Introduction: What is an ‘Unconventional’ Threat in the Gulf?

Linked together by dynastic structures and a conservative outlook, the rulers of the Arab Gulf states have proven surprisingly resilient to the ideological forces, revolutions and coups that have buffeted the rest of the Arab world since late 2010. At the formal level, these states have coalesced into a multilateral security structure, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), formed in response to the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. At the individual state level, security policies have typically followed a time-tested pattern: the dispersal of oil rents to placate potential opposition, the reliance on an external security guarantor, tribal patronage and intermarriage, the construction of nationalist narratives that link the ruling families with the state, and, most recently, carefully calibrated political reforms – the creation of parliaments and other participatory structures such as consultative councils (majalis al-shura).1 Finally, the Gulf system is marked by a high-degree of cross-border exchange: people, goods, and – most significantly for this paper – ideas.

What is often overlooked in studies of Gulf security is that the region’s rulers tend to frame transnational ideological threats – rather than conventional military ones – as the most pressing challenges to their survival.2 Throughout the modern history of the Gulf, these threats have included Nasserism, Ba’athism, Communism, and Revolutionary Shi’ism from Iran. Fears in the Gulf of the so-called “Shi’a crescent” and, most recently, post-Arab Spring worries about the ascendance of the Muslim Brotherhood across the region are only the latest variation of this trend.3 From the Gulf states’ perspective, these ideological and political threats are just as ‘unconventional’ and perhaps even more pressing than the menace of terrorism and piracy.

With this observation in mind, any examination of partnership between the Gulf and the West must account for differences in how ‘unconventional’4 threats are defined and responded to. This paper will explore current developments in the GCC-West partnership against these threats. There is a clear convergence and shared interest in combating terrorism and piracy; both the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) have a strong interest in bolstering the capacity of the GCC and individual Gulf states in countering these threats. Added to this, cyber defence is emerging as a pressing area for Western assistance to the Gulf states. But there are and will continue to be differences over the nature of domestic, political, and ideological challenges, and how best to address them.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Bahrain, where the regime continues to paint the domestic Shi’ite opposition as an extension of Iranian meddling in the region. Whereas the US has pressured to address this challenge through calibrated but expedient reform, the regime has tried to shift the focus to Iran.

A GCC-Western Convergence: Piracy and Terrorism Threats

On the issues of piracy and terrorism there is general agreement between the US, the EU and the GCC over the severity and immediacy of the threat. Attacks targeting the Strait of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb (BAM) could block significant oil transports and severely damage the regional and global economy. Almost all of the trade between the EU and China, Japan, India and the rest of Asia passes through Bab el-Mandeb and up to 30 percent of the world’s oil – including all of the oil and natural gas from the Persian Gulf heading west – passes through the Horn of Africa every day.5 Additionally, about 17 million barrels (more than 18 percent of daily worldwide oil demand) transit the Strait of Hormuz daily.6 Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has indicated its intent to close BAM and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB) conducted an attack in the Strait of Hormuz in July of 2010 and may attempt to launch similar attacks in the future. There have also been indications that AQAP would like to advance their alliance with Somalia’s Al-Shabaab in order to carry out maritime attacks.7

Given the dependence of their economies on maritime trade through the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, the GCC states have serious concerns about the threat of piracy. Oil tankers in particular, are an enticing target for pirates because of the large ransoms they provide.8 Evidence also suggests pirate activity is moving northward given that in 2011 twenty-two attacks and six hijackings were recorded north of the 19th parallel.9

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), in 2012 at least eighty commercial cargo ships were attacked in the Gulf of Aden, with nineteen successful hijackings.10 In the first six months of 2012 the IMB recorded a 54 percent drop in pirate activity compared to 2011. However, while moves to thwart piracy activity in the Gulf of Aden appear to be paying off, the IMB says that Somali piracy in the Indian Ocean is still a serious concern.11

