Abdullah K. Al Shayji
Dr. Al Shayji is the former chairman of the political science department at Kuwait University and visiting scholar at the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies at George Washington University, Washington, DC. He is the former political adviser to the speaker of the Kuwaiti parliament and its foreign-relations committee. He would like to thank Professor F. Gregory Gause III of the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University for his comments on the first draft of this article.
The drift and incoherence of U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration has not gone unnoticed in the Arab world and the Middle East, especially among America's Arab Gulf allies. Former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman could have been channeling Gulf elites when he said: "Americans no longer command the ability to shape trends in the Middle East. Almost no one expects us to do so."1 The United States and its strategic allies in the Gulf have increasingly divergent visions of how regional politics should operate. The "marriage" between Washington and the Gulf has been long and beneficial to both sides, though not without its ups and downs. Neither side really wants a divorce, but Gulf elites increasingly worry that this episode of tensions is qualitatively different from those that came before. They fear that, this time, Washington not only disagrees with their view of the region, it does not care about their opinions, because America's strategic commitment to the Gulf, and the Middle East more generally, is no longer solid. For them, the "pivot to Asia" looks increasingly like a retreat from the Middle East. The renewed talk in American policy circles about "energy independence," this time with more credible evidence to back it up, just adds to Gulf worries that Washington has downgraded the Gulf region and that the pivot is really a retreat.
Moreover, there is a growing fear among America's allies in the region that the United States is preoccupied with its domestic agenda. This has been apparent since it pulled out of Iraq and is drawing down its forces in Afghanistan. As Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, argues, "Foreign policy begins at home….The biggest threat to the United States comes not from abroad but from within."2
The differences between the Obama administration's view of the region and those of its Gulf allies are not just about tactics. The more important splits are over basic strategic understandings about the most important threats to regional stability. Washington is turning a new page with Iran, concentrating on resolving the nuclear issue. While Gulf leaders would be happy to see Iran pushed back from a nuclear breakout capability, they worry that the price of such a deal is American acceptance of Iran's hegemonic regional ambitions. Tensions between the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, and the United States over policy toward Syria, Iraq and even Bahrain are part of a general divergence of views over the true nature of the Iranian threat. The fact that the recent success of ISIS in Iraq seems to have pushed Washington and Tehran closer together just confirms Gulf worries about a possible American-Iranian geopolitical deal in the region as a whole.
The Gulf states and Washington also have a profound disagreement over their assessments of the so-called Arab Spring. Gulf leaders generally see it as disastrous, leading to chaos and increased Iranian meddling in Arab affairs. Washington sees it as an imperfect but important step toward greater democracy in the Arab world. This difference is reflected most seriously in the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia and a number of Gulf states, with the UAE at the forefront (Qatar has a very different position), see the Muslim Brotherhood and the prospect of elected Islamist governments in Arab states as a serious threat to their own domestic security. They also worry that Muslim Brotherhood-led governments in the Arab world will make common cause with Iran. The United States was more than willing to deal with Mohammad Morsi, the elected Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt, and criticized the Egyptian army for removing him from power (while never actually calling that removal what it was, a coup). Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait committed billions of dollars in aid to the military-backed Egyptian government once Morsi was ousted.
To some extent, the tensions in the American-Gulf relationship are structural, built into the nature of an alliance between a great power and its weaker allies. The weaker always worry that the stronger will ignore their interests, either by being too bellicose and drawing them into conflicts they seek to avoid or by making deals over their heads with potential adversaries. This dynamic has characterized relations between Washington and the Gulf in the past and has been managed by the parties. The current differences do not necessarily have to lead to a complete break in the U.S.-GCC relationship, but they need to be brought into the open. The United States needs not only to understand the depth of GCC concerns about the direction of its Middle East policy; it also needs to pay them more heed.
