by Ali Ahmed Aldailmi
The Gulf is one of the most significant geopolitical regions in the world. It is the gateway for global energy. The security of the Gulf is part of wider international security and it is impossible to separate the two. The Gulf's security is part of other countries' security in terms of oil price stability and the flow of energy. From a strategic perspective, the significance of integrating Yemen into any regional security initiative is underscored by its close proximity to the Bab-el-Mandeb and its vital link to a key world oil-shipping route that connects the Gulf to Europe. Iranian military saber rattling suggests they may try to block the Strait of Hormuz to defend their interests. Tension between Iran and the West is growing. Iran seeks a port on the Red Sea. The growing influence of Iran with Yemen’s Red Sea port is likely focused on securing the Bab el Mandeb because with it they can control 70% of global oil energy flow. Yemen's importance for the West and to counter Iranian interference is strategically obvious. The U.S. political and military relationship with Yemen helps keep Iran at bay denying it opportunity to emerge as a leading regional and global power. Yemen is a logical long-term strategic partner for the U.S.
The security of Gulf oil is both a regional and global issue. The U.S. has had a major role in the security of Gulf oil, for its own reasons, but also for the world. Although many argue that energy security is a U.S. invention, it is everyone’s interests for an undisrupted, secure flow of relatively cheap Gulf oil to Western markets. This places the Gulf region as a vital geopolitical and geo-economic player. The people of the Gulf have suffered through multiple wars in the last few decades. The security of Yemen is part of security of the Gulf and the wider region. Threats emerge from multiple sources, thus a regional security strategy and response is what is needed. Yemen with its strategic geographic location, with its proximity to the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden constitutes the frontline of Gulf regional security in terms of combating terrorism, piracy and drug trafficking. Yemen in partnership with the U.S. would support security, stability and peace in the region and the world. The Gulf is an area that friendly neighbor countries alone cannot secure. Thus the stability and security of Gulf countries has become a foreign policy priority for Western governments.
Globalization, industrial and high-tech development, and the rise of several major states including China, India, and Malaysia presents an increasing demand for Gulf energy products pulled East to West through Gulf ports and shipping routes. The Gulf has the world's largest concentration of oil resources and is also a major center for natural gas production. The Gulf still leads other world oil centers in its ability to extract, process, and transport oil. In short, the Gulf is the preeminent location for the world's most prized strategic resource and demand is rising. Security analysts and petroleum experts alike have determined that even if non-Gulf countries were to massively increase their extraction and processing capabilities, the explosive growth of particularly Chinese and Indian demand will seek the majority of their supplies from the Gulf region.
Yemen's security is connected to the security of Gulf Cooperation Council countries because Yemen represents geographical, strategic, human and security depth for its bothers in the GCC states. It is now the age of security alliances that achieve common interest and, in the case of the Gulf, those that serve Arab national security. The region is expected to supply 32 percent of world's oil by 2025, compared to 26 percent today. As China and India rise they will be increasingly dependent on Gulf oil. These countries will seek a strategic partnership with Gulf countries if the U.S. does not work quickly to beat them to that outcome.
Because oil is the primary source of economic growth and because the Gulf holds 65 percent of the world's oil reserves, it remains the most vital region for the global economy. Gulf oil abundance explains U.S. involvement in the region's security during the past half Century. The Gulf has been plagued by wars, political and religious tensions, military build-ups and sustained authoritarianism. Since the first Gulf War, the U.S. has assured its role as the security guarantor and privileged partner of the Gulf Arab states. However, the rise of China and India and the recent estranged relations between the U.S. and the Arab world, during Arab Spring, might precipitate a change of great geopolitical consequence.
China and India’s growing role in the global economy and energy markets in the past decade will likely influence them taking a greater role in the long-term political economy of the Gulf. As Asia’s third largest oil consumer, with an import-dependency expected to reach 90% over the next decade, India’s first priority is to guarantee continuous access to energy resources and they will focus on the Gulf region.
The U.S. priorities for 21 Century Defense identifies China as a future force to counter: “Over the long term, China's emergence as a regional power will have the potential to affect the U.S. economy and security in a variety of ways…. The U.S. will continue to make a variety of investments to ensure that and maintain regional access and the ability to operate freely.” The administration’s January 2012 policy goes on to state: “The growth of China's military power must be accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions in order to avoid causing friction in the region.” Added to Iranian influence, it is clearly now time for the U.S. to adopt a long-term strategic approach and embrace Yemen as a strategic partner.
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