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Expansion Of American Persian Gulf Policy
By Three Presidents
AUTHOR Major Randy B. Bell, USMC
CSC 1990
SUBJECT AREA History
                               EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
                   EXPANSION OF AMERICAN PERSIAN GULF POLICY
                              BY THREE PRESIDENTS
    The United States concerns over the security and
military defense of the Persian Gulf have steadily
intensified during the last four decades.  Our interests in
the Persian Gulf have been very simple:  first, to ensure
access by the industrialized world to the region's vast
resources and second, to deny Soviet political and military
control over those resources.  The significance of the
region has tended to increase as a result of growing
Western dependence on Persian Gulf and Middle East oil and
the need to assure the continued access to the region's
vast resources.
    Under the presidential administrations of Nixon,
Carter, and Reagan, the United States went from a role of
supporting the British to a a major player in power
responsibility in the Persian Gulf.  The actions of these
three presidents were in response to internal and external
threats to the economic, political, and strategic interests
of the United States in the Persian Gulf.  President Nixon
developed the initial U. S. Persian Gulf policy to fill the
void in Western participation by establishing Iran and
Saudi Arabia, the "twin pillars", as U. S. surrogates for
the region.  President Carter took a more aggressive
approach to safeguard U. S. interests by designating the
Persian Gulf as a "vital interest" to the United States and
threatened to repel any attempts by outside powers to gain
control of the Gulf in the wake of the Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan.  President Reagan affirmed the Carter
administration and, though he saw the Soviets as the most
significant threat to the region, he was concerned about
internal Gulf instability serving Soviet objectives in the
region.  The Iran-Iraq war, along with the "arms for
hostages" sales to Iran presented the greatest challenges
to U. S. policy during the Reagan administration.  The need
to end the war, with its resultant attacks on shipping in
the Gulf and the need to regain U. S. credibility with Gulf
friendly states resulted in over 30 U. S. Navy ships in the
Gulf and the U. S. leading peace efforts in the United
Nations.
    America's interests in the Persian Gulf will continue
to grow.  President Bush and future presidents will have to
deal with regional instability in the Gulf that may arise
from territorial dispute, religious differences, ethnic
dissensions, and ideological contests that threaten the
U. S. and its allies' interests.  These potential conflicts
situations raise significant risks for future U. S. policy
in the Gulf.
                   Expansion of American Persian Gulf Policy
                              by Three Presidents
                                    Outline
Thesis Statement:  American policy in the Persian Gulf has
been progressively expanded by three presidential
administrations -- Nixon, Carter, and Reagan -- culminating
in the United States reflagging over 30 combat and support
ships in the Gulf to escort the reflagged tankers.
I.  The Nixon Years
    A.   British Withdrawal From the Persian Gulf
    B.   Concern Over Regional Balance of Power
    C.   The "Twin Pillar" Policy
    D.   Effects of the Arab-Israeli War on U. S. Policy
    E.   The Fall of the Shah of Iran
II. The Carter Years
    A.   The Iranian Revolution
    B.   The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan
    C.   The Carter Doctrine
    D.   Rapid Joint Deployment Task Force (RDJTF)
    E.   Outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War
III.  The Reagan Years
      A.  Reaffirming the Carter Doctrine
      B.  "Strategic Consensus"
      C.  Commitment to RDJTF
      D.  Intensification of the Iran-Iraq War
      E.  The "Tanker War" and threats to U. S. Interests
      F.  Decision to Reflag the Kuwaiti Tankers
                   Expansion of American Persian Gulf Policy
                              by Three Presidents
    The United States concerns over the security and
military defense of the Persian Gulf have steadily
intensified during the last four decades.  The interests of
the United States in the Persian Gulf region have been very
simple and consistent:  first, to ensure access by the
industrialized world to the vast resources of the region;
and second, to prevent the Soviet Union from acquiring
political and military control over those resources.  The
significance of the region has tended to increase as a
result of growing United States and Western dependence on
Persian Gulf and Middle East oil and the need to assure
continued access to the region's vast resources. (22:1)
Preserving the stability and independence of the gulf
states and containing the threat of Islamic fundamentalism
are other interests that have been expressed by American
leaders from time to time.  But those are derivative
concerns growing out of specific circumstances and are
implicit in the two grand themes of oil and Soviet
containment that have been the constants of expanding U. S.
policy.
