The United States’ ongoing military buildup in the Gulf poses a perilous threat of confrontation with Iran, according to analysts. The Pentagon recently announced the deployment of thousands of US troops to the region to safeguard shipping lanes from Iranian “harassment”, while there are also discussions of stationing armed personnel on commercial ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz. In response, Iran stated that it would equip its Revolutionary Guard navy with drones and missiles.
Sina Toossi, a senior fellow at a think tank in Washington, DC, believes that President Joe Biden is continuing the failed policy of economic warfare and escalation against Iran that was initiated by his predecessor Donald Trump. The strained relations between the US and Iran began in 2018 when Trump withdrew from the multilateral nuclear deal, causing Iran to scale back its nuclear program. Toossi warns that this policy cycle of mutual escalation between the two nations is extremely dangerous.
The recent tensions in the Gulf have been exacerbated by recent incidents involving ship seizures. The US has accused Iran of seizing international ships passing through the Gulf, but analysts argue that Iran’s actions are in response to the US confiscating an Iranian oil tanker. This has resulted in American oil companies refusing to bid for the confiscated oil out of fear of Iranian retaliation against their own ships in the Gulf.
Efforts to revive diplomacy between the US and Iran have faltered this year. Biden had promised to revive the Iran nuclear accord, but negotiations have failed to restore the pact, and the US has continued to enforce sanctions against Iran while imposing further penalties. Ryan Costello, policy director at the National Iranian American Council, warns that the increased US military presence in the Gulf could be perceived by Iran as a move to facilitate seizures of Iranian tankers, creating a dangerous situation.
The tensions in the Gulf have significant repercussions, as the region is crucial for global oil flows and has major implications for the energy market and the global economy. Additionally, the US’s role in the Middle East is being questioned following a recent agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which raised concerns about the US’s influence in the region. The US’s military buildup in the Gulf is not only intended to address the shipping lanes issue but also to assert its influence and hegemony in the Middle East, sending a message to allies and adversaries such as China and Russia.