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Why America’s in the Gulf

Investor’s Business Daily summarizes the evidence counseling against underestimating Tehran and Moscow. The IBD editorial is a good companion to Walter Russell Mead’s important Wall Street Journal column “Why America’s in the Gulf” (subscribers only). Mead’s column concludes:

Today the U.S. is building a coalition against Iran’s drive for power in the Gulf. Israel, a country which has its own reasons for opposing Iran, remains an important component in the American strategy, but the U.S. must also manage the political costs of this relationship as it works with the Sunni Arab states. American opposition to Iran’s nuclear program not only reflects concerns about Israeli security and the possibility that Iran might supply terrorist groups with nuclear materials. It also reflects the U.S. interest in protecting its ability to project conventional forces into the Gulf.
The end of America’s ability to safeguard the Gulf and the trade routes around it would be enormously damaging — and not just to the U.S. Defense budgets would grow dramatically in every major power center, and Middle Eastern politics would be further destabilized, as every country sought political influence in the Mideast to ensure access to oil in the resulting free for all.
The potential for conflict and chaos is real. A world of insecure and suspicious great powers engaged in military competition over vital interests would not be a safe or happy place. Every ship that China builds to protect the increasing numbers of supertankers needed to bring oil from the Middle East to China in years ahead would also be a threat to Japan’s oil security — as well as to the oil security of India and Taiwan. European cooperation would likely be undermined as well, as countries sought to make their best deals with Russia, the Gulf states and other oil-rich neighbors like Algeria.
The next American president, regardless of party and regardless of his or her views about the wisdom of George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, will necessarily make the security of the Persian Gulf states one of America’s very highest international priorities.

I’m afraid that we will have frequent occasion to return to Mead’s column in coming days.
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