In “Understanding the Gulf States” [Issue #36], F. Gregory Gause, III chronicles the personal nature of leadership in the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and how individual rulers have shaped regional and foreign policies over the last several decades. Personality politics, he argues, have also served as a factor in determining which members of the GCC-comprised of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman-are squabbling at any given time and when and how they reconcile. Despite this long history of tension, he writes, two common interests override their differences: their common identity as monarchies and their reliance on the United States to ensure their security. Thus, he says, the time is ripe for the United States to present the GCC with a grand initiative that would unify member states, guarantee their endorsement of U.S. policy on key issues such as the wars in Iraq and Syria, and enable them to make peace with one another for the foreseeable future.
While this geopolitical analysis may have characterized Gulf power plays and the GCC’s relations with the United States in years past, the turmoil in the Middle East, the collapse of some nation-states, and the shifting dynamics between Shia and Sunni states cry out for a new analysis that includes less involvement from Washington. Two events in recent months have made the status quo no longer tenable: the nuclear framework agreement between Iran and world powers, which seemed, as these words were written, likely to lead to a full agreement; and the Shia-led revolt in Yemen, which has overturned a Sunni-led government. These two developments are proving to unify GCC states around an anti-Shia strategy, which trumps their historic squabbling and has limited Washington’s capability and credibility to act as a power broker in the Arab Gulf.
To read the full article click here.