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U.S. President Barack Obama with officials from the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Camp David, Maryland, May 14, 2015 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

The Rashomon Effect: U.S.-Gulf Relations After Camp David Summit

Thursday, May 28, 2015

In Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s iconic 1950 film, “Rashomon,” four people witness a crime outside the gates of Kyoto. When called on to testify in court, each has a distinctly different version of the events, and even different ideas of who the guilty party is. The Rashomon effect, as this phenomenon is often called, was in evidence this month, when reports leading up to and following the U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit earlier this month produced wildly divergent assessments, from total failure to “better than expected.”

There’s a danger of imbuing too much importance to the summit itself, which is only one small step in a very long saga, one that may soon be superseded by other regional dramas and transactions. But parsing the event is useful in part because it captures the subtle and often contradictory ways the United States and the GCC find themselves entwined in each other’s national security policies. In addition, studying President Barack Obama’s message to the Arab leaders, as well as their reactions, can illuminate some of the dynamics likely to prevail at least until the end of the Obama presidency. ...

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