This spring and summer Iran has attacked six foreign oil tankers in the Persian Gulf; tried to block a British ship in the Strait of Hormuz; flown a drone next to an American ship, forcing the U.S. to shoot it down; and captured another British oil tanker. All of this, writes Steven Cook, is proof that the United States is abandoning the Persian Gulf, despite decades of promises that it would never do so, and letting Iran effectively take over:
The United States has invested great sums in the Middle East over many decades to undertake a few important tasks—notably protecting the sea lines—but this task does not seem to be something the current president believes to be a core American interest. After all, on June 24, President Donald Trump tweeted: “China gets 91 percent of its oil from the Strait, Japan 62 percent, and many other countries likewise. So why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries (many years) for zero compensation? All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been a dangerous journey.”
The United States is leaving the Persian Gulf. Not this year or next, but there is no doubt that the United States is on its way out. Aside from the president’s tweet, the best evidence of the coming American departure from the region is Washington’s inaction in the face of Iran’s provocations.
Officials and analysts will often counter this, conjuring up the number of personnel, planes, and ships the United States maintains in and around the Gulf. But leaders in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Manama, and Muscat understand what is happening. They have been worrying about the U.S. commitment to their security for some time and have been hedging against an American departure in a variety of ways, including by making overtures to China, Russia, Iran, and Turkey. Last Wednesday, the Emiratis and Iranians met for the first time in six years to discuss maritime security in the Gulf. That is a positive development. And while both sides insist the meeting was routine and low-level, there is no doubt that American inaction has officials in Abu Dhabi rethinking how to deal with the Iranian challenge, which may run counter to U.S. efforts to isolate Tehran.