The United States is planning to maintain significant military presence in the Middle East going forward, including 13,500 US troops in Kuwait, to help maintain hegemony over the region, according to a new congressional report released Tuesday.
The study by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee examined the US relationship with the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman – and followed up on earlier stated plans to surge the US presence in the region after Washington was forced out of a remaining military force in Iraq in December of last year.
The failure to agree with the Iraqi government on the legal grounds for a contingent military force in Iraq was a huge blow to Washington, which desperately wants to maintain control over the region amid fast-paced change.
As the New York Times reported in October, the Pentagon has long been planning “to bolster the American military presence,” including “sending more naval warships through international waters in the region.” To counter Iran – the one country left in US Central Command without U.S. military bases and a subservient client state, “the administration is also seeking to expand military ties with the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said he envisions about 40,000 troops stationed in the Middle East region following the reluctant withdrawal from Iraq. The US is also cutting the military presence in Europe, leaving about 68,000 going forward. Obama is also in the process of surging US military presence in Asia-Pacific.
The Senate report explores ways the US can leverage its financial and military aid to control events in the region for its own interests. One country that stands out is Bahrain, which Washington views as a strategic asset and a counter to Iran. Bahrain has been committing serious human rights abuses against its citizens, as US money and weapons continue to flow to the dictatorship there.
The report says the US “should not be quick to rescind security assurances or assistance in response to human rights abuses but should evaluate each case on its own merits.”
The US approach toward the Middle East has not changed since the end of WWII, and maintaining a presence and propping up obedient dictatorships is essential to Washington’s enduring aim of hegemony. As a Top Secret National Security Council briefing put it in 1954, “the Near East is of great strategic, political, and economic importance,” as it “contains the greatest petroleum resources in the world” as well as “essential locations for strategic military bases in any world conflict.”