From the Wall Street Journal:
The U.S. Navy is building a military installation atop this petroleum-export platform as the U.S. establishes a more lasting military mission in the oil-rich north Persian Gulf.
While presidential candidates debate whether to start bringing ground troops home from Iraq, the new construction suggests that one footprint of U.S. military power in Iraq isn't shrinking anytime soon: American officials are girding for an open-ended commitment to protect the country's oil industry.
That is a sea change for the U.S., which has patrolled these waters for decades. In the past, American warships and their allies flexed the West's military might in the Persian Gulf to demonstrate a broad commitment to protect the region, which produces almost a third of the world's oil. President Jimmy Carter codified the doctrine in 1980 in response to a perceived Soviet threat.
Now, amid rising prices -- oil futures finished Friday at $96.32 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up 86 cents -- and new vulnerabilities in the world's stretched oil-supply chain -- from militants in Nigeria to occasional Iranian threats to disrupt Persian Gulf shipping -- the Navy finds itself with an additional, much more specific role: playing security guard to Iraq's offshore oil infrastructure. [...]
The new installation will house U.S., British and Australian officers and sailors. The Pentagon has said it has no intention of building permanent U.S. bases in Iraq, and Navy officials say they intend to turn over the facility to Iraqi forces as soon as they can run it on their own.
But Iraqi forces are a long way from being able to take over the mission, Navy officials say. Iraqi patrol boats are on the water assisting in sector patrols around the terminals. But they are rusting hulks. Iraqi soldiers stationed on the terminals have just recently started training with live ammunition. "They are going to need help for years to come," Adm. Cosgriff says.
So for the time being, the new base will serve as a U.S.-controlled command post straddling a major component of Iraq's creaking oil industry. From a collection of modified shipping containers, coalition officers will monitor ship traffic and coordinate the movement of coalition warships circling "Kaaot" and "Abot," as the military has nicknamed the two terminals.
Read the full story here.