From an active-duty force of 1.4 million soldiers, the US has deployed some 350,000 troops to at least 130 foreign countries around the world. Some are at Cold War-era installations, but many are in or near combat zones in the Middle East. At more than 750 bases internationally, private contractors and third-country nationals also form a large percentage of the staff, in addition to military reservists and civilian employees of the Pentagon.
…There were three reasons why the US sought a presence across the Middle East, says Mehran Kamrava, Director of the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar:
“Securing oil resources, guaranteeing the security of the state of Israel and combating threats to American interests” were the initial priorities of US military activity in the region prior to the first Gulf War, Kamrava says.
Kamrava says US forces “have the ability to project force when needed, by intimidating and signalling to potential threats that the US can flex its muscles if necessary … This is a combination of ‘showing the flag’ and practical, logistical issues such as the movement of troops, supplies and services”.
“So, these bases are not necessarily because of Iran, but certainly Iran has given the US a compelling reason to further the number of bases,” Kamrava told Al Jazeera. “But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Iran is encircled militarily.”
View American military bases near Iran in a larger map