    While American military and security interests in the
Persian gulf area orignated during World War II, it was
not until around 1971 that the U. S. became increasingly
and directly concerned with the defense of the region and
Western interests there. (1:1)  Prior to 1971, the
responsibility for the region's security fell to the
British, with the United States maintaining a supportive
role. (6:21)  However on 18 January 1968, British Prime
Minister Harold Wilson announced to the House of Commons
that the British had decided to withdraw their forces from
the Persian Gulf by the end of 1971.  That action set the
stage for America's future involvement in the Persian
Gulf.  American policy in the Persian Gulf has been
progressively expanded by three presidential
administrations - Nixon, Carter, and Reagan - culminating
with the United States reflagging Kuwaiti tankers and
having over 30 combat and support ships in the Gulf to
escort the reflagged tankers.
                       THE NIXON DOCTRINE
    Early U. S. policy was predicated upon the Nixon
Doctrine, which specified "that the United States would
furnish military and economic assistance to nations whose
freedom was threatened, but would look to these nations to
assume primary responsibility for their own defense."
(10:22)  However, the Nixon Doctrine did not rule out
possible U. S. intervention.  It added that the U. S. would
provide naval and air support if the local countries could
not protect themselves against external threat, and, as a
last resort, American ground forces would be committed to
guarantee preservation of regional stability. (7:13)
    The U. S. feared that unless actions were taken before
the British withdrawal, a dangerous vacuum would be created
in the Gulf.  It was argued that the Soviet Union could
move to fill this vacuum and therefore jeopardize Western
access to the region's oil resources.  Though the Nixon
administration was worried about the Gulf's security, it
recognized the the U. S. was overextended militarily in
Vietnam and that the American public, already divided in
American participation in Vietnam, would not support active
U. S. involvement in the Gulf.  Accordingly, under the
guidelines of the Nixon Doctrine, Assistant Secretary of
State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Joseph
Sisco, stated before Congress in August 1972 that U. S.
interests and policies toward the region were the
following:
    (1)  Support orderly political development and
          regional cooperation to assure the
          tranquility and process of the area;
    (2)  Support local governments in maintaining
          their independence and ensuring peace,
          progress, and regional cooperation without
          our interfering in the domestic affairs of
          the friendly countries;
    (3)  Encourage Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and
          the smaller states to cooperate
          wholeheartedly with one another to assure
          that the region remains secure;
    (4)  Assist in the modernization of the armed
         forces of Iran and Saudi Arabia to enable
         them to provide effectively for their own
         security and to foster the security of the
         region as a whole;
    (5)  Extend Washington's diplomatic presence in
          the area;
    (6)  Continue to maintain a small naval contingent
          at Bahrain which has for a quarter of a century
          carried out the mission of visiting friendly
          ports in the region to symbolize American
          interests. (15:100)
    The fourth principle became the key point to U. S.
policy, which came to be known as the "twin pillar"
policy.  Iran and Saudi Arabia were designated U. S.
surrogates for security of the region and American national
interests there.  Both Saudi Arabia and Iran shared
American anxieties regarding future Soviet expansion in the
region.  The Nixon administration recognized that Iran's
growing military power combined with Saudi Arabia's
financial assets, enhanced by rising oil prices, would
constitute a formidable, if indirect, instrument of
American policy in the Gulf.
    Although the U. S. policy was known as the "twin
pillar", Saudi Arabia was clearly the less dominant
partner.  Saudi Arabia's importance was due to its
possession of the world's largest oil fields and its
emerging influence in pan-Arab politics and councils.