The United States considers the main counterterrorism challenges in the Gulf to be the direct threat posed by AQAP, most critically in Yemen. A secondary threat is the flow of financial aid from Gulf charities and individuals to al-Qaeda affiliates around the globe. The GCC regimes, on the other hand, view terrorist organisations as a serious threat to their legitimacy. Terrorists groups like AQAP have successfully mobilized popular discontent against the pro-Western orientation of Gulf regimes. Additionally, by attacking oil targets, terrorist groups have the potential to weaken the ability of GCC regimes to bolster their legitimacy through the dispersal of oil rents. This risk was seen in February 2006 when AQAP attempted to attack a Saudi oil processing facility at Abqaiq. Had the attack been successful, it would have crippled Saudi oil production.12

While the current capability of terrorist organisations in the Arabian Peninsula has diminished, they remain a serious threat to the internal security and external stability of GCC states. Additionally, jihadist websites continue to galvanise support and facilitate communications between different groups. Terrorist financing continues, although Gulf states, particularly the Emirates, have made great strides in curtailing it. Saudi Arabia, in particular, has endeavoured to cut off non-official funding to al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, having learned the painful lesson of blowback during the Iraq War.13

Responses to piracy: the US and Europe carry most of the burden

Despite the fact that the economies of GCC states rely significantly on maritime trade through the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, the United States and Europe have borne the brunt of counter-piracy efforts in the region. Part of this is due to the perennial inability of the GCC to field a truly multilateral and coordinated military force. In other instances, it reflects an on-going preference by individual Gulf states to keep interactions with NATO and EU at the bilateral level.14

Aggressive patrolling by combined international naval forces and the growing use of private security contractors on vessels are acting as an effective deterrent in many cases. Currently, around three dozen warships patrol more than one million square miles of territory. These include ships from the EU Naval Force antipiracy operation (EU NAVFOR) and the US Navy, as well as those provided by Russia, India, China and NATO.15

As a UN Security Council permanent member, the United States supported international resolutions authorising international action in Somalia against pirates. Beyond this, the US assisted in the founding of an international Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia to coordinate individual counter-piracy efforts. At the military level, the US Navy and US Coast Guard contribute forces to the Combined Maritime Force’s Task Force 151 which conducts counter-piracy operations. Washington also supports NATO Operation Ocean Shield and EU Naval Forces’ Operation Atalanta.16

The main focus areas of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) are ‘defeating terrorism, preventing piracy, encouraging regional cooperation, and promoting a safe maritime environment’.17 The CMF draws together twenty-seven national components split between three major Combined Task Forces (CTFs). CTF-150 (maritime security and counter-terrorism), CTF-151 (counter-piracy) and CTF-152 (Arabian Gulf security and cooperation).18

The EU has taken on a particularly strong role in maritime security and counter-piracy. Because the EU view is that piracy will not be ended until the root causes of the problems in Somalia are successfully tackled, the European Union has developed its activity by formulating a Strategy for the Horn of Africa and appointing a Special Representative for the area, as well as launching the EU Training Mission (EUTM) Somalia, a six month training programme scheduled to end in December 2012 which trains security forces and aims to strengthen the Somali government.19

The EU has also launched EUCAP Nestor which aims to combat piracy by strengthening the rule of law sector in Somalia, with an initial focus on the regions of Puntland and Somaliland. In particular, the mission will support the development of a coastal police force and the judiciary. It will also strengthen the sea-going maritime capacity of Djibouti, Kenya and the Seychelles.20 The European Union is focusing on providing alternative livelihoods for the Somali in order to remove incentives for piracy and make sure that the coastal states of the region are able to police their own coastlines.

