat, always bearing in mind that the goal is to deter, not just respond to, a crisis. It is quite possible that the presence will at times be below the mid-1990s average of 25,000 personnel, either because the threat from Iran and Iraq is reduced or because those rogue states can be deterred with a smaller presence.
The U.S. military will also be involved in large-scale arms sales to the Middle East. Most of the sales will be to GCC states, which are determined to acquire weaponry they can afford. The U.S. aim will be to steer GCC acquisition to equipment that best meets their defense needs. Besides the sales to GCC states, the United States will also sell arms to Israel and Egypt, as continuation of the aid begun after the Camp David peace treaty and in light of the U.S. commitment to maintaining Israel's qualitative edge over Arab militaries.
Smaller scale activities by the U.S. military will include:
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