The United States, the Gulf, and Oil interests
The Persian Gulf is one of the most strategically important areas in the world. The Strait of Hurmoz is the only sea passage out of the Gulf into the open ocean. The United States and the Arab nations realize the balance of power is the major guarantee of security and stability in the Gulf and the Middle East.
U.S. foreign policy dictates the way it interacts with foreign nations and sets standards of interaction for its organizations, corporations and citizens. The volume of traffic through the Strait of Hurmoz makes it a crucial strategic location for international trade, given that 20% of the world's petroleum—and more than 35% of the petroleum traded by sea—pass through it.
Many believe the traditional balance of power between Iran and Iraq provided security for the Arab states. Proponents of this view hold that following the overthrowal of Iraq’s Baathist regime and the growth of Iran’s role and influence in the region, the international community ought to establish a new balance of power to restrain the Islamic Republic of Iran and thereby preserve regional security. Following its failure to redefine the position of the new Iraq in terms of a new balance of power, the United States has tried to play such a role in the region itself. Consequently, U.S. efforts to minimize Iran’s role within the context of the new balance of power have created another security dilemma in the Arab Gulf.
From the outset of the Iraq crisis in 2003, Iran and the United States have never stopped competed with one another in their efforts to institutionalize and enhance their new roles in the region. Today, actions that Washington considers security-enhancing are regarded by Tehran as bringing insecurity to the region. Washington’s continued concentration on the balance of power risks disrupting natural power equations and potentially exacerbating the conflict between Iran and the United States and other regional states. If, however, the United States can accept an Iranian role in the region’s new security architecture in the form of a balance of security, Washington and Tehran could reach an accommodation that might advance the interests of all concerned, including both regional and trans-regional actors in the Gulf.
The U.S. currently produces about 40% of the oil that it needs. Since U.S. oil consumption continues to rise and its oil production continues to fall, this ratio is likely to fall still further. The U.S. has identified dependence on imported oil as an urgent national security concern. Given that an estimated two-thirds of the world's proven oil reserves are to be found in the Gulf, the Gulf region was first proclaimed of national interest to the United States during World War II. Petroleum is of central importance to modern armies, and as the world's leading oil producer at that time, the United States supplied most of the oil used by the Allied armies. Many U.S. strategists were concerned that the war would dangerously reduce the U.S. oil supply, and consequently sought to establish good relations with Saudi Arabia, a kingdom with large oil reserves.