Working Group on a New US Defense Strategy and Posture in the Gulf

For more than four decades, the United States has had a robust web of partnerships with the states comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). This system has helped to achieve common strategic goals, including securing the free and constant flow of oil from the region to the world at large; preventing the rise of a hostile regional power that could threaten Middle East security; and countering Islamist extremists that seek to violently transform politics and society.

The relevance and importance of these goals in today’s strategic and regional environment have only increased. However, such pillars face increasing pressures due to historic winds of change in the region, including new global trends in disruptive technology, demographics, energy, and what seem to be tectonic shifts in Gulf politics. To continue to protect collective interests and strengthen security in the Gulf, the United States needs to revise its defense strategy, reshape its military presence, and recalibrate its level of political engagement in the Gulf.

Within this context, the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security convened a working group on April 22, 2014 to examine the evolving US strategy and posture in the Gulf in light of emerging challenges in the region.

The working group included presentations by senior-level US military and political officials and other subject-matter experts on US defense strategy and posture for the 21st century and on the Gulf partners’ ability to share the burden of regional security. The panelists and participants discussed energy, technology, climate change, and security trends confronting the Gulf and how those trends should inform US strategy. Participants and speakers also debated issues that could impact US defense strategy and posture in the region, including the outcome and subsequent potential implications of P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran; political and military challenges confronting the GCC; destabilization of key states due to economic and demographic shifts; technology trends; and new US global priorities.

The April 22 workshop is part of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security’s Middle East Peace and Security Initiative and its focus on Gulf security and the future of transatlantic engagement in that vital region. The workshop will inform a range of Atlantic Council products this year, including an issue brief by Bilal Y. Saab, Senior Fellow for Middle East Security at the Scowcroft Center, to be rolled out in June.