FEARS OF ENTRAPMENT AND ABANDONMENT
The GCC-U.S. partnership is a classic case study of the built-in dilemmas of an alliance between a stronger party and a weaker party. International-relations scholar Glenn Snyder encapsulates this dilemma in his classic article, "The Security Dilemma in Alliance Politics," postulating that in such alliances there will always be "the tension between fears of entrapment and abandonment" on the part of the weaker party.3 Recognizing its weakness, it always fears that the stronger party is not taking adequate account of its interests. Gregory Gause has argued that this structural fact explains much of the tension between the United States and its GCC partners: "When the United States threatens Iran with military strikes over the Iranian nuclear program, the Gulf states fear that Iranian retaliation will be against them. When the United States signals a willingness to negotiate with Iran, they worry that Washington will anoint Tehran as the regional hegemon."4 This is exactly the fear expressed by former Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Sabah in a speech at the 2013 International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Manama Dialogue. Sheikh Mohammad was critical of the absence of the GCC from the negotiation table with the P5+1 over Iran's nuclear program, asking whether Syria and Bahrain were part of the interim deal with Iran.5
This article argues that the current situation in the U.S.-GCC relationship is a textbook example of Snyder's alliance politics' "security dilemma." Although Snyder developed this concept in the context of the global Cold War to explain tensions within the NATO alliance, the concept fits the similar structural situation of the asymmetric alliance between the United States and the Gulf states. In that sense, the article demonstrates that the tensions between Washington and its Gulf allies are not the product of particular individuals on either side, but are built into the very nature of the relationship itself. They cannot be "solved" by the replacement of an American president or a Gulf leader, though they might be better managed if each side came to a fuller understanding of the other's strategic views. This article will delineate the major issues between the GCC states and the United States, based upon the analyses of state officials and informed observers. It will conclude by proposing a plan of action to get the partnership back on track.
The GCC states, due to changes in the dynamics of relations with the United States, are worried about abandonment. But these states have been worried in the past about entrapment by the United States. After decades of strategic partnership with the United States, they have failed to gain any leverage. Every time the United States threatened to use force against Iran over its nuclear program, Iran was quick to threaten retaliation against GCC installations on the Arabian side of the Gulf. Moreover, Tehran keeps threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz if Iran is attacked. The GCC states feel they are dependent on the United States and its decision whether to launch a military strike on Iran or strike a deal. The GCC states do not even have a seat at the P5+1 negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. If they did, these states would not have been caught off guard by the covert U.S.-Iran negotiations in Oman over Iran's nuclear program. The other GCC states felt deceived by both the United States and Oman. It is entirely possible that, as Gause argues, "The fear of abandonment is structural in the Saudi-American relationship, but it is also exaggerated."6 That fear is, nonetheless, real and has led to important policy changes on the part of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
SAUDI ARABIAN AND GCC POLICY
Saudi worries about American abandonment have been reflected in their policies in recent months. Clearly, the Saudis have abandoned their cautious diplomacy: "Now it's more assertive and more paranoid."7 The clearest example of that new assertiveness is Syria. Saudi Arabia has supplanted Qatar as the major Arab supporter of the Syrian rebels. It has broadened its support beyond the Free Syrian Army to various local salafi groups, encouraging them to form a somewhat united front in the Islamic Army. It remains the Syrian revolt's strongest advocate in the halls of global diplomacy. Riyadh's disappointment with the Obama administration's refusal to follow up on its implicit threat to use force against the Assad regime for violating the "red line" of chemical weapons use in the summer of 2013 was palpable. The visit of President Obama with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia in March 2014, followed by reports that some vetted Syrian rebels have started to receive anti-tank weapons, was not enough to convince Riyadh that Washington was serious about getting rid of Assad. Clearly, the Saudis look at Syria as a theater of competition with Iran not only over regional dominance, but also along the Sunni-Shiite divide.