    Iran was by far the more significant partner due to its
much larger population, relatively more developed economy,
and more powerful armed forces. (19:146)  Additionally, the
Shah of Iran did not want non-region states to fill the
power vacuum in the Gulf and his dream to make Iran the
paramount power in the area coincided with the objectives
of the United States. (1:33)
    In Nixon's Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's view,
it was imperative that the regional balance of power be
maintained.  Since Iran was willing to fill the vacuum left
by the British and was willing to pay for the necessary
military equipment out of its own revenues, the U.S. was
willing to grant the Shah a virtual carte blanche in arms
purchases, except nuclear weapons.  Iran received an
unprecedented magnitude and high technological level of the
weapons which the U. S. supplied to Iran.
    From the U. S. perspective, the "twin  pillar" policy
was working fine in the Gulf.  In Nixon's fourth report to
Congress on 3 May 1973, the President praised the Gulf
states for their efforts in assuming responsibility for
their security, particularly Iran and Saudi Arabia to
enhance the area's stability.  Nixon also stated that as
the United States and other industrialized nation's energy
demands increased, the need for Persian Gulf oil would also
increase.  Further, Nixon said "assurance of the continued
flow of Middle East energy resources is increasingly
important to the United States, Western Europe, and
Japan. "(15:99)  This marks one of the earliest statements
by a President over the importance of the oil resources in
the Persian Gulf.
    The Arab oil embargo, levied as a result of the 1973
Arab-Israeli war, caused a major readjustment of U. S.
policy priorities in the Gulf. (11:85)  U. S. and Western
Europe economic vulnerability to the oil embargo
underscored the strategic importance of the region.  Oil
and economic matters were placed on an equal footing with
strategic interests. (11:85)  Continued access to the
region's oil supplies at reasonable prices and in
sufficient quantities to meet our needs and those of our
allies, and employment by oil exporters of their rapidly
growing income in constructive ways to foster sound
economic development and support of the international
system were added to "twin pillar" policy by President
Nixon.
    Also as a result of the Arab-Israeli war, the U. S.
reevaluated its strategy in the Indian Ocean and concluded
that it could not place heavy emphasis on allied support.
Without reliable allied support for its actions in the
region, along with heightened suspicions of a growing
Soviet military presence in the region, the U. S. began
periodic naval deployments in the Indian Ocean and expanded
Diego Gracia into a naval station capable of supporting
major air and naval deployments. (10:25)
    A series of events in the region beginning in 1979
started the end of the Nixon Doctrine and started a more
aggressive U. S. policy towards the Gulf.  These events
included:
    (1)  The downfall of the Shah's regime in Iran
          and the revolution that followed;
    (2)  The short border war between the Yemens;
    (3)  The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan;
    (4)  The outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war. (19:146)
    The fall of the Shah in early 1979 likely had the
greatest effect in forcing a policy change, for without the
Shah, there could be no surrogate policy in the region.
The sudden and total collapse of the Shah's regime
effectively demolished a decade of  U. S. strategy in the
Persian Gulf region. (25:50)  Without the Shah, the Nixon
Doctrine was invalidated as Saudi Arabia was not able to
take that role.  Additionally, the incoming Carter
administration saw the Iranian revolution, itself, as being
a threat to Gulf security. (19:146)
        THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION AND THE CARTER DOCTRINE
    With the Shah gone, Iran's new regime, under Ayatollah
Khomeini, started antagonizing Arab countries, mostly Iraq,
and calling for Shi'ite minorities in the Gulf to revolt.
The U. S. approach was one of caution since the U.S. had a
"burdensome past to live down after being totally
identified with the Shah for over two decades." (4:13)  The
Carter administration wanted to prevent a communist take
over in Iran which would further unsettle the Gulf region.
More importantly, the U. S. was concerned about the
continuation of the export of oil to the western world.
