Can the Gulf States Overcome Their Dependence on the U.S. for Regional Security?

Can the Gulf States Overcome Their Dependence on the U.S. for Regional Security?
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter speaks at the Manama Dialogue Manama, Bahrain, Dec. 10, 2016 (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley).

When the Gulf Cooperation Council states and their Western defense partners meet, the demand for changes in regional security cooperation and threat management has long come from the outsiders. The Western partners, the U.S. in particular, continue to call for more defense modernization and more integration of effort among these rich oil states. But the Gulf states are clearly not ready to take ownership of regional security, nor do they take the initiative for improving it.

The mood on the Arab side of the Gulf is one of worry. The six GCC countries—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman—as well as some of their neighbors see the Iran threat as growing. And despite huge Western arms sales and bilateral training protocols, the new decision by the U.K. government to reopen permanent bases in the region, and the apparent durability of the nuclear agreement with Iran, they express a free-floating anxiety about the West’s commitment to their security.

Yet, none of the region’s security experts and foreign policy leaders who spoke at the annual Manama Dialogue organized by the International Institute of Strategic Studies seemed ready for any bold new initiatives to strengthen their defenses or engage Iran in a process of conflict-prevention.

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