Syria is not the only issue over which the Saudis have demonstrated a willingness to separate themselves from the United States and assert a more independent foreign policy. In a stunning move last fall, Riyadh turned down a highly coveted seat at the UN Security Council after lobbying hard to get it. This was a jab at the United States and its Western allies for their failed and ineffective policy on Syria. It "underscored the depth of Saudi anger over what the monarchy sees as weak and conciliatory Western stances toward Syria and Iran, Saudi Arabia's regional rival, and the Arab-Israeli peace process." The Saudi foreign ministry issued a statement accusing the Security Council of failing to find a "just and lasting solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and of failing to free the Middle East of "all weapons of mass destruction," an apparent reference to Israel's presumed nuclear arsenal. "Allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill and burn its people with chemical weapons, while the world stands idly by, without applying deterrent sanctions against the Damascus regime, is also irrefutable evidence of the inability of the Security Council to carry out its duties and responsibilities."8
In March 2014, Saudi Arabia, in a move signaling its alignment with the military-backed government in Egypt, declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. This step set the Saudis against the most successful Islamist political organization in the Arab Spring, which had won elections in Egypt and Tunisia, was doing well in Libya and formed an important part of the Syrian rebellion. Moreover, it also signalled Riyadh's willingness to separate itself from the United States, which had encouraged democratic reform in the Arab Spring and worked with the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. As New York Times correspondent David Sanger accurately put it: "The Saudi decree equates the Brotherhood, which has long denounced violence, with widely designated terrorist organizations, including Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and the Syria-based Nusra Front. The inclusion of the Brotherhood appeared to signal the beginning of a Saudi effort to eradicate the group, demonstrating the deepening polarization that is spreading across the region after the Egyptian military's ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood leader, last summer."9
The GCC fear of entrapment and abandonment in their asymmetrical relationship with the United States will continue to be structural. But what is perplexing about U.S.-Saudi relations, is what Marc Lynch accurately observed: "The fact that Saudi Arabia has so publicly lambasted the Obama administration suggests that the Saudis don't actually fear abandonment all that much. If they did, they might be keen to find ways to reassure rather than to confront Washington."10
Juxtaposed with this assertive Saudi strategy is the megaproject of the Gulf Union, an attempt to strengthen the Saudi-dominated alliance to counter Iran and present a more cohesive GCC to compensate for the lighter U.S. footprint. The project seems to be fading in the midst of a widening rift within the GCC led by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, with Qatar on the other side. Qatar's maverick policy, in particular its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Al-Jazeera satellite news channel's coverage of the Arab-awakening republics, especially Egypt, is seen by the others as threatening security and stability and not advancing GCC interests. Oman has also expressed its unwillingness to join a tighter Gulf union, following its historical policy of independence. It is also unlikely that the Kuwaiti parliament would approve of any plan that seriously eroded the state's sovereignty. This GCC rift has exacerbated its security dilemma and could impact GCC relations with their chief patron and ally, the United States.
THE U.S.-GCC RIFT
It is not hard to find severe criticism of American policy from Gulf sources that have long been identified as friends of the United States. Perhaps the most notable critics have been senior members of the ruling family of Saudi Arabia. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, long-time Saudi ambassador to Washington and the country's (former) national-security adviser, threatened in October 2013 a "major shift" in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria's civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran. According to news reports, "Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011." "The shift away from the United States is a major one,"11 according to a source close to Saudi policy: "Saudi doesn't want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent." Prince Mohammad bin Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz, the king's nephew and the Saudi ambassador to the UK in an op-ed in The New York Times was critical of the U.S. policy: "We believe that many of the West's policies on both Iran and Syria risk the stability and security of the Middle East. This is a dangerous gamble, about which we cannot remain silent, and will not stand idly by…. The West has allowed one regime to survive (Syria) and the other (Iran) to continue its program for uranium enrichment, with all the consequent dangers of weaponization."12
