Since the British withdrawal from the Gulf in 1971, the Arab Gulf states have failed to forge a successful mutual security arrangement for protection against external threats nor capable of resolving internal disputes. Gulf States had security concerns about both regional and global powers such as Iraq, the former Soviet Union, and especially Iran. The Arab Gulf states have long feared Iranian hegemonistic ambitions but the 1979 Islamic Revolution added the additional threat that revolutionary change might spill over to undermine monarchical rule in the six Gulf states. The event became the inflection point for the United States, which had until then attempted without much success to create defense arrangements for decades based on Iran, Iraq, and Turkey confronting the USSR such as the Baghdad Pact or the Reagan Administration’s attempt to strike an accord between the region and Israel. However, even the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council in 1981 excluded a defense pact, a concept unachievable even after the 1990 Gulf War and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. The common perception of an Iranian threat to regional security today has still failed to mobilize the region. In fact, the 2014 Riyadh Agreement originally considered an attempt to bring the GCC States together to face a common enemy, sparked a row that culminated in the ongoing GCC crisis. Current American efforts to revive the concept of an Israel – Sunni Gulf States alliance seems to have foundered once again.
Gulf International Forum’s Executive Director Dr. Dania Thafer discusses with General Anthony C. Zinni the current security and defense status of the Gulf region and asks him why the Gulf has failed to form a sustainable defense structure?