The EU agreed to set up Operation Atalanta in 2008 as an operation to combat piracy and in March 2012 the operation’s mandate was extended until December 2014. Operation Atalanta operates in a zone comprising the south of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Somali basin and part of the Indian Ocean, including the Seychelles.21

GCC counter-piracy efforts

In recent years, there have been nascent but largely incomplete efforts by the Gulf to shoulder more of the counter-piracy burden. The military side of the GCC, the Peninsula Shield Force, established a maritime information-sharing centre in Bahrain in 2010. Although ambitious in scope, the centre has been hobbled by technical problems and perennial reluctance to share sensitive information by individual GCC states. Another key organisation is the Arab Navy Task Force. It was set up by the Saudis in June 2009 and includes eleven Arab navies from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jordan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Sudan, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait, and Yemen. However, not all countries have participated and activity was limited to protecting Saudi ships or assisting Yemeni coast guards in patrolling in the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden.

Increasingly, Gulf states are relying on private military companies to combat piracy. Kuwait and the Emirates are believed to be funding Saracen International, reportedly trained a force of over one thousand men in Puntland to act as a land-based counter-piracy force. Some have expressed concern at the potential for this new force to undermine existing soldiers and peacekeepers being trained and supplied by the European Union and African Union (AU). While the Kuwaiti government is highly likely to be motivated to assist Puntland with combating piracy and Islamist insurgents in the interest of regional security, the interests of private Kuwaiti investors may also have been influential. For example, the Kuwaiti Energy Company is interested in concession rights in Somalia.22

The Gulf states’ involvement in Somalia itself is unclear, although there have been a number of high-level attempts at mediation and dialogue. Aside from piracy, much of this involvement is driven by fears of collaboration and coordination between al-Shabaab and AQAP in Yemen. On 28 June 2012 the Emirates convened a summit in Dubai intended to achieve reconciliation in Somalia, which culminated in the signing of the Dubai Charter. The GCC described it as a historic achievement that would contribute to the cessation of a protracted bloody conflict. The GCC’s secretary general praised the United Arab Emirate’s efforts to achieve consensus among the parties in Somalia in order to preserve the region’s security and stability.23 On 5 July 2012, the commander of the UAE navy seemed to imply that the GCC was poised to play a greater land-based role in combatting piracy, calling for a combined GCC naval force that could achieve ‘significant results’ by ‘taking the benefits of historical links, long-lasting economic relations and perfect knowledge of Somali society, especially [of] the clan structure’.24 Yet given the structural weakness of the Somali Transitional Federal Government and the dominant role of African Union forces in Somalia, it is likely that the GCC’s role will be largely secondary, confined to diplomacy and financial support.

GCC counter-terrorism cooperation with the US and the EU

In contrast to anaemic counter-piracy efforts, there has been more robust counter-terrorism (CT) cooperation on the part of the GCC, although much of this has occurred at the bilateral rather than multilateral level. Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront of this effort. Riyadh has made CT a priority for all of its security and law enforcement agencies. Importantly, the Saudi government has worked to coordinate efforts against terrorism financing by opening lines of communication between the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) and the Ministry of Interior.25 Internationally, Saudi Arabia has security-related bilateral agreements on counterterrorism cooperation with the United States, Italy, the United Kingdom, India, Iran, Turkey, Senegal, Pakistan, Tunisia, Oman, Morocco, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, and Sudan.26

The United Arab Emirates has taken a variety of measures to implement a counter-terrorism strategy that includes enhancing its national legal framework, strengthening measures against money laundering, and enhancing all legal measures for preventing and prosecuting transnational crimes such as arms and drugs smuggling. The Emirates are also completing arrangements to host the International Centre for Excellence on Countering Violent Extremism. That centre opened in October 2012 and is intended as a forum where both governments and civil society actors can exchange ideas on combating terrorism.27

While Kuwait lacks legal provisions that deal specifically with terrorism and terrorist financing, the Kuwaiti government has taken certain measures to counter terrorism and violent extremism through other legal statutes and official statements. The government’s decision, however, to resort to other legal statutes to try suspected terrorists has hampered enforcement efforts, according to a recent State Department report.28