Prince Turki Al-Faisal, a former ambassador to the United States and co-founder of the King Faisal Foundation, expressed in many high-exposure public talks, lectures and media interviews in the United States and elsewhere the Saudi disappointment over its divergent views with Washington. He said on one occasion, "There is definitely, from a public-opinion point of view in the Kingdom, a high level of disappointment in the U.S. government's dealings, not just with Palestine, but equally with Syria." In the keynote speech at the annual conference on U.S.-Arab Relations in Washington, D.C., in October 2013, he was unabashedly critical of the United States, "complaining about the White House's decision to embrace an agreement to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons instead of carrying out a cruise missile strike against Mr. Assad's forces."13
It is not simply Saudi officials who are critical of recent American policy in the region. Gulf commentators, not at all unfriendly to the United States, have joined the chorus. Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, a UAE political science professor, was equally skeptical in an op-ed piece in Gulf News of the U.S. policy vis-à-vis its GCC partners: "There is no way on earth the Arab Gulf states can trust America the way they used to during the past six decades."14 Abdulaziz bin Sager, a Saudi intellectual and the chairman of the influential Gulf Research Center, a think tank in Jeddah, opined in the leading Saudi English-language newspaper Arab News that the relationship between the two partners "appears to be at a crossroads. Despite a long history of the relationship and mutual interest in the stability and security of the Gulf region, the GCC states and the United States look as if they are growing apart." Dr. Sager concludes, "The fact that one sees such a divergence has raised some serious questions in the minds of the Gulf citizens....It is not clear whether the GCC states can continue to rely on U.S. policy to not only protect the region, but to move it towards a more stable future."15
IRAN, SYRIA AND THE MB
The GCC states formally welcomed the interim agreement on the Iranian nuclear program reached in December 2013. They have a stake in seeing this charm offensive bear fruit; it could prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power in our neighborhood and avert a much-dreaded military showdown. But the Gulf does not see the Iranian threat as limited to the nuclear issue. The distrust level is high. There is a widely held perception within the GCC states of a hegemonic Iranian design to dominate the Gulf region, benefitting from the lack of an indigenous balance of power. Iran represents an existential threat to the smaller GCC states. "This is the product of the structural imbalances, of Iran's revolutionary ethos, of its regional behavior and reach and of its nuclear ambitions."16
Most of the GCC states view Iran as an existential threat because of its hegemonic posture, the Sunni-Shiite feuds, and its meddling in the affairs of the GCC and other Arab states. The United States and the West are fixated on the nuclear issue, the significance of which the GCC states understand; they do not want to see an emboldened nuclear Iran menace and undermine the GCC states and blackmail them to submit to Iran's will. Yet the GCC states do not share the West's narrative that Iran's nuclear research is the central issue.
This view of Iran was articulated by the Kuwaiti emir during the most recent Arab summit: "The dangers around us are enormous, and we will not move towards joint Arab action without our unity and without casting aside our differences." Although he named no country, "he was alluding to worsening disputes among Arab states over the political role of Islamists in the region, and over what many Gulf states regard as interference in their affairs by Shiite Muslim Iran, locked in a struggle for regional influence with Sunni rival Saudi Arabia."17 This comes on the heels of the new pragmatic Iranian president Hassan Rouhani with his "constructive engagement."18 It resonated well with the Obama administration, which embarked on rapprochement, irking the GCC partners. They feared a sellout by their patron. The U.S. allies see Washington rewarding Iran's transgressions. The GCC states do not share the U.S. view that striking a nuclear deal will lead to a more reasonable Iran. On the contrary, the GCC states think a nuclear deal will embolden Iran and give it license for even more aggressive meddling. This time, Iran will achieve its objectives with U.S. backing, at the expense of U.S. allies.
It is in this framework that the differences between the Gulf states and the United States over Syria need to be understood. From a Saudi-led GCC perspective, what irks these states is the lack of U.S. resolve in dealing effectively with the Syrian debacle, which is sucking the region into a sectarian proxy war. They fear it will engulf the region and radicalize their own youth, who are fighting in droves in Syria and could bring their extremism back home. This is on top of Syria's becoming the breeding ground for an exacerbated Sunni-Shiite schism.
The Gulf states have supported change in Syria and sided with the opposition and the rebellion. Their goal to contribute to the ousting of the Assad regime has been frustrated by a number of factors, and they themselves have committed mistakes along the way. The GCC role seems at times divisive, exacerbating rather than easing tensions among the Syrian opposition. Admittedly, the Syrian crisis has exposed Gulf limitations and weaknesses. Still, the GCC states would like to see the U.S. role more aligned with their position over Syria and support the vetted moderate rebels with more lethal weapons to change the balance on the ground against the Assad regime. The GCC states remain important supporters of the Syrian opposition and central players in any negotiated settlement, as well as donors to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria and its neighboring countries.
