Dozens of US and allied forces’ military installations dot the region, from Oman, UAE and Kuwait to Turkey and Israel.
Doha, Qatar – US military bases continue to form a strategic envelope around Iran, although the American withdrawal from Iraq at the end of 2011 may have changed the regional balance somewhat towards Iran’s favour. While US forces are scaling back in many parts of the globe due to budget cuts – and have begun a gradual depature from Afghanistan to be completed by 2014 – their international presence remains vast.
From an active-duty force of 1.4 million soldiers, the US has deployed some 350,000 troops to at least 130 foreign countries around the world. Some are at Cold War-era installations, but many are in or near combat zones in the Middle East. At more than 750 bases internationally, private contractors and third-country nationals also form a large percentage of the staff, in addition to military reservists and civilian employees of the Pentagon.
US military installations in the Middle East serve to keep an eye on Iran, but their regional footprint was significantly expanded well before Iran became the most publicly cited foreign “threat”.
There were three reasons why the US sought a presence across the Middle East, says Mehran Kamrava, Director of the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar:
“Securing oil resources, guaranteeing the security of the state of Israel and combating threats to American interests” were the initial priorities of US military activity in the region prior to the first Gulf War, Kamrava says.
“Subsequently, direct military presence wasn’t in the form of impositions, but the [security umbrella] was a conscious policy decision on the part of the Persian Gulf states.”
Earlier Version with Black Dots: Graphic: US Bases (44) Surrounding Iran