WASHINGTON, D.C.: The United States (US) military has failed to prepare a realistic “plan B” if political turmoil forces the closure of a vital naval base in Bahrain, a naval officer argues in a report released on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).
The Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain is the most US important maritime base in the Middle East but senior officers have become complacent about its future, Commander Richard McDaniel asserts.
“Surprisingly, military leaders have no ‘plan B’ if strategic access in Bahrain is jeopardized,” McDaniel wrote, in a paper published by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
“Because of a strong desire to support the government of Bahrain, losing critical access is not currently being considered, and strategic basing alternatives are not being developed.”
The loss of the base “could leave the United States without a key maritime base during a critical juncture of heightened tensions in the Middle East,” wrote McDaniel, who cited interviews with unnamed US officers.
His report warns the United States was caught ill-prepared and off-guard by political upheavals in the past—in Iran in 1979 and in the Philippines in 1991—which saw Washington lose access to crucial bases.
The author proposes the US investigate alternatives in the Qatari capital Doha, where a large port is under construction, and in Shuabia, Kuwait, as well as ports in Oman.
Shifting the whole headquarters to ships at sea is also an alternative, he wrote, though it would be costly and problematic.