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Research Report


Bilal Y. Saab
Copyright Date: Apr. 1, 2016
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 24
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 4-5)

    Ever since Great Britain withdrew most of its military forces from the Gulf in the early 1970s, the United States has been the principal guarantor of security in the region. In the aftermath of the Cold War, no country dared to challenge America’s preeminent position and role of hegemonic stabilizer in that part of the world. And since the successful completion of Operation Desert Storm and the end of the 1990-1991 Gulf War, the United States has effectively monopolized Gulf security, protecting collective interests while enjoying special political relationships with the region’s governments, as well as considerable economic benefits through...

  2. (pp. 6-6)

    The concept of a post-American Middle East, born partly out of perceptions of a gradual US retreat from the region, recently has elicited a vigorous debate among foreign policy communities in Washington and Gulf capitals. In the public domain, these discussions also have featured an unhealthy amount of sensationalist and vituperative commentary, based on misunderstanding and confusion regarding the goals and intentions of the United States and Gulf countries toward collective interests. Separating the noise from the substantive issues that have profoundly challenged the relationship has become a crucial exercise for the United States and its Gulf partners. More specifically,...

  3. (pp. 6-9)

    Since the Cold War, the United States has been encouraging and sometimes even pressuring its NATO allies, both privately and publicly, to contribute more tangibly to the well-being of the Alliance, and specifically share the burden of safeguarding collective interests, confronting foes, addressing threats, and securing various hot spots around the world. The United States’ complaint about its allies “free-riding” has not abated. On the contrary, it seems to have grown on balance, with President Barack Obama lately using the term to call out US Middle Eastern partners and European allies for allegedly abusing US military power and shirking their...

  4. (pp. 10-13)

    If partnering with allies on Gulf security is no walk in the park, engaging adversaries can be a nightmare. But history offers clear lessons on this: The exclusion of major powers from regional, geopolitical affairs such as Gulf security has its costs, especially when such powers have important and growing stakes in the region. That happens to be the case with Russia and China, who in recent years have increasingly pointed their strategic compass toward the Middle East, and specifically, the Gulf. In short, for the United States, dialoguing patiently and potentially reaching strategic understandings with Moscow and Beijing over...

  5. (pp. 14-17)

    It is easy to see why a more flexible or inclusive Gulf security system can cause, or may have already caused, many in the US Government, and specifically in the Pentagon, to have reservations. After all, the United States has invested a huge amount of material resources and political capital over the years to preserve its undisputed influence in the Gulf and to maintain the closest links to the region’s leaderships. No US official would like to see the United States’ strategic position in the Gulf—still a critical region of the world to global commerce and the US economy—...

  6. (pp. 18-18)

    Gulf security is increasingly becoming a crowded geopolitical space, and this has both positive and negative aspects. It is good because it encourages (and even pressures) the United States to think more strategically about its long-term interests in the region, and it creates opportunities for Washington to finally get serious about burden-sharing and involving its closest and most capable allies in policing the world’s most important East-West highway. It is bad because strategic adversaries such as Russia and China have smartly exploited the United States’ declining fortunes and are encroaching on its autonomy and sphere of influence in the Gulf....