Security Cooperation in the Gulf
November 11, 2008
The Southern Gulf states and the United States must make major changes in their national security posture over the next few years. U.S. withdrawals from Iraq, the rising potential threat from Iran, and the need to meet new security challenges all require substantial changes in the security posture and forces of each Gulf country and in the size, structure, and deployment of U.S. forces in the Gulf.
Cooperation among the Gulf states is only one aspect of these force shifts, but it is a critical one. The Burke Chair at CSIS has developed a new briefing on such cooperation that strongly challenges the idea that Iran is an emerging hegemon in the region. It draws on a briefing prepared for the 17th annual policymakers conference of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.
The brief shows that the states of the Southern Gulf--or Gulf Cooperation Council--have consistently spent more than 7 times as much on military forces as Iran and more than 15 times as much on arms imports. This lead in resources is matched by a lead in quality. The Southern Gulf states have nearly free access to the world’s most advanced military technology and Iran does not. The brief does show that Iran can pose significant conventional threats, but that its one real advantage is in total manpower--an advantage it cannot use in most scenarios. The Southern Gulf states not only have the support of U.S., British, and French forces, but a qualitative and quantitative advantage in key land weapons, aircraft and air systems, and ships.