Bahrain has worked to tighten restrictions on terrorism financing and bolster its border patrol capabilities. Bahraini-US counter-terrorism cooperation has also flourished.29 Unfortunately, like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain’s domestic opposition have frequently been included under its broad definition of terrorism. In 2006, it gave sweeping powers to its security agencies and judiciary with the passage of the Bahraini Anti-Terror Act – a document that has come under fire from the UN and human rights NGOs.30

For many years, Qatar’s counter-terrorism cooperation record was mixed, although there are signs of improvement. In a State Department cable Qatar is said to be the ‘worst’ in counter-terrorism in the Middle East.31 Although Qatar enacted strong anti-money laundering/counter-terrorist financing (AML/CTF) legislation in 2010, its efforts to counter terrorist financing outside its borders by private individuals and charitable associations have fallen short of international standards.32

Oman’s value as a counter-terrorism ally stems in large measure from its strategic location at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz. Muscat has benefitted from US security assistance to bolster its ability to monitor the strait, as well as its expansive land borders. Oman’s cooperation on securing the border with Yemen is especially critical; several suspected terrorists have attempted to cross the border into Oman.33

Cyber warfare: an emerging area of GCC-West cooperation

Aside from piracy and terrorism, cyber threats are a critical unconventional challenge facing the GCC. GCC efforts span a broad range of actions intended to prevent cyber espionage, protect infrastructure targets from cyber attack, and counter the theft of intellectual property and trade secrets.34 The Emirates recently confronted a wave of website attacks and phishing attacks, causing significant financial damage. In response, the government created a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) and special courts to deal with cyber crime.35 Qatar, Saudi Arabia and countries such as Kuwait, Oman and the Emirates are now demanding greater US assistance in technology and expertise. Like Qatar in 2010, many want help from the US government and US companies. Saudi Arabia is setting up a cyber unit for defensive purposes and Aramco, the Saudi national oil company, has hired US consultants to help protect its networks.36 According to a National article published on 14 November 2012, ‘All the GCC states are creating their own centres or programs related to cyber defence. There are no hard facts on spending or on counteracting cyber warfare, but numbers must be quite dramatic, clearly in the billion and billions of dollars’.37

Political and Ideological Threats after the Arab Uprisings

A central point of divergence between the West and the GCC is that the regimes in the Gulf define political and ideological challenges to their rule as ‘unconventional threats’ that are equal too, if not greater, than the threats from terrorism, piracy and cyber warfare. The general consensus among Gulf states is that the Arab uprisings of 2011 have opened the door for the migration of new ideological threats to their corner of the Middle East. This was most clearly evident in Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout uprising, which was severe enough to prompt the GCC’s most serious expeditionary effort since its creation. The uprising has been frequently painted as an effort by Iran to extend its reach into the Gulf by local proxies. Less explicitly, Bahrain has emerged as an important litmus test of US reliability for rulers in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Frustrated and alarmed with what they perceive as Washington’s blithe abandonment of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi have pressured the United States to be steadfast in their support of the al-Khalifa ruling family. Saudi Arabia has also witnessed convulsions in its Eastern Province by marginalised Shi’ite communities. Since October 2011, roughly fifteen people are believed to have been killed in clashes with security policies. Like Bahrain, the ruling regime has viewed – or at least portrayed – the protests through the prism of Saudi-Iranian strategic competition.

