The December GCC Ministerial Meeting and Improved Integration in Gulf Military Forces

  • Dec 24, 2012

    The US cannot hope to achieve a successful resolution to Iran’s nuclear weapons programs, or establish security in the Gulf, without the support of its military partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.  Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE all provide important contributions to the effort to deter and defend against Iran, and any threat to the export of some 20% of the world’s oil supplies. They provide forces, basing rights, and political support that is a critical part of efforts to persuade Iran that it must negotiate, and their support will be equally critical in US efforts to contain Iran or carry out preventive strikes.

    USCENTCOM already plays a critical role in integrating the forces of each state into a more effective military deterrent and warfighting capacity. So do more than $64 billion in new arms agreement the US has signed over the last half decade.  Despite this assistance, there is no way that the individual Gulf states, or even the GCC as a whole, could bring to bear the capabilities the US can provide.  These assets include the mix of US intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, battle management, and high technology capacities, as well as valuable lessons gained from recent warfighting experience the US can apply to training and exercises.

    At the same time, however, the effectiveness of both the Gulf Cooperation Council and the military forces of each member state is severely undermined by their lack of integration, interoperability, and willingness to work together. The US cannot and should not deal with internal security issues and lower level threats. It should not have to be the prime integrator for all GCC military activities, and the GCC should be evolving towards steadily less dependence on outside military aid over time.

    Key Gulf leaders recognize that the heritage of national rivalries and tensions has undermined cooperation and the GCC’s regional interests. They see the need to strengthen the GCC, give it more unity, and make it a more effective alliance. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has taken the lead in pushing for such improvements and a broader form of unity within the GCC. The GCC is addressing these issues at its December 2012 Ministerial meeting. Hopefully it will go beyond words and gestures, and take real measures towards protecting its interests and regional cooperation that have been necessary since its founding.

    The Burke Chair at CSIS has prepared analysis on the steps the GCC could and should take in the face of the growing threat from Iran, the continuing challenge of Al Qaida and other forms of terrorism, and the possibility that some regional state like Yemen could become a new source of threats.  This paper is entitled Moving Towards Unity: Expanding the Role of the GCC in Gulf Security. It is available on the CSIS web site at

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Anthony H. Cordesman