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Bridging the Gulf

How to Fix U.S. Relations With the GCC

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks while hosting the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at Camp David in Maryland, May 14, 2015. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

The events of the past five years have put an intense strain on the relationship between the United States and its traditional partners in the Arab world, particularly the countries that belong to the Gulf Cooperation Council: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. As popular revolts have flared up across the Middle East, civil wars have broken out, and the regional order has become increasingly vulnerable, leaders in Washington and in Arab capitals have often had starkly different reactions. Meanwhile, most of the GCC countries have watched nervously—and sometimes angrily—as the United States has negotiated with their bitter rival, Iran, over an agreement to limit the Iranian nuclear program.

In August, a few weeks after the nuclear deal was sealed, the Gulf countries publicly indicated their support for the agreement. But GCC leaders remain deeply suspicious of Iran and worry that by ending

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