Increasingly, there are accusations that the United States is abetting this strategy. The anxiety over what the US plans for the region is most dramatic in Bahrain, where high ranking government officials, Sunni Islamists and commentators in official media regularly raise the fear that Washington is plotting to create an al-Wifaq-led government in a regional reordering of power that would include a strengthening of US ties with Iran.38 It is important to note that this sentiment is not confined to media and Islamist figures. No less a figure than the commander of the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF), an important security partner with the United States, has made the accusation that the domestic Shi’ite opposition has been cooperating with Western non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to subvert the kingdom and hand it over to Iran.39

Aside from the spectre of Shi’ism and Iranian influence, a new, potentially more dangerous threat has vexed Gulf leaders: ‘Ikhwan-o-phobia’ or fear of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood threat is especially pernicious because it challenges the legitimacy of hereditary rulers using Islamic vocabulary, fused with populist rhetoric and a democratic political programme. Here again, there are mounting concerns that the United States may be coddling the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and facilitating its rise throughout the region. Fears of the Brotherhood are most pronounced in the Emirates and Saudi Arabia whereas Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar are more tolerant of the Brotherhood. Indeed, in the case of Bahrain, because of the sectarian split, the local Ikhwan have long been cultivated by the al-Khalifa as political allies against the Shi’ites.

As said, the fear of the Brotherhood is especially pronounced in the Emirates. Here, anxieties have resulted in increasingly repressive behaviour at home and the Gulf region that clashes with the US approach to the wider Arab world. The Emirate’s interpretation of the uprisings revolves around two fears: the exploitation of the revolts by Iran; and the rise of Islamist groups, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, which are hostile toward authoritarian regimes across the Arab world. On 9 October 2012 the United Arab Emirate’s foreign minister stated that ‘Gulf Arab countries should work together to stop the Muslim Brotherhood from plotting to undermine governments in the region.’ The Emirates has arrested around sixty Islamists this year, accusing them of belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood and conspiring to overthrow the government.

Balancing cooperation and reform: the case of Bahrain and the US

In the wake of the Arab uprisings, new questions have arisen in the West about the liabilities and risks incurred by continued cooperation with Gulf regimes that are resorting to increasingly repressive measures against largely peaceful movements for political change. While these tensions between realism and idealism are not new, they have been further highlighted by the Arab uprisings. It is a dilemma that is particularly acute for the United States, which has sought to maintain strategic access in the region in its containment of Iran while at the same time bolstering the domestic capacities of regional partners to shoulder more of the counter-terrorism and counter-piracy burden.

The United States finds itself in an especially difficult position in Bahrain where, beyond the basing of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, Washington has enjoyed strong counter-terrorism cooperation with the al-Khalifa ruling family. Increasingly though, the United States finds itself in the undesirable position of maintaining close ties with a repressive regime that has skilfully avoided meaningful reforms while engaging in a concerted public relations campaign to burnish its image. Aside from the perceptual damage to US legitimacy in the region, this exposure is having more direct consequences on the ground. Although the ruling al-Khalifas are not in any near or even mid-term danger of being overthrown, mounting instability could jeopardize US access and personnel on the island.

In light of these challenges, US policy has used arms transfers as a form of leverage to convince the Bahraini regime to enact reforms – or at least empower factions within the royal family that it believed were more predisposed toward reform. In the fall of 2011, concerns about the government’s abuses prompted a Congressional resolution to delay the planned sale of 53 million dollar worth of arms, including 44 Humvees and several hundred Tube-launched Optically Tracked Wire-guided anti-armour missiles (TOW). A State Department press release on 27 January 2012 indicated that a portion of the sale was in fact proceeding, using a clause that allowed military equipment under one million dollars to be sold without Congressional approval. In the release, the State Department cited ‘initial steps’ by the Bahraini government in implementing the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s (BICI) recommendations and stated that the equipment – comprised of non-lethal spare parts – was being used to ‘reinforce reforms in Bahrain.’ Not included in the release, the State Department emphasised, are Humvees and munitions used by Bahraini Ministry of Interior forces for crowd control, such as teargas canisters and stun grenades.40

