Avoiding War on the Waters: Why U.S. Naval Strategy Towards Iran Must Change (Marcellus Policy Analysis)

By Scott Strgacich, Fall 2020 Marcellus Policy Fellow

The United States has maintained a naval force posture in the Persian Gulf that has not significantly changed over at least the past two decades despite the seismic changes the region has experienced in that same span of time. Advocates of this posture claim the regular deployment of carrier strike groups to the Gulf provides an effective deterrent to Iranian aggression. This has not been borne out in reality while the posture incurs high resource costs and poses a significant risk of instigating an avoidable conflict with Iran. This paper argues that the U.S. should change this posture by refraining from sending carriers into the Gulf which would also have the ancillary effects of reducing the need for certain onshore facilities and compelling a shift in the Navy’s strategic messaging.