Gulf Cooperation Council

  • Bridging the Gulf in the GCC

    Relations between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have been fractured for much of the past year. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in June 2017 citing reports that Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani had made remarks of the United States while offering support for Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran, and claiming Doha’s policies fueled regional terrorism and extremism.

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  • What Not to Expect from the Saudi Crown Prince

    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the United States has energized the commentariat in Washington. Rarely have I seen more Middle East experts opining excitedly on the personality of and prospects for an Arab leader, on the significant change he has already brought to Saudi Arabia, and on the need to support his efforts to transform his kingdom economically and socially.  And, indeed, this young dynamic leader has taken long-overdue steps—allowing women to drive, reining in the religious police, formulating a vision for economic reform. Perhaps most refreshingly, he has acknowledged that it is OK, and even important, for Saudi citizens to have fun in public—opening movie houses and amusement parks as a start.  (A glass of wine with dinner is not in the cards, however.) 

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  • Will the Trump Administration Address the GCC-North Korea Nexus?

    Several recent articles on North Korea’s relationship with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have drawn this Northeast Asian country into an ongoing crisis within the bloc. From Washington’s perspective, GCC-North Korea relations threaten to undermine US efforts to isolate Pyongyang and squeeze it economically in response to its belligerent behavior marked by the recent testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

    Pyongyang’s interest in the Arabian Peninsula states dates back to the Cold War. Despite Washington’s efforts to isolate North Korea, the Hermit Kingdom’s ties with GCC member states have only deepened over...

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  • A Widening Gulf

    Qatar crisis creates a headache for the United States

    Nearly two months in, the diplomatic crisis between the Arab Gulf states is growing ever more complicated. The July 16 Washington Post report that cites unnamed US intelligence officials as claiming that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) precipitated the diplomatic row with Qatar by hacking Qatari state-run news outlets and attributing false statements to the tiny emirate’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, is, if true, troubling for several reasons.

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  • A Question for Washington: Who in the GCC Finances Terrorism?

    Journalists in Middle Eastern media outlets have been engaged in harsh mudslinging ever since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Bahrain (aka the quartet) severed diplomatic and economic relations with Qatar in June over Doha’s alleged support for the Islamic State (ISIS), al Qaeda, and Iranian-backed militias in numerous Arab states. Although some maintain that the move was long overdue, others argue that for Saudi Arabia to lead the charge was akin to the pot calling the kettle black and that Riyadh, more than any Arab capital, has promoted violent extremism across the Muslim world.

    Based on the words and actions of the American diplomatic establishment and the Pentagon since the Qatar crisis erupted, it is clear that Washington plans to continue working closely with all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in the struggle against terrorism. Nonetheless, the US government’s mixed messages on the Qatar crisis have illustrated the multifaceted and...

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  • Al Jazeera in the Eye of a Storm

    Al Jazeera, the first state-owned pan-Arab news network, means many different things to Middle Eastern governments and citizens. The Doha-headquartered network has provided Arabs with a style of reporting that was unheard of in the region before its launch twenty-two years ago. In 2011, Al Jazeera’s coverage of Arab Spring uprisings shaped history by promoting revolutionary change and human rights-focused narratives.

    In some Arabs’ eyes, Al Jazeera is a ‘watchdog for democracy’ that gives a ‘voice to the voiceless’, covering stories that are popular among large segments of Middle Eastern societies and unpopular with most Arab governments. Other Arabs...

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  • The Gulf’s Evolving Regional Theater

    A month later and the Saudi-led decision to blockade Qatar is escalating tensions in the Gulf to the detriment of US security interests. Increasingly so, regional actors like Tehran and Ankara are becoming stakeholders in the conflict, and are actively taking steps to shape it in ways that suit their respective interests and regional visions. This will only serve to perpetuate the rift and complicate negotiations efforts, as downscaling ties with Iran and Turkey are leading demands of Saudi. The United States has a security interest in preventing the conflict from devolving into another regional theater. If the US approach remains divided, or worse, divisive, Washington could soon see its ability to leverage its influence eroding.

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  • Haid in Middle East Eye: How the Gulf Crisis Could Spill Over into Rebel Rivalry in Syria


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  • Trump Navigates the Middle East

    US President Donald J. Trump signaled through his meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ), crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in Washington on May 15 his administration’s commitment to working closely with the UAE and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to counter Iran’s expanding influence in the Arab world and fight al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

    On May 19, Trump travels to Saudi Arabia where he will meet King Salman and up to twenty heads of state of Muslim-majority countries. MbZ’s visit to Washington has, in part, helped Trump prepare for his engagements in Saudi Arabia.

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  • Macron’s Victory is Welcome News for Saudi Arabia and Qatar

    Emmanuel Macron’s election as the next president of France is positive news for Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Among the four leading candidates in the presidential election, Riyadh and Doha most favored Macron, whose foreign policy positions are pro-European Union (EU) and who is expected to continue Paris’ overall approach to international affairs. More specifically, Macron’s victory will likely preserve France’s relationships with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have deepened under outgoing French President François Hollande and his predecessor, Nicholas Sarkozy.

    A victory for Macron’s rival, far-right National Front candidate, Marine Le Pen, would have been bad news for France-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) relations. Her foreign policy agenda entailed aligning Paris more closely with Moscow on regional issues, chiefly Syria, where Russia and the GCC’s interests have clashed. Le Pen also frequently accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supporting the Islamic State in the Iraq and...

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