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Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, center, oversees the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Kuwait City, Dec. 5, 2017 (AP photo by Jon Gambrell).

What Does Disarray in the Gulf Mean for the GCC?

Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018

The Arab countries of the Persian Gulf are in a period of unusual turbulence. It’s not their declared enemy, Iran, that is causing the trouble, but the secondary effects of overly ambitious and high-risk policy choices by a new generation of leaders from Riyadh to Abu Dhabi. Their major security partners, including the United States, are worried that regional coordination and cooperation have become harder, with each Gulf state distracted by local crises, while Russia and Iran are benefiting from the disarray. It raises longer-term concerns about the future of their regional bloc, the Gulf Cooperation Council, which has never really lived up to its name.

When Secretary of Defense James Mattis addressed Gulf leaders last week at the Manama Dialogue, an annual security summit in Bahrain, he mostly adhered to the normal rituals of U.S. relations with its Gulf allies, praising local leaders and sharply criticizing Iran. But he spoke of the need to solve internal “debates” among GCC partners—a euphemism to be sure—and called for an urgent end to the disastrous Saudi-led war in Yemen. He had quite tough words about the ruthless killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul a month ago, saying that the “failure of any one nation to adhere to international norms and the rule of law undermines regional stability at a time when it is needed most.” ...

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