The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Imperialist Military Presence in the Middle East

Feb 12, 2024

This article is translated from the February 7 issue, #2897 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

American troops are permanently present in the Middle East to ensure imperialist domination of an oil-rich and strategically important region.

Even before war broke out again in Gaza between Hamas and Israel on October 7, some 45,000 American troops were stationed in the region. On the southern shore of the Persian Gulf, facing Iran, there were 13,500 stationed in Kuwait, 9,000 in Bahrain, 8,000 in Qatar, 3,500 in the United Arab Emirates, 2,700 in Saudi Arabia, and a few hundred in Oman. Further west, Turkey was home to 8,500 U.S. troops, Iraq 2,500, Syria 900, and Jordan, where three of them died in late January, nearly 3,000. The United States also maintained at least one base in Israel, although the number of personnel is not known, as well as a number of advisors in Lebanon, which was linked by a military cooperation agreement.

As a result, the United States has a military presence in every country in the region except Iran, which is its enemy, and Yemen, which is in the throes of civil war.

Since October 7, the distribution of troops may have changed, although not all these movements have been made public. Overall, the United States has increased its presence by at least 1,200 soldiers, probably 2,000. Its navy has increased its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea: it has dispatched two fleets, with aircraft carriers, frigates, and submarines, carrying around 12,000 sailors, as well as landing ships carrying 2,000 marines. The air force has also been reinforced, although it can carry out bombing raids from its bases in the United States, as it demonstrated on February 2 in Iraq and Syria.

The war in Gaza is an opportunity to expand an American base in Israel. At the same time, American officers, including a Marine Corps general, have been sent to advise the Israeli army on its offensive, and the Pentagon is giving it access to images from its military satellites.

The USA also supplies Israel with a wide range of weapons. Immediately after October 7, it delivered Patriot anti-missile systems, 57,000 155 mm artillery shells, 15,000 bombs, some of them very powerful, designed to pulverize Hamas bunkers and tunnels in Gaza. Israel dropped at least one on the Jabaliya refugee camp on October 31, crushing an apartment building and killing more than a hundred Palestinians in the process. In December, Biden bypassed the usual procedure controlling foreign arms sales to allow Israel to continue the war despite the depletion of its stocks: 14,000 tank shells were authorized for $106 million, followed by the sale of artillery shells for $146 million.

French imperialism, commensurate with its far more modest means, is also present in the Middle East alongside American soldiers and 2,500 British troops. Pursuing a ten-year war against Islamic State, 600 French soldiers operate in Iraq and Syria. One of their bases in Jordan was visited by Macron over Christmas. With two frigates, the French navy is supporting its American ally against the Yemeni Houthis in the Red Sea. The French army is also present in Lebanon, with 700 soldiers currently serving under the U.N. since 1978.

Western leaders justify their military presence in the name of maintaining stability and peace in the Middle East. On the contrary, this military presence and their constant interventions maintain the risk of war.