WASHINGTON – A continuing U.S. military presence in Iraq is vital to U.S. interests, and President Donald Trump’s insistence that America doesn’t need Middle East oil is misguided, the head of the National Council on U.S. Arab Relations said Thursday.
“The thought of the United States not needing Middle Eastern oil is naivete on steroids,” said NCUAR Executive Officer John Anthony.
In 2018, the Department of Energy reported that 21% of all the world’s oil flowed through the Strait of Hormuz connecting the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.
Anthony Cordesman, chair of strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said continuing U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf provides several strategic advantages by supplying more effective coordination and leadership to limit Iranian influence and maintaining the stable flow of oil to the global market.
“By securing Gulf oil, the U.S. is given the upper hand in dealing with Russia, a nation dependent on oil and gas exports, and China, who is dependent on oil imports,” Cordesman said.
A loss of U.S. bases and presence in the Gulf in conjunction with a major crisis in the region would raise U.S. prices that could damage the U.S. economy and affect U.S. employment and investment income, he said.
“We need a coherent strategy for Iran,” said Thomas Mattair, executive director of the Middle East Policy Council.
Iran fired 16 ballistic missiles at two U.S. military bases in Iraq early Wednesday morning, following its promise to retaliate against the U.S. after President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani last week. Later Wednesday, Trump said he would refrain from military escalation against Tehran but threatened to increase economic sanctions against the nation.
The House passed a resolution Thursday that prohibits the president from taking further military action against Iran without authorization from Congress.
Iran’s strike against the U.S. base was “asymmetric low-level warfare designed to send a message rather than cause damage,” said National Defense University Professor David Des Roches.
He explained that Iran continually chooses airstrikes, artillery raids and proxy attacks rather than assassination and bombing because it does not have the money or regime power necessary.
“Disruption is cheaper than domination,” Des Roches said.
He explained that dominance requires manpower and resources, which are expensive.