Another contentious issue between the GCC states (except Qatar) and the United States is U.S. policy toward Egypt. There has been clear divergence between the two partners from the moment the Obama administration abandoned Mubarak, its staunch ally and partner. Most of the GCC states failed to see the U.S. objectives in dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood as the winners of the Arab Spring. Some even describe as naïve the Obama administration's embrace of the Brotherhood as a moderate Muslim force. The GCC were quick to support the military-backed transitional regime when it toppled Mohammad Morsi, the first civilian ever elected president. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait showered Egypt with $12 billion in cash, oil products and soft loans. Egypt became a divisive issue within the GCC itself, leading to the recall of the Saudi, UAE and Bahraini ambassadors from Qatar, mainly over its support of the Muslim Brotherhood and opposition to the military-backed transitional government. Saudi Arabia, which with Egypt and the UAE declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, sees the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat bent on wreacking havoc. This was evident in the trial of cells of Emirati citizens and Egyptians who were plotting against the UAE regime. Therefore, these states are strongly backing the military-supported regime in Egypt and the new president, Abdul Fattah Al-Sissi. Al-Sissi-led Egypt will be a bulwark against the Muslim Brotherhood, keeping it on the defensive and chipping away at its grassroots support. This could prove difficult. The Brotherhood has entrenched religious, political and social appeal for its charitable work in Egypt and throughout the Arab and Muslim world.
U.S. MISUNDERSTANDING OF THE GULF
American policy makers certainly understand that their Gulf allies are upset and worried about the direction of Washington's regional policies. In the last year, they have engaged in a number of efforts to reassure the GCC states of America's continued commitment to their defense. But in limiting their reassurances to the most extreme and unlikely case — a direct attack by Iran or another power on the GCC states themselves — and ignoring Gulf worries about America's regional policy more generally, they are unwittingly feeding Gulf fears that even American promises to defend the Gulf states against attack are not to be trusted.
An example of this kind of not-so-comforting reassurance was delivered by Under Secretary of State William Burns at the Manama Dialogue in December 2013:
The truth is that for all the talk about rebalance and retrenchment, the Gulf remains central to American national interests, and partnership with the United States remains central to the national interests of Gulf states. At the same time, our Gulf partners know that no country or collection of countries can do for the Gulf states what the Unites States has done and continues to do.19
The reassuring talk about the unwavering U.S. commitment and the visits by senior U.S. officials are gestures showing that the United States takes its GCC partners seriously. President Obama's visit at the end of March 2014 to Saudi Arabia was intended to reassure the edgy Saudis and other GCC partners over many divergent issues. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a speech to the first multilateral U.S.-GCC security forum at the end of March 2012, had stressed Washington's "rock solid and unwavering" commitment to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman, all longstanding U.S. allies.20 General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke reassuringly in March 2013 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies of the U.S. commitment to the GCC States and people: "You can take it to the bank that we will remain the partners that you've enjoyed, and you will be the partners that we've enjoyed."21
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at the IISS Manama Dialogue in December 2013, like other U.S. civilian and military officials, tried to calm the paranoia of their GCC partners. "Questions have been raised about America's intentions, America's strategy, and America's commitment to this region. The U.S. has enduring interests in this critical region of the world, and we remain fully committed to the security of our allies and our partners in the region."22 The U.S. Department of Defense has approved more than $75 billion in arms sales to GCC states since 2007. These sales during the past six years are worth nearly as much as those made in the previous 15 years. As Anthony Cordesman points out, "The U.S. has transferred $50.4 billion worth of new arms deliveries between 2004-2011 out of total Arab Gulf orders of $78.4 billion, (65 percent) and now has over $70 billion worth of new orders in delivery in the pipeline, many of which will give Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Arab Gulf states some of the most advanced air combat, land-based air defense, and naval capabilities in the world."
Yet all these efforts at reassurance and all these arms sales have not been followed up by policies that would address the major security threats perceived by the GCC states in Iran, Syria, Iraq or elsewhere in the region. The words might be comforting, but the actions and inactions that follow them call the credibility of the words into question. The Gulf states certainly know that no country can do for them what the United States can. But the fact that American policy in the region increasingly does not align with their own makes them worried that, in the future, America will not choose to honor their commitments even to the defense of the Gulf states.
