Land Power and Dual Containment: Rethinking America's Policy in the Gulf

  • November 01, 1999
  • Dr Stephen C Pelletiere

In an attempt to regain some control of the strategic commodity, Washington developed special relationships with the two foremost oil procedures, Iran (under the Shah) and Saudi Arabia. In 1979 the Shah was overthrown and, with the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini, America became—in the eyes of Iranians—the Great Satan. By 1991, with the defeat of Iraq in the Gulf war, America was once again the dominant power in the region. But, as this study shows, America's position is hardly secure. Much of the difficulty Washington is experiencing derives from what the author regards as a poorly conceived policy. Dual Containment, promulgated in 1993, was supposed to constrain the two most powerful area states, Iran and Iraq, by imposing harsh economic sanctions on them. But, the author contends, the policy has only antagonized America's allies, while Baghdad and Tehran continue to defy Washington and threaten the oil sheikhdoms Washington is trying to protect. The Dual Containment policy must be changed, the author believes. And foremost, the practice of trying to police Iraq by aerial bombing should be abandoned. This tactic is counterproductive, according to the author; it is driving the Iraqis to rally behind the regime of Saddam Hussein, the very outcome Washington is seeking to discourage.