Middle East Oil is No Longer a US concern

Oil is the leading cause of war. Between one quarter and one half of interstate wars since 1973 have been linked to oil.

Middle East Oil is No Longer a US concern

However, there has been a transformation in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the US oil and gas sector. the United States will not be isolated from foreign markets and events. US allies will continue to have vital energy needs, and disruptions in the integrated world market will continue to influence domestic markets. So the United States has a constant interest in continuing an open global oil market. The oil industry can intensify conflicts around the world in different ways; a range of reasons for competition, e.g. competition over shipping lanes and pipelines, oil-related terrorism, petro expostulation, and resource scarcity in consumer states, are all potential sources of international conflict.

Mechanisms that Intensify International Conflicts

  • War for accessing oil resources forcibly
  • Oil aggression creating conflict by invading leaders like Saddam Hussein and preparing them for a risky adventure
  • Externalisation of civil wars in oil-producing States (petrostates)
  • Embedded conflicts for oil domination in petro markets, such as between the United States and Iraq over Kuwait in 1991
  • Conflicts over petro transitways, such as shipping lanes and pipelines
  • Oil-related conflicts in multilateral cooperation

All these mechanisms can separately help ignite conflicts. In the near future, 16 developing countries will be exporting oil in the Middle East and this process is creating many problems on the international markets.

American Priorities in the Middle East

The Middle East continues to be a complex part of the world. There are a range of problems that have weakened it, such as sectionalism, corruption, economic inequality, extraordinary human suffering, etc.

A young, super modern population is intensifying the area’s challenges. There is a great need to create stability there as the best way to eliminate hostile activities and support the overall global national security strategy.

US Interests

  • Safety and security for American citizens and allies
  • Prevention of weapons of mass destruction
  • Deterrence of hostile activities that cause regional instability
  • Protection of freedom of navigation throughout the region
  • Creation of a long-term balance to protect national interests

The most important US priority is to maintain a favourable balance with other competitors in the region.

US Strategic Attitude

The US requires a strategic attitude to form partnerships in the region. Being a good partner in the military, diplomatic, and economic sectors, as well as in moral aspects, will help the US safeguart its interests in the region and focus on issues which are necessary for its protection (Like competitive preference maintenance in China). The US is trying to protect its regional influence and create security for its military.

The Middle East No Longer Matters to the US

While US credibility is an important and vital issue, the Middle East is no longer as important for it as it used to be.

Joe Biden has made it clear that he wants America “Back at the head of the table” to “Rally the free world to meet the challenges facing the world today … No other nation has that capacity.”

It is very important for the US to restore its leadership and credibility, but the Middle East is no longer a crucial factor. America is going to deal with its own interests.

American leadership cannot fix the broken Middle East; it must protect its interests there. Over the past few years, US strategic preferences have shifted away from the Middle East. The coronavirus pandemic has weakened American livelihoods and credibility around the world. Climate change, such as forest fires in California, hurricanes, Laura ripping through the Gulf coast and so on, are all problems which have led the United States to deal with its own internal matters.

During the Cold War, America tried to dominate the Middle East for the sake of supporting its energy resources at a time when it still did not play a great part in the Persian Gulf. With non-fossil energy resources growing, the discovery of large oil and natural gas deposits outside the Persian Gulf, and the domestic US oil increment and natural gas production, the Middle East’ is diminishing in strategic significance to the United States.

Oil prices have dropped significantly in recent years despite the oil production increment in some countries like Iraq, Iran, and Libya which, put together, has removed billions of barrels of oil from international markets.

The US Does Not Need the Middle East Anymore

The United States became a major oil supplier to the world in the early 20th century. In the mid-20th century, the United States was a major oil importer.

Between 1985 and 1989, the US dependence on foreign oil rose from 26% to 47%. By 2012, according to the Washington & Jefferson College Energy Index, American energy independence had decreased by 22% since the presidency of Harry Turman. Oil imports to the US fell to 36% in 2013 (during the Barak Obama administration), down from a high percentage in 2006 (during the George W Bush administration).

Does  the US Still Need Middle East Oil?

  • The United States is much less dependent on Middle East oil, but cannot be entirely independent of it.
  • Oil production in the US is increasing.
  • The Middle East will remain the biggest world market in the future

Recently, Donald Trump stated that “We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil.”

The Arab world led by Saudi Arabia plays a great part in the world. But an estimated one-third of the world’s oil goes through the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. Major disruptions in this area can create economic problems for the US.

The United States imported about 9.94 million barrels of oil in 2018 from 90 different countries. Americans benefit greatly from low prices on the global oil market, as the price of a barrel of oil that is excavated in Texas differs from the barrel which is excavated in Saudi Arabia.

Although America will never leave the global oil market completely, its new resources will make it independent and protect it from economic hardships.

American oilmen have doubled their production since January 2010 to more than 12.5 million barrels a day. Now, the United States is one of the biggest oil producers in the world.

The recent situation with Iran could increase oil prices, while the attack on Saudi Arabia’s installations in December reduced production by about 5.7 million barrels a day for a limited time.

Furthermore, sanctions imposed on Iran, as well as Venezuela’s economic collapse, have eliminated significant sources of supply.

As Ashely Petersen, senior oil market analyst for Stratas Advisors, told new outlet Axios, “The US oil boom is the primary reason nobody is seriously discussing triple-digit oil prices even with everything that is going on and went on this summer.”

As C K Hickey wrote in Foreign Policy, “Previous Middle East crises resulted in greater disruptions of the oil market. The August 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait led to a surge in the price of oil from $15 a barrel that month to $40 by October ($65.68 adjusted for inflation as of 2019). In February 2003, the lead-up to the US invasion of Iraq once again led to a spike in prices to nearly $40 a barrel, or around $55 in today’s dollars, a level that had not been seen since the [Persian] Gulf War.”

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