Gulf observers point to more nuanced accounts of American policy, like that given by former U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait James Larocco, as a source of worry. Larocco has argued that "the Gulf states need to understand the limits of what the United States is willing and able to do in the region." In his opinion, "the U.S. commitment to its Gulf allies will not waver, although the United States and Gulf states will continue to hold divergent views of how to address a range of issues including the conflict in Syria, negotiations with Iran, and political transition in Egypt."23 Long-time Washington Middle East watcher Jon Alterman accurately captured GCC elites' fears when he wrote: "In this environment, the idea has begun to circulate not only that the United States is not the asset it once was but that it is often a liability."24
The Gulf states also need far more than simple rhetorical reassurance from Washington. The crux of the tenuous relationship between the GCC states and the Obama administration centers around their deep frustration over U.S. policy toward détente with Iran and the possibility of a grand bargain, which the GCC considers a sellout of their interests and well being. It is clear that a resetting of the strategic partnership is urgently needed to advance the enduring relationship, without exaggerating the abandonment dilemma.
There are few options available for either side; abandonment would be counterproductive for both the United States and its GCC partners. And both sides, at heart, realize this. There have been some recent positive steps on the American side to strengthen the relationship. After 34 years since the GCC formation in 1981, the United States has started for the first time to deal with the six states seriously, and to embark on a strategic approach by treating them as one bloc. In March 2012, the United States launched with its GCC partners the "U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum." In the fall of 2013, Secretary of State Kerry hosted his Gulf counterparts as a group in New York during the UN General Assembly meetings as part of that forum. Secretary of Defense Hagel announced in Manama in December 2013 an expansion of the forum to include, for the first time, an annual meeting of defense ministers. Under Secretary Burns said, "These high-level gatherings have allowed our senior diplomats and defense officials to define a shared set of priorities and practical steps we can take to address threats to our security."25
The GCC states themselves need to get their house in order as a first step to getting the relationship with the United States back on track. For the first time in three decades, divergent views and disputes among the Gulf states are out in the open. But things seem to be heading to a reconciliation, led by Kuwait's trouble-shooting emir, who has been active behind the scenes in fence-mending mediation.
The divergent views between the two partners persist, as I argued in Middle East Policy in 1997, "The view in Washington is increasingly challenged by voices, both in the Gulf region and in the United States, questioning the effectiveness of the policy and the motives behind it. In the Gulf itself, a strong current of opinion is forming that sees American policy simply as a cover for permanent American presence that drains Gulf treasuries through arms sales."26
The enduring interests for both sides should be the foundations for resetting the agenda between the United States and the GCC states. It should not be a zero-sum game, but a win-win. The United States, through its officials and interlocutors, should address GCC strategic concerns in a serious manner and strive to assuage the fears of the GCC states about its unwavering commitment, its détente and endgame with Iran and Iran's hegemonic project, meddling in the GCC and other Arab states, and fomenting sectarian strife and exacerbating the Sunni-Shiite schism. In addition, the United States needs an effective policy from the GCC perspective in dealing with the Syrian quagmire, to weaken the Assad regime on the ground and force a political solution at the negotiating table.
The strategic relationship between the GCC states and the United States is embedded in shared enduring interests and the U.S. commitment to come to the defense of its GCC partners. That was confirmed repeatedly by both U.S. civilians and military leaders. The strategic partnership needs to be appreciated and understood; there is more room for convergence than divergence over the strategic issues that could undermine the national interests of the GCC states. The United States and the GCC states have invested a very long time in this strategic partnership. It is in both sides' national interest to have a stable and prosperous Gulf region. Both sides have more to lose than to gain if their shared values and interests are not harnessed into a shared agenda to reset and reinvigorate this strategic partnership.
1 Chas Freeman, "Coping with Kaleidoscope in the Middle East: Remarks to the 22nd Annual National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations," Washington, D.C., October 22, 2013, http://mepc.org/articles-commentary/speeches/coping-kaleidoscopic-chang….
2 Richard Haass, Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America's House in Order (Basic Books, 2013).
3 Glenn Snyder, "The Security Dilemma in Alliance Politics," World Politics 3, no. 4 (July 1984): 461-495.
4 Gregory Gause III, "Will Nuclear Talks with Iran Provoke a Crisis in U.S.-Saudi Ties?" Brookings Institute, October 14, 2014, http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/iran-at-saban/posts/2013/10/14-saudi-ira….