Withholding crowd control items may be an attempt to limit the symbolic damage to US legitimacy caused by the regime’s crackdown. But such restrictions have had negligible effect on the street. Bahraini oppositionists point out that the regime has circumvented US restrictions by purchasing small arms munitions from Brazil and China. Most significantly, the regime bought Turkish-made ‘Cobra’ armoured personnel carriers as a substitute for the Humvee; the vehicles were deployed on the streets of Manama in time for the one-year anniversary of the 14 February uprising.41 According to several activists, the ‘Cobra’ is actually a more effective crowd control tool than the Humvee because its smaller chassis allows it to traverse the narrow backstreets of Bahrain’s Shi’ite villages.42

Ostensibly, the arms sales are also intended to shore up the more moderate, pro-reform crown prince against the hardliners – the State Department announced the approval during a visit by the crown prince to Washington in May 2012.43 Yet the crown prince has been steadily stripped of significant authority since the Saudi intervention in Bahrain and diplomatic support from Washington is unlikely to restore this.44 Moreover, the conservative faction – which includes the commander of the Bahraini Defence Force – has likely interpreted the transfer as a ‘win’ and sign of normalcy in US-Bahrain relations. For the opposition, specifically al-Wifaq, the release was a disheartening blow, confirming that Washington, in the words of one activist, ‘carries a large carrot and a small stick’ in its dealings with the regime.45


This paper has canvassed GCC and Western perceptions of and policies toward unconventional threats, highlighting key areas of convergence and divergence. A fundamental and often-overlooked dimension in analysing GCC-Western partnerships is the tendency of Gulf regimes to define the greatest threats to their security in ideological and political terms, emanating from within.

Historically, Western defence assistance has focused on helping the Gulf states meet a conventional threat – first Iraq, now Iran. But the Gulf states themselves do not define the threats from these more powerful neighbours in terms of materialist, balance-of-power calculations. In the case of Iran, the fear is not so much that a nuclear-armed Iran will attack the Gulf states with a nuclear weapon, but that it will feel emboldened to conduct more aggressive terrorism and ideological subversion throughout the region.

While the threat of Iran and internal dissent borne of the Arab Spring have produced new levels of consensus in the GCC, it is doubtful whether this will translate into genuine military cooperation, the sharing of information, joint command arrangements, and interoperability of military communications and hardware. Military relationships among the GCC will continue to be arrayed in a spoke-like fashion, with the United States at the centre, playing the critical role of primary security provider.

Over the past decade, the Gulf has increasingly defined terrorism and piracy as threats to its efforts to integrate into the global economy, to say nothing of the safety of its own citizens. On these menaces, there is broad convergence between the GCC and the West, both in perception and response. It is doubtful, however, that GCC states, either bilaterally or as a collective, will ever develop a fully self-sufficient capability to meet these challenges in the future – outside assistance, whether from foreign governments or the private sector will continue to be the norm.

And perhaps more importantly, Western cooperation in these areas may become increasingly strained by divergent views about political and ideological threats to the Gulf, and the tendency of Gulf rulers to ‘securitise’ these challenges rather than address them with substantive reforms.


1 For explanations of the longevity of Gulf regimes see Michael Herb (1999), All in the Family: Absolutism, Revolution and Democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies, New York, New York University Press; Gerd Nonneman (2000), “Security and Inclusion: Regime Responses to Domestic Challenges in the Gulf,” in S. McKnight et al. (eds), Gulf Security: Opportunities and Challenges for the New Generation, London, Royal United Services Institute, September, p. 107-116; Anoushirvan Ehteshami (2003), “Reform from Above: The Politics of Participation in the Oil Monarchies,” International Affairs, Vol. 79, No. 1, p. 53-75.