Therefore, Carter administration officials attempted to
"normalized" relations and to avoid offending the new
regime or giving the impression that the  U. S. was intent
on containing or isolating the new regime.  However, in
late 1979 after the Khomeini regime condoned the seizure of
52 U. S. diplomatic personnel, relations with Teheran were
ended. (17:115)
    The sudden war between South Yemen and North Yemen in
March 1979 provided the Carter administration with the
opportunity to demonstrate a possible new role in the Gulf
region.  The U. S. responded to the Yemen crisis with a
series of measures intended to assure American friends in
the region and to demonstrate U. S. resolve.  This action
was basically in support of Saudi Arabia, who perceived
South Yemen's attack on North Yemen as a calculated
communist probe to overthrow the relatively conservative
government of North Yemen and to test Saudi and Western
reactions.  The Carter administration responded by
dispatching a carrier task force to the Arabian Sea,
establishing a new baseline of constant U.S. military
presence.  Also, an emergency military aid package was
rushed to North Yemen, and AWACS early warning aircraft
were deployed to Saudi Arabia for joint training and to
bolster Saudi air defense. (25:51)
    The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late December
1979 made a new policy inevitable.  The image of a Soviet
drive to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean dominated
analysis by the Carter administration.  The Soviet invasion
of Afghanistan was widely perceived as an initial step to
more lucrative targets at a time when U. S. power and
influence were severely impaired by loss of U.S. influence
in the region by the downfall of the Shah and the Iranian
revolution.
    The new policy was articulated by President Carter in
his 1980 State of the Union Address and became known as the
Carter Doctrine.  In a definitive statement of U. S. policy
to meet the threat posed by the Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan, President Carter stated:
    Let our position be absolutely clear:   any attempt
    by outside force to gain control of Persian Gulf
    region will be regarded as an assault; on vital
    interests of the United States of American, and
    such an assault will be repelled by any means
    necessary including military force. "(1:95)
Carter was the first President to state that the Persian
Gulf was a "vital interest" to the United States.  The
Carter Doctrine clearly established the United States as
the protector of the power of the region and effectively
gave the United States policy responsibility in the Persian
Gulf.
    When President Carter made his statement, it reflected
U.S. intentions rather than capabilities.  The United
States was poorly equipped militarily to respond to a major
Soviet challenge in the Persian Gulf region.  Steps were
taken to increase military power in the region to make
America's new policy creditable to the Soviets and among
its allies.  A Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF)
was established, access agreements were signed with Oman,
Kenya, and Somalia, and talks were initiated with Pakistan
on countering the Soviet intervention.  An Amphibious Ready
Group was sent to the Arabian Sea and AWACS aircraft were
deployed to Saudi Arabia to enhance air defense in the Gulf
after the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war. (25:53)
    U. S. policy during President Carter's last year in
office was devoted to getting the hostages out of Iran.
Constant negotiations were held for over 400 days between
Iran and the U. S., with assistance of other Gulf states to
secure the hostages' release.  Iran freed the hostages on
Carter's last day in office, apparently to embarrass his
administration.
                          REAGAN and the PERSIAN GULF
    The incoming Reagan Administration affirmed the Carter
Doctrine and saw the Soviet Union as the most significant
threat to the Persian Gulf region.  President Reagan's
Secretary of State Alexander Haig expressed the
administration's view as follows:
    We confronted a situation where strategic
    passivity during the Ford administration and
    excessive piety of the Carter administration's
    human rights crusade had sapped the will of
    authoritarian anti-communist governments,
    eroded confidence of Western allies and
    encouraged risk taking by the Soviet Union
    and by Soviet manipulated totalitarian regimes.
    Since 1975, the bipartisan policy of failure had
    permitted the Soviet Union to inflict disastrous
    defeats on the United States at six month
    intervals... If present treads are not arrested,
    the convergence of rising international disorder
    will undo the international codes of conduct that
    foster the resolution of disputes between
    nations. (19:422)
    Accordingly, with the Soviet threat its focus, the
Reagan administration at first embraced the idea of
"strategic consensus" in which a goal was to persuade the
diverse countries of the region "to put aside local
parochial security concerns and unite with the U. S. in an
alliance type of relationship against the Soviet Union and
its clients states." (22:147)  However, the idea of
"strategic consensus" did not agree with the Gulf states
perceptions.  Regional and domestic concerns was of far
more interest to the Gulf states than external Soviets
threats.  They had formed the Gulf Cooperation Council in
1981 to enhance prospects for security cooperation and to
contend with economic and political concerns of the
region.  Though the GCC states recognized the need for
U. S. diplomatic support, and for guarantee of American
intervention, they were reluctant to become more overtly
aligned with the U. S. than necessary.
