This book chapter appeared in the Gulf Yearbook 2008-2009, published by the Gulf Research Center.
The year 2008 turned out to be one of relative stability in the Gulf. During its last year in power, the Bush administration focused on stabilizing Iraq, re-calibrating its policy towards Iran and strengthening ties with the countries of the GCC. In Iraq, the increased security allowed for improvements in day-to-day life. Along with the security gains, some political progress was made with the passage of several legislations. Equally significant were the negotiations on the status of US forces in Iraq. The final agreement said, among other things, that all US troops would be withdrawn by December 2011.
Tensions between the US and Iran seemed to subside in 2008. While the nuclear issue dominated bilateral relations and both countries resorted to military posturing, the US refrained from launching an attack on Iran. Iraq, however, remained a point of friction between the two countries, with frequent US allegations of Iranian meddling in Iraq.
US-GCC relations steadily improved in 2008. Relations were driven by regional and global dynamics as well as the impending change of administration in Washington. There was lesser US focus on issues related to political reform. The year saw high-level bilateral engagement both at the political and defense levels. Arms sales also formed a key element in the US-Gulf relationship. Besides, during the year several GCC states made strides towards developing a nuclear energy capacity.
As the year drew to a close and Barack Obama won the presidential race, the nature of US-Gulf relations seemed set for more change.
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