Building a better US-Gulf partnership

A new Atlantic Council issue brief, “Building a Better US-Gulf Partnership,” contends that the United States and its Gulf partners must prioritize and build on their shared interests in light of ongoing erosion of ties, and a fundamental gap in expectations about the US role in the region and its commitment to security for the Gulf states.

Issue brief author Richard LeBaron, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, argues that tensions between the United States and its partners in the Gulf have flared up visibly in the last several months, notably with Saudi Arabia’s public displays of displeasure with the US approach to the Syria conflict, nervousness about an interim nuclear deal with Iran, and sharp differences over Egypt. The report’s central conclusion is there is far more room for greater convergence and better practical cooperation to address shared interests. LeBaron calls for a more strategic, less transactional approach to the relationship. Specifically, the author argues this new approach will require high-level US attention over many years, offering two specific recommendations to build on shared interests:

  • Develop and implement a medium-term plan to achieve sustainable economic progress in Egypt and other transitioning Middle East and North Africa states, with Gulf states taking the lead in cooperation with the international financial institutions and other key players.
  • Create a genuine “strategic” US-Gulf dialogue about how to ensure Gulf security in the face of various challenges in the coming years that would build on a set of strong existing security linkages. This would recognize both a continuing US role for some time but also focus on preparing the Gulf states to assume more responsibility for their own security.

The Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East brings North American and European voices together with experts from the Middle East, fostering a policy relevant dialogue about the future of the region at a historic moment of political transformation. The Hariri Center provides objective analysis and innovative policy recommendations regarding political, economic, and social change in the Arab countries, and creates communities of influence around critical issues.

Related Experts: Richard LeBaron