New Report Finds No Military Need for U.S. Troop Presence in the Middle East, Urges Full Troop Withdrawal


CONTACT: Jessica Rosenblum, Director of Communications, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, 202.800.4662/ [email protected]

WASHINGTON, DC —  The U.S. has no compelling military need to keep a permanent troop presence in the Middle East, and doing so is actually working against the United States’ primary interests in the region, according to a new report.

The report, written by Eugene Gholz of the University of Notre Dame, was released today by Quincy Institute as the Pentagon prepares a global force posture review, which reports indicate will include a major realignment of the U.S. military footprint in the Middle East.  

Gholz pushes back on the prevailing belief that a heavy U.S. military presence in the Middle East is necessary to protect U.S. interests.

The paper, entitled, “Nothing Much to Do: Why America Can Bring All Troops Home From the Middle East,” analyzes the military requirements to achieve two primary U.S. objectives in the Middle East: preventing the rise of a regional hegemon and protecting the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. The paper demonstrates that neither of these goals requires U.S. military actions in the Middle East.

“No country in the Middle East has the ability to achieve regional military dominance, nor does any have the prospect of gaining that capability in the near term,” Gholz explains. “Similarly, a military effort to cut off oil exports through the Strait of Hormuz would be extremely complex and difficult to execute — beyond the current and plausible medium-term future capabilities of any country in the region.”

The report argues that the U.S. should take advantage of this relatively favorable situation by gradually removing its troops from the region as a medium- to long-term objective — beginning by notifying the countries hosting its military of an impending drawdown. In the absence of a permanent U.S. military presence, and with other outside powers like China and Russia showing no inclination or capability to bid for military hegemony in the Middle East, a natural balance of power suitable to U.S. interest could arise. 

“In addition to undermining U.S. interest, the longstanding U.S. military presence in the Middle East has incentivized America’s regional partners to act aggressively, knowing they have strong military backing, while making its adversaries feel under constant threat,” QI Executive Vice President Trita Parsi says. “But as the U.S. has stepped back militarily, regional states have been compelled to step forward diplomatically, which better serves U.S. interest.”

Given these conditions, the United States can safely reduce the unnecessary military burden of stationing tens of thousands of American troops in the region.

“America’s continued military presence in the Middle East reflects outdated thinking,” Gholz says, “Ultimately, the current distribution of power in the Middle East does not require much effort by the U.S. military, and it does not require any U.S. military presence.”