Armed Forces in the Region

The Gulf Cooperation Council is a trade bloc with shared defense responsibilities. Founded in 1981, its member nations are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The GCC's immediate objective was to provide a common defense against the threat of the Iran-Iraq War. Further, GCC members felt that the organization would be a good counterbalance to Iranian-inspired Islamic fundamentalism. The collective security aspect of the GCC defines an act of aggression toward one member as an act of aggression toward all of them.

During an armed conflict in the Strait of Hormuz, GCC member states would presumably try to protect their shared commercial interests. In particular, the GCC, led by Saudi and Kuwaiti arms purchases, has significantly bolstered its capabilities to provide sea and air defense around the Strait of Hormuz in recent years.

In addition to the GCC forces, coalition forces help protect the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 is a multinational force whose jurisdiction includes the Strait of Hormuz. The nations of Pakistan, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States all contribute to the approximately 15 vessels in CTF 150. Command of the CTF is shared among participating nations and rotates every four to six months. This force could form the core of an international response to any conflict in the Strait.

The United States also maintains a formidable presence in the area around the Strait of Hormuz. The Fifth Fleet is the naval component of U.S. Central Command and exercises operational control over maritime forces in the area around the Strait. Headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, the Fifth Fleet bears responsibility for areas including the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, and parts of the Indian Ocean. The U.S. provides a variety of services and security measures in the Gulf region including mariner assistance, protection of infrastructure, piracy deterrence, and combat operations. Fifth Fleet operates under international maritime law to maintain secure and safe international waters for commercial shipping vessels.

The U.S. Coast Guard has also maintained a presence in the Gulf since November 2002. Though first established as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Coast Guard presence became permanent in 2004. This force conducts maritime patrols and is responsible for oil platform security in the Persian Gulf.

This page last modified in August 2008