U.S. Commitments to the Gulf Arab States

Event Information


U.S. Security Commitments to the Gulf Arab States: How Adequate?

Candid assessments of Gulf Arab allies’ perception of U.S. policies toward Iran, Iraq, Syria & Egypt

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2014 – The Middle East Policy Council’s 76th Capitol Hill Conference convened four experts with in-depth practical experience and relationships in the Gulf Arab states to discuss how these allies perceive current U.S. policies in the region. The conference took place several weeks after President Obama’s brief visit to Saudi Arabia where questions lingered about the substance of his meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and the extent of real tensions between the longtime allies.

The event panelists included Colin Kahl (Associate Professor, Georgetown University); Michael Gfoeller (Adviser, Chertoff Group); Mark N. Katz (Professor, George Mason University); and Mark T. Kimmitt (Brigadier General, U.S. Army ret.). Ford M. Fraker, president of the Middle East Policy Council, moderated the event and Thomas R. Mattair, executive director of the Council, was a discussant. More specific remarks from the panelists:

• Colin Kahl summarized the unease in the region that U.S. military “fatigue,” fiscal constraints at home and emerging American energy independence might limit its future engagement there. Also, a nuclear deal with Iran could precipitate further U.S. disengagement, thereby allowing Iran to expand its hegemonic ambitions in the greater Middle East.

• Michael Gfoeller highlighted the security concerns in many Gulf states associated with defeated jihadists returning from Syria, where the Assad regime appears likely to maintain a grip on power. This potential for domestic instability partially explains recent moves against the Muslim Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia.

• Mark Katz addressed the existence of a “gulf between the U.S. and its Gulf allies,” despite long-standing security commitments. But while policy divergences exist over the 2003 Iraq invasion and how to respond to Syria’s civil war, the Arab Gulf states simply can’t rely on other countries like Pakistan, China or Russia to guarantee their security.

• Mark Kimmitt discussed how the current U.S. administration appears unwilling to use its military assets, a passivity that concerns some Gulf Arab states, particularly with regard to Syria. In his view, greater in-person strategic dialogue is needed to explore common ground between doing nothing and overt military action.

An edited video by speaker, including a full transcript from the event will be posted in a few days at www.mepc.org and published in the next issue of the journal Middle East Policy. The full video from the event is already available on the Middle East Policy Council website.

Contacts: For interviews or other content associated with this event, please contact Rebecca Anderson – (202) 296 6767 – mepc.press@gmail.com

Event Speakers

Colin Kahl

Associate Professor, Georgetown University;
Senior Fellow and Director, Middle East Security Program, Center for a New American Security;
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East


Michael Gfoeller

Adviser, Chertoff Group;
Former head, Middle East & North African Affairs, International Government Relations, ExxonMobil;
Former Deputy Chief of Mission & Chargé d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy, Riyadh


Mark N. Katz

Professor of Public and International Affairs, George Mason University;
Former Soviet Affairs Analyst, U.S. Department of State;
Former Visiting Scholar, Middle East Policy Council;


Mark T. Kimmitt

Middle East Security and Defense Adviser Brigadier General, U.S. Army (retired);
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs;
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East


Ford M. Fraker

President, Middle East Policy Council; Former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia


Thomas R. Mattair

Executive Director, Middle East Policy Council

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