    Despite Reagan administration urgings, the Gulf states
remained uninterested in an anti-Soviet regional
coalition.  Thus, the U. S. moved to a policy that included
strengthening its relations with the regional states and
improving the RDJTF.  Saudi Arabia appeared to be regarded
as the primary instrument of U. S. policy in the Gulf as
the result of the new policy change.  Additional arms
sales, including five AWACS aircraft, to the Saudis
reflected the change.  Saudi policy preferred to keep the
U.S. forces "over the horizon" so as not to cause
antagonism with other Gulf states and possible disruptions
within its own traditional society. (17:117)  Joint training
and possible stockpiling of U. S. equipment were
acceptable, but not basing of the RDJTF.
    The U. S. remained committed to the RDJTF plan while
continuing arms sales to Saudi Arabia.  Believing the
Soviet Union the greatest threat in the region, the Reagan
administration also realized that if the Gulf states could
not ensure regional security against the Soviets or
Soviet-backed aggressors, then the United States would have
to respond directly. (19:439)  Secretary of State Casper
Weinberger emphasized the buildup of the RDJTF in his
budget report to Congress in 1983.  He stated two
principles for U. S. strategy in the region for the 1980's:
    ... to improve our mobility forces and preposition
    adequate equipment and supplies to deploy and
    support the RDJTF of sufficient size to deter the
    Soviet aggression; and to provide long-term support
    and resupply to sustain these forces. (15:112)
    The Reagan administration succeeded in putting military
power and organization behind its words.  In 1983, the
RDJTF was redesignated the U. S. Central Command, the sixth
unified command with a theatre of operations to include the
Persian Gulf region.  Its basic mission reflected the two
themes that had been U. S. Persian Gulf policy from the
beginning:  to ensure continued access to the region's oil
and to prevent the Soviets from getting political-military
control, directly or indirectly by its allies.  The Carter
Doctrine was expanded to state the U. S. would "deal with
any kind of threat to the Saudi regime and would keep open
the Strait of Hormuz if the Iranians should try to stop
shipping through the waterway."
    As the Iran-Iraq war continued, U. S. policy makers
were more occupied with events occurring in other areas of
the Middle East involving Israel and Lebanon.  However, as
Iran won a series of victories in its war with Iraq,
American concern shifted back to the Persian Gulf.  The
Reagan administration's policy towards the war was clearly
stated to support our strategic, economic, and political
interests:
    (1)  strict neutrality, including refusal to
         sell weapons to either side and appeal to
         other countries to similarly refrain;
    (2)  determination to maintain freedom of
          navigation in the Gulf;
    (3)  support for international efforts to
          mediate the conflict;
    (4)  support for the security of the Gulf
          nonbelligerent
          against the spread of hostilities. (27:5)
    The Iran-Iraq conflict became a war of attrition in
which the line of battle moved little more than a few miles
from the pre-war border, thus the war settled into a
stalemate.  It was not well-placed for the U. S. to
influence either side -- Iraq was pro-USSR and Iran was
anti-U.S. -- and the United States was constrained by
American hostages in Iran.  Yet, U. S. policy was not
dormant.  The Reagan Administration publicly recognized the
threats that an Iranian victory would pose to its allies
and interests in the region.  The result was that "...The
U. S. posture became one of dramatizing the Iranian threat
and positioning itself to contain it. " (14:73)
    The United States' concern with the war tilting to
Iran's favor expanded its own prohibition on arms sales to
Iran into an active campaign, known as "Operation Staunch",
which discouraged allied arms sales to Iran.  The U. S.
also began to provide military intelligence to Iraq.
