U.S. Defense Posture in the Middle East

There are growing calls for a decrease in the U.S. military presence in the Middle East. Proponents of a major reduction of forces argue that it is necessary because of growing competition with China in the Indo-Pacific and Russia in Europe, a declining U.S. reliance on Gulf oil and gas, a reduced threat from terrorist groups, and a need to focus on diplomacy rather than military force. To inform the debate over the United States’ military presence in the Middle East, this report assesses three posture options for U.S. forces in the region. This report finds that the United States should keep a notable but tailored presence in the Middle East to contain the further expansion of Chinese and Russian military power and to check the actions of Iran and terrorist organizations that threaten the United States and its allies and partners.

This report is made possible by generous funding from the Smith Richardson Foundation.

Seth G. Jones
Senior Vice President; Harold Brown Chair; and Director, International Security Program