2 Gregory Gause III has deployed Barry Buzan’s concept of a ‘security complex’ to argue that the Gulf states, as a whole, spend most of their energy and resources worrying about threats emanating from other states in the Gulf, rather than states outside the region. F. Gregory Gause III (2010), The International Relations of the Persian Gulf, New York, Cambridge University Press, p. 6-7. Arab authors from the Gulf have themselves echoed this paradigm, albeit with a more realist, balance-of-power approach. See for an example, ‘Abd al-Jalil Zaid al-Marhun (2005), al-Amn al-Khaliji b’ad al-Harb fi al-‘Iraq, Gulf Security after the Iraq War, Riyadh, Institute for Diplomatic Studies; Gamil Matar and ‘Ali al-Din al-Hilal Dessouki (1983), Al-Nizam al-‘Iqlimi al-‘Arabi, The Arab Regional Order, Beirut, Dar al-Mustaqbal al-‘Arabi.

3 This argument is made by F. Gregory Gause III (2007), “Threats and Threat Perception in the Gulf,” Middle East Policy, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Summer), p. 123; Ibid. (2007) “Saudi Arabia: Iraq, Iran and the Regional Power Balance and the Sectarian Question,” Strategic Insights, February.

4 This paper defines unconventional threats as those challenges to the state other than conventional military force – in this case, terrorism, piracy, political subversion, and cyber-war. In most cases, these threats are carried out by non-state actors, although they may be supported by a state.

5 Thomas C. Mountain (2011), “Choke point Bab el-Mandeb; Understanding the Strategically Critical Horn of Africa,” Foreign Policy Journal, 19 November,

6 Eugene Gholz, “Strait of Hormuz: Assessing Threats to Energy Security in the Persian Gulf,” The Robert S. Strauss Centre for International Security and Law, University of Texas at Austin,

7 Rupert Herbert-Burns (2012), “Countering Piracy, Trafficking, and Terrorism: Ensuring Maritime Security in the Indian Ocean, STIMSON, April,

8 Centre for Strategic and International Studies (2011), “A GCC Strategy for Counter Piracy?” Roundtable Summary, May,

9 Ibid.

10 National Defence University (2012), “Piracy off the Coast of Somalia,” 26 September,

11 “Piracy drops by 54% in Gulf of Aden,” Sea Association for Maritime Industry, October 2012,

12 “Saudis Foil Oil Facility Attack,” BBC News, 24 February 2006

13 Ulrichsen (2009), “Gulf Security” cit.

14 An example of this is the troubled state of NATO’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), which the Gulf states see as increasingly counterproductive. The ICI was established in 2004 and promotes practical defence and security co-operation between NATO and individual countries of the Broader Middle East region. The Initiative is complementary to, but separate from, NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue. The ICI offers countries of the region voluntary, mutually beneficial opportunities to co-operate with NATO through individual tailored programmes. Issues covered included defence reform; civil-military relations; promoting military-to-military co-operation; fighting terrorism through information sharing and maritime co-operation; and countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. To date, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have formally joined the ICI. The first visit by the North Atlantic Council (NAC) to the region took place in 2006 when Kuwait hosted a conference on cooperation with Gulf Countries. Since then, the NAC has participated in conferences in Bahrain in 2008 and the Emirates in 2009.

15 “Piracy drops by 54% in Gulf of Aden,” cit.

16 US State Department, “The United States Response to Piracy off the Coast of Somalia,”

17 Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) Website,

18 See, Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) Website,

19 EU Common Security and Defence Policy (2012), “EU military mission to contribute to the training of the Somali Security Forces (EUTM Somalia),” 26 March,

20 European Union Common Security and Defence Policy (2012), “Operation NESTOR Fact Sheet,” July,

21 Interview by the author with a member of the EU Delegation, Washington DC, 2 November 2012; House of Lords, European Union Committee (2012), “Turning the Tide on Piracy, Building Somalia’s Future: Follow-up report on the EU’s Operation Atalanta and beyond,” 21 August,

22 “Kuwait and UAE look to tackle piracy in northern Somalia to protect variety of interests,” Gulf States Newsletter, 11 February 2011.

23 GCC Secretariat (2012), “Secretary General of the GCC commends the efforts of the UAE for the Somali reconciliation,” Riyadh, 30 June,

24 