Better Lucky Than Good: Operation Earnest Will as Gunboat Diplomacy
NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL MONTEREY CA
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In 1987 the United States agreed to register eleven Kuwaiti oil tankers under the American flag and provide them naval protection at the height of the Iran Iraq War. Motivated primarily by Cold War considerations, the United States embarked on a policy of neutral intervention whose intended effects were certain to be disadvantageous to Iran. American planners failed to adequately anticipate Iranian reaction to the American policy, which led to a number of violent naval actions and American retaliatory strikes on Iranian oil facilities. Nevertheless, by April, 1988, the United States had largely achieved its declared objectives, which were to secure the safe transit of Kuwaiti oil through the Gulf, and forestall the expansion of Soviet influence in the region. On April 29, 1988, however, the United States expanded the scope of the protection scheme, extending the U.S. Navy s protective umbrella to all neutral shipping in the Persian Gulf. This decision divorced the American policy from its original limited objectives, increased the likelihood of further confrontation with Iran, and laid the groundwork for the destruction of an Iranian airliner by USS Vincennes CG-49.
- Government and Political Science