The Middle East and the United States: A Historical and Political Reassessment

By David W. Lesch | Go to book overview

24
The U.S.-GCC Relationship:
Is It a Glass Leaking or a Glass Filling?

John Duke Anthony

The Middle East regional grouping with which the United States has developed its most extensive and multifaceted relationship is the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), composed of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The GCC region's prodigious oil reserves, to be sure, have long figured prominently in any public discussion of the area. 1 However, the nature of U.S. involvement in the GCC countries in reality is much more diverse and complex than a focus on their energy resources alone would suggest. Although the United States has recently twice deployed armed forces to the region, most Americans still seem unaware of U.S. interests there other than oil.

The GCC countries have played, and are likely to continue to play, a major role in regional and world affairs. Despite broad agreement on this factual premise, there are few scholarly assessments of what the U.S. gains and does not gain from its relationships with the GCC countries. This chapter provides such an assessment, albeit mainly from only one side of the equation: what the GCC (as a nonsupranational organization) and its members do and do not contribute to their relationships with the United States. 2 The U.S.-GCC relationship is approached in terms of negatives and positives, or, metaphorically, from the idea that the relationship is a glass that is leaking and a glass that is filling. The "leaking," or negativist, thesis is presented first. We will look at five stated U.S. interests: strategic, economic, political, commercial, and defense.


The Glass Is Leaking: The Negativist Assessment

U.S. Strategic Interests

Both negativists and positivists agree that the United States, for at least a half-century, has had several strategic interests related to the Gulf. The four most important have been: to prevent the Strait of Hormuz and hydrocarbon resources in the region from

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