5 Mohammad Al-Sabah, "Mohammad Alsabah: Nahtaj ila daleel amali ala tasriyhat Iran aliyjabiah…Tsaaly hal tanawal itifiaq (5+1) sorya wa AlBahrain? (Mohammad Al-Sabah: We need a practical proof to test Iran's positive statements… He questions whether (5+1) included Syria and Bahrain?)" Alkuwaityah, December 16, 2013, 5.
6 Gause, 2014.
7 Roula Khalaf, "Saudi Arabia: A Kingdom on Guard," Financial Times, March 26, 2014, http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/8a965110-b4c0-11e3-af92-00144feabdc0.htm….
8 Robert Worth, "Saudi Arabia Rejects UN Security Council Seat in Protest Move," New York Times, October 18, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/19/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-rejects….
9 David D. Kirkpatrick, "Saudis Put Terrorist Label on Muslim Brotherhood," New York Times, March 7, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/08/world/middleeast/saudis-put-terrorist….
10 Marc Lynch, "Obama Is about to Wade into an Insecure Gulf," Washington Post, March 25, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/03/25/obama-is-….
11 "Saudi Arabia Warns of Shift Away from U.S. over Syria, Iran," Reuters , October 22, 2013.
12 Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz, "Saudi Arabia Will Go It Alone," New York Times, December 17, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/opinion/saudi-arabia-will-go-it-alone….
13 Michael R. Gordon, "Criticism of United States' Mideast Policy Increasingly Comes from Allies," New York Times, October 23, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/24/world/middleeast/kerry-reassures-isra….
14 Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, "It's No Longer Business as Usual," Gulf News, December 9, 2013, http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/it-s-no-longer-business-as-usua….
15 Abdulaziz Bin Sager, "Wither GCC-U.S. Relations," Arab News, March 29, 2013, http://www.arabnews.com/news/446395.
16 The 4th Regional Conference by the Lebanese Armed Forces, "Anticipated Status Quo in the Middle East in Light of the Likely Changes and Compromises: Legitimacy of the New Regimes and Pillars of the New Regional Order," Research and Strategic Center, Beirut, Lebanon, April 9-12, 2014.
17 Sylvia Westall and Amena Bakr, "Arab Summit Struggles to Heal Rifts, Kuwait Warns of Peril," Reuters, March 25, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/25/arabs-summit-idUSL5N0MM1QB201….
18 Hassan Rouhani, "Why Iran Seeks Constructive Engagement," Washington Post, September 10, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/president-of-iran-Haassan-rouhan….
19 William Burns, "A Renewed Agenda for U.S.-Gulf Partnership," Center for Strategic and International Studies, Gulf Roundtable, Washington, D.C., February 19, 2014, http://www.state.gov/s/d/2014/221809.htm.
20 "Clinton Raises Missile Shield, Efforts to End Syria Violence," Gulf News, March 31, 2012, http://gulfnews.com/news/region/general/clinton-raises-missile-shield-e….
21 "General Dempsey's Remarks at the Center for Strategic & International Studies Gulf Roundtable," March 18, 2013, http://www.jcs.mil/Media/Speeches/tabid/3890/Article/770/gen-dempseys-r….
22 Chuck Hagel, U.S. Secretary of Defense Speech, at the IISS-Manama Dialogue, December 7, 2013, http://www.defense.gov/Speeches/Speech.aspx?SpeechID=1824; and Anthony H. Cordesman, "Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Clash within a Civilization," CSIS, February 3, 2014, https://csis.org/publication/saudi-arabia-iran-and-clash-within-civiliz….
23 James Larocco, "Gulf Roundtable: U.S.-Gulf Relationship in 2014," Center for Strategic and International Studies, January 15, 2014, https://csis.org/event/gulf-roundtable-us-gulf-relations-2014.
24 Jon Alterman, "A Deeper Difference," Middle East Program, CSIS, January, 2014, http://csis.org/files/publication/1114_MENC.pdf.
25 Burns, 2014.
26 Abdullah K. Al Shayji, "Dangerous Perceptions: Gulf Views of the U.S. Role in the Region," Middle East Policy 5, no. 3 (September 1997): 1-13.