In the discussion about this question it was pointed out that

the US navy has been maintaining a presence in the Persian Gulf since the end of WW2 and having ships there isn't an unusual thing.

Some comments have treated that as an obvious thing that needs no further explanation, partly stating that they are operating in international waters as is their right, partly implying (without really saying so) that there are national interests of the United States at stake.

Interestingly, for the case mentioned in that question, there was a specific justification of its presence, namely Operation Earnest Will, the protection of Kuweit tankers from Iranian attacks.

So leaving assessments aside, did the US government itself take the trouble to always publicly state detailed political goals for the missions it undertook through the decades? Was it specific why, at a certain place and a certain time, a US military presence was needed? What were the reasons given?

Just to preempt the accusation, I am not asking whether these goals and reasons are fair or right, but whether justifications were given and could be examined by other political actors.

Also, while asking about government actions of the past, I don't think of this as a historical question. My interest is rather to look for the development in US government foreign and military policies, and how it perceives the need to justify its actions.

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the slogan "no blood for oil" became popular and a lot of people opposing it seemed to think that was all they ever needed to know about American reasons for its interventions in the Gulf region. Was that based on stated US policies, did the government feel the need to underpin them with detailed, case-by-case arguments, or did it consistently emphasise alternate motives like the "weapons of mass destruction" in this one episode? Are there long term trends, or significant changes in its handling of public scrutiny?

  • 1
    Not my DV, but you seem to answer yourself. What do you expect as answer? An exhaustive list when they didn't say why? And what granularity is or isn't a reason? These can be stated in general terms in some policy etc. Dec 6, 2023 at 23:37
  • 1
    They have had a presence there since WW2 with the idea of protecting their interests. The exact reason that they have been there has likely changed over the years and as events happen.
    – Joe W
    Dec 6, 2023 at 23:47
  • Maybe the question can be rephrased thus: if there were changing reasons, were they acknowledged in public statements, or were they hidden behind a broad general policy? If there was one overarching reason all the time, was it emphasised or obsured by talking about details? I honestly want to get a look behind the presumption the "no blood for oil" trope offered, and that the European peace movement for so long thought was all it needed to know about American motives.
    – ccprog
    Dec 7, 2023 at 0:13
  • There are also numerous American military bases in the Persian Gulf. It has to do with assuring the security of oil production and shipment. Dec 8, 2023 at 14:08
  • A few hours ago, the Eisenhower aircraft carrier left the Persian Gulf in silence.
    – C.F.G
    Dec 15, 2023 at 12:43

1 Answer 1


Kind of a broad question. The "does" part is easier to answer, if by presence you mean just the naval one:

August 1, 2023

Thousands of Marines backed by advanced U.S. fighter jets and warships are slowly building up a presence in the Persian Gulf. It’s a sign that while America’s wars in the region may be finished, its conflict with Iran over its advancing nuclear program continues to worsen, with no solutions in sight.

[...] For the U.S., keeping the Strait of Hormuz open to shipping remains a priority to ensure global energy prices don’t spike, particularly as Russia’s war on Ukraine pressures markets. Gulf Arab nations need the waterway to get their oil to market and worry about Iran’s intentions in the wider region.

Those fears have cemented the longtime American presence in the Persian Gulf. In the two decades that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, there were at times two different American aircraft carriers patrolling the Gulf to provide fighter jets for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and later for the battle against the Islamic State group.

But slowly, the Pentagon began to wind down the naval presence, leaving a gap of months that brought gasps from Gulf Arab states and commentators worried about Iran. The USS Nimitz sailed out of the Strait of Hormuz in November 2020 as the last American carrier in the Persian Gulf. The last Marine expeditionary unit — an armada carrying Marines, aircraft and vehicles prepared for an amphibious assault — came through in November 2021.

Washington’s worries have changed since then. [...] In recent months, the U.S. military has again begun dialing up its Mideast presence. It conducted a Strait of Hormuz patrol with the top U.S., British and French naval commanders in the region on board. In late March, A-10 Thunderbolt II warplanes arrived at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. The Pentagon ordered F-16 fighters, as well as the destroyer USS Thomas Hudner, to the region. Stealth F-35A Lightning II fighter jets arrived last week.

Now, America will have part of a Marine expeditionary unit in the region for the first time in nearly two years. The deployment of thousands of Marines and sailors consists of both the USS Bataan and the USS Carter Hall, a landing ship.

Those vessels left Norfolk, Virginia, on July 10 on a mission the Pentagon described as being “in response to recent attempts by Iran to threaten the free flow of commerce in the Strait of Hormuz and its surrounding waters.” The Bataan passed through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea last week on its way to the Mideast.

A few days later:

August 16, 2023

Three thousand additional U.S. personnel on troop-landing warships have passed through the Red Sea, and U.S.-led maritime forces are warning ships against approaching Iranian waters.

The moves follow a spate of capture and attempted capture of ships in and around the Strait of Hormuz, the U-shaped gateway to the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea that carries a fifth of world oil output.

"There is a heightened threat, a heightened risk to regional mariners in terms of seizures" by Iran in the strait, said Commander Tim Hawkins, spokesman for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.

"Right now, our focus is on … increasing our presence in and near the Strait of Hormuz to ensure security and stability in a very critical waterway," Hawkins told AFP at the US Naval base in Bahrain.

On Saturday, a U.S.-led naval coalition issued an advisory for commercial ships to "transit as far away" from Iran's waters as possible in what Hawkins called a "prudent step" in light of recent seizures.

As for the threats alluded to:

On July 5, U.S. forces prevented two attempted commercial tanker seizures by the Iranian Navy after the Iranians had opened fire in one of the incidents near the coast of Oman. [...]

In May, the United States increased the rotation of ships and aircraft patrolling the Strait of Hormuz with partners following an uptick in Iranian merchant vessel seizures. The increased force presence supports multinational efforts under the International Maritime Security Construct and bilaterally with partner nations to deter threats to commercial shipping and reassure regional mariners.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the entire [U.S. Naval Forces Central Command] team, especially the exceptional effort by the McFaul crew, for immediately responding and preventing another seizure,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces. “We remain vigilant and ready to protect navigational rights in these critical waters.”

Since 2021, Iran has harassed, attacked or seized nearly 20 internationally flagged merchant vessels, presenting a clear threat to regional maritime security and the global economy.

Some years ago, anti-ISIS operations were also carried out from the Gulf (and not just the Mediterranean), e.g.

July 31, 2017

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is carrying out strike sorties from the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR). [...]

“For the Nimitz Strike Group, today is game day,” said Rear Adm. Bill Byrne, commander of CSG-11. “When you hear the roar of the jets today it is for real. It’s game on. Our pilots and aircrew are demonstrating our continued commitment to this region and all of our partner nations.”

Carrier strike groups demonstrate the mobility, flexibility and power projection capabilities of the U.S. Navy’s globally deployed force. They also deter potential adversaries, respond to humanitarian crises, reassure partners and enhance security.

The Nimitz Strike Group’s deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations supports Operation Inherent Resolve and signals the continued commitment to defeat and destroy ISIS. In addition to anti-ISIS missions, the ship and strike group are conducting maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, preserve freedom of navigation, and maintain the free flow of commerce.


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