(13:21)  This "tilt to Iraq" was not inconsistent with
stated U. S. objectives. The Reagan Administration
perceived that Iraq's collapse would have endangered the
U. S. interest the security of the nonbelligerent states in
the Gulf. (27:5)  Although the U. S. did give Iraq
intelligence, it provided no weapons to Iraq and turned
down informal requests for arms. (13:21)  In addition to
"Operation Staunch" and providing Iraq information, the
U. S. gave some covert aid to Iraq's Arab allies against an
Iranian invasion or possible revolution by radical Islamic
forces in the Gulf. (17:439)
    In November 1986, it was revealed that the United
States had been selling arms to Iran.  This was in
contradiction to the declared policy of cutting arms supply
to Iran.  Even more, it soon transpired that the United
States arms sales were, at least in part, designed to help
secure the release of American hostages held in Lebanon.
    The "arms-for-hostages" is important because of its
significance for the Persian Gulf region and U. S. policy
making for strategic regions. (8:49)  The sale of arms to
Iran can be traced to two strategic reasons.  One was that
Israel, who reportedly first suggested the value of arms to
Iran to U. S. government officials, apparently acted on the
basis of its long-standing "periphery policy"  whereby it
has tried to maintain good relations with Iranian
governments.  Two, there was strategic merit in the U. S.
creating an "opening" with Iran.  As with his predecessors,
President Reagan was concerned with the Soviet Union, in
the wake of its invasion of Afghanistan, would turn its
sights on Iran and control of the Persian Gulf region.
    The attempt to adopt a conciliatory posture toward Iran
comprised other interests, most of all American standing
with Arab states friendly to the United States. There was a
profound sense of betrayal coming after other events that
call into question the U. S. steadfastness and
reliability.  U. S. credibility in the Gulf region as well
as a sense of betrayal provided a backdrop of what proved
to be the major events of 1987 in the Persian Gulf, which
also stemmed from the continuing Iran-Iraq war. (24:50)
    Iraq had been attacking Iranian oil terminals and tanks
in order to reduce Iran's ability to finance the war.  The
U. S. did not protest Iraqi attacks because it was not in
the U. S. interest to see Iran win the war.  However, Iran
started a "tanker war" by retaliating against Iraq and
nonbelligerent shipping in the Gulf.  Additionally, Iran
began escalating the war by threatening GCC states,
particularly Kuwait, that supported Iraq economically and
politically.  The Reagan administration had a delicate
choice.  If it supported the GCC states, it would
antagonize Iran.  If it tried to conciliate Iran, then it
could not defend the Gulf states.  The Gulf states probably
of all tankers in the Gulf has been attacked and that 70
percent were attacked by Iraq.  Instead the real issues
were first, the strategic interest of the United States
(and the industrialized West) in an area that hold 50
percent of the world's known petroleum reserves and second,
the threat posed by the Iran-Iraq war.  The Reagan
administration had three motives for reflagging the Kuwaiti
tankers:  to deny the Soviets any political benefits that
could get from reflagging the tankers, to bolster Iraqi
morale in the face of the Iranian challenge, and to assure
Arab states in the Persian Gulf that the sale of arms to
Iran had been an aberration. (8:51)  The reflagging was for
political, not military, reasons.
    The U. S. had pursued a policy of containment toward
Iran based on the assumption that the defeat of Iraq would
have a domino effect throughout the Gulf. (23:255)  The
Reagan administration believed that reflagging the Kuwaiti
tankers would save Iraq from defeat and the other Gulf
states from falling, one after another, like
dominos.(24:63)  Reagan also apparently believed that Iran
by continuing to intimidate and attack shipping in the Gulf
would aid the Soviet objectives in the Gulf.
    The buildup of the U. S. Navy did not directly lead to
a major clash with Iran.  However, there were a number of
military encounters between Iran and the United States.  It
was not clear that the Reagan administration wanted the
U. S. to become engaged in a major conflict with Iran or,
if it did, that it would be prepared to preserve to the
point of eliminating Khomeini.   At the same time, Iran had
no real interest in fighting the U. S.   As 1987 wore on,
it became clear Iran shared two common strategic
interests:  ensuring the flow of oil would not be halted
and, more important, containing the influence of the Soviet
Union.  Yet, the U. S. and Iran continued to have a
conflict over the potential spread of the Iranian
revolution.
    The Reagan administration did not want to deepen the
conflict with Iran, but it did not want to give any
appearance of being chased out of the Persian Gulf.
However, at home there were widespread misgivings in
Congress about the reflagging and the naval deployments.
There were repeated calls for invoking the War Powers Act,
whereby the President reports to Congress when U. S. forces
are in a situation of facing imminent hostilities and at
the end of sixty days, Congress must either sanction their
continued presence or the forces must be withdrawn.  Reagan
resisted the challenge and did not change his policy.
    In addition to reflagging the tankers, the Reagan
administration proceeded along diplomatic lines to end the
hostilities in the Persian Gulf.  First, he sought help
from West European allies to demonstrate support for U. S.
policy on the part of the Western oil-consuming maritime
nations.  Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and
Italy sent ships to the Gulf.  The responded to Reagan's
request because they wanted some influence on U. S. policy
in the Gulf and they did not want to feel they did not
respond to a crisis that affected the U. S. but also their
interests as well.
    The Reagan administration took the lead at the United
Nations to develop means to end the war.  It was critical
to Western interests that this dangerous and destabilizing
situation be resolved in order to promote long-term
stability in the Gulf region.  When the United Nations
Security Council passed Resolution 598 in July 1987, Iraq
was quick to accept its call for a cease-fire and
withdrawal to international frontiers.  Iran refused to
accept the resolution, giving Western support to Iraq added
impetus.  A series of Iraqi military victories in early
1988, combined with serious illness of Khomeini, war
weariness among its population, and an internal power
struggle, probably played a dominant role in Iran
unconditionally accepting UN Resolution 598.  The
substantial Western military presence in the Persian Gulf,
lead by the Reagan administration, was undoubtedly a
contributing factor as well.  However, President Reagan
left office just as President Carter; with a strong Persian
Gulf policy for his particular time and circumstance, but
with U. S. hostages still held in the Persian Gulf's
related area.
    The three presidential administrations --Nixon, Carter,
and Reagan -- progressively expanded U. S. policy in the
Persian Gulf as concerns over the security and defense of
the region intensified over  twenty years.  United States
interests in the Persian Gulf region have remained very
simple:  to ensure access to the vast oil resources of the
region and to deny Soviet political and military control
over the region.  These interests were central to the
progressive American involvement in the Persian Gulf.
    The actions of the three presidential administrations
were in response to internal and external threats to the
political, economic, and strategic interests of the United
States in the Persian Gulf.  Nixon developed the initial
U. S. policy in the Gulf to fill the void in absence of
Western participation by establishing Iran and Saudi Arabia
-- the "twin pillars" -- as U. S. surrogates for security
in the region and American interests there.  Carter took a
more aggressive approach to safeguard U. S. interests by
designating the Persian Gulf as a "vital interest" to the
United States and threatened to repel any attempts by
outside powers to gain control of the Gulf in
the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  Reagan
affirmed the Carter administration and, though he saw the
Soviets as the most significant threat, he was concerned
about internal Gulf instability serving Soviet objectives
in the region.  The Iran-Iraq war, along with the
"arms-for-hostages" sales to Iran presented the greatest
challenge to U. S. policy  in the Persian Gulf during the
Reagan administration.  The need to end the war, along with
its related attack on shipping the Gulf and the need to
regain U. S. credibility with Gulf states resulted in over
30 U. S. combat and support ships in the Gulf and the U. S.
leading peace efforts in the United Nations.
    America's interests in the Persian Gulf will continue
to grow.  Though in the near future, it appears Soviet
adventurism will be contained by their domestic issues, a
growing importantance of Persian Gulf oil will be more
significant as the Gulf contains seventy one percent of the
world's surplus production capacity.  Along with assuring
continued access to this resource as Western demands
increase, President Bush and future presidents will have to
deal with regional instability in the Gulf that may arise
from territorial disputes, religious differences, ethnic
dissensions and ideological contests that threaten the
U. S. and its allies' interests.  These potential conflict
situations raise significant risks for future U. S. policy
in the Gulf.  However, U. S. presidents have shown that
they will respond to threats to American interests in the
Persian Gulf.
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