During the Carter administration the Middle East and Southwest Asia became a third major theater in the Cold War struggle along with Europe and the Far East. Initially, President Jimmy Carter tried to remove this region from the Cold War competition, but the collapse of the shah's regime in Iran prompted Carter to reverse course and to build a “Persian Gulf security framework” that later allowed the United States to deal with three wars and many smaller clashes. The interagency process implementing this dramatic change was rent with clashes of departmental interests. The State Department and the military services resisted the structural changes they would later need to confront not only the Soviet threat but also intraregional conflicts. Moreover, the Reagan administration, after forcing the Joint Chiefs of Staff to make the Central Command formal, actually slowed the process of its growth, leaving it far from ready to embark on the Gulf War in 1990–1991.

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