GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Abdullah Jaber
Title of Paper:
US Security Policy Toward Iran and the Implications for Kuwait: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Paper Proposal Text :
The nature and importance of US security policy toward the Persian Gulf has shifted dramatically in the past decades, and may be on the verge of shifting yet again. Relations with Iran seem to be warming, and prospects for increased cooperation or even increased conflict loom. From a Kuwaiti security perspective, any shift in US security policy can hold dramatic potential. Yet what should Kuwait be planning? Should it be focused on increasing the capabilities and effectives of the Gulf Cooperation Council? Should it be building stronger cooperative relations with Iran? Or should it be conducting a more fundamental defense and security review and moving toward enhancing relations with both Gulf and global powers?
This paper will address each of these alternatives. It will consider why US security policy toward Iran has shifted in the past, from cooperation to conflict and then back again since 1950, and compare and contrast the influence of system-level, state-level, and individual-level factors on each shift. By taking this approach, it will build on broad array of earlier research efforts and offer a clear and consequential framework for analysis. It will show when and why US security policy toward Iran has changed, the source or sources of these changes, and it will underscore how Kuwaiti security policy has been influenced by these changes.
The US appears to be making strides toward increasing cooperation with Iran. Although prospects today for a nuclear accord are still shaky, some analysts already suggest that this is only the tip of the iceberg. They believe that it signals a longer-term shift in US political, military, and economic policy toward the Gulf. Others take issue with this position, arguing that any positive changes in US relations with Iran will only reinforce and even deepen existing US ties to the Gulf. Yet Kuwait, with its strong links to the United States and its cooperative policy toward Iran may have the most to gain or to lose through any changes in American direction. 330
In the early 1950’s US policy toward Iran generally supported the democratically-elected regime in power. But satisfaction with that regime soon waned, and the Americans plotted, supported, and then sustained the return the Shah to power. It continued to sustain the Shah’s government with periodic increases or decreases in levels of political, military, and economic assistance. In exchange, the United States received Iranian compliance with US preferences on a variety of matters involving the Gulf and beyond. By the 1970’s the US was even empowering Iran as its regional security proxy.
Until 1979, the relationship between the US and Iran continued to flourish. Yet with the fall of the Shah and the ascent to power of the new Islamic government traditional ties fundamentally frayed and American policy was in turmoil. By the time of the Persian Gulf War, the United States had not fully identified a successor to its partnership with Iran. Still, with the arrival of combat forces in Kuwait, the US was signaling a real change in policy and a stronger commitment to defend Kuwaiti sovereignty.
From the days of that war until today, political, military, and economic cooperation Kuwait has only grown. And many Gulf watchers continue to expect that this cooperation will only deepen with the US withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, if US relations with Iran begin to shift, this may not be the case. Kuwait must be prepared for further US reconciliation with Iran as well as a reversion to more indirect or even direct conflict. By investigating the past sources of US policy changes toward Iran and their implications for Kuwait, this paper will offer Kuwaiti policy-makers and other Gulf partners recommendations for future action.