Arab Gulf States and America: Making Friends

Despite the recent chaos in Iraq and the uncertain future of the country, it is clear that the post-Saddam Hussein Middle East is a very different place. There might not be peace – yet – between Israelis and Palestinians, but Libya’s decision to give up weapons of mass destruction is an indication that surprising moves and big changes are possible. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Gulf where, instead of referring to the ‘Saudi-led Arab Gulf states’, one must increasingly use the phrase ‘conservative Arab Gulf states apart from Saudi Arabia’.

The World Today Updated 16 October 2020 Published 1 May 2004 3 minute READ

Dr Julie Smith

In the months following the terror attacks of September 11 2001, it became increasingly clear that Saudi Arabia was no longer fulfilling its Washington-backed leadership role in the Gulf.

Troubled by apparently widespread domestic sympathy for Osama Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network, the Saudi royal family began to withdraw much of its support for the United States’ diplomatic and military moves, first against Afghanistan and then Iraq.

Washington’s response has been to develop relationships with the other conservative Arab Gulf states – Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman – while officially claiming that relations with Riyadh continue to be excellent.

This policy contributed greatly to the success of the US-led coalition that overthrew the regime of Saddam Hussein in April. Yet the ground-work for deepening relations with these states was effectively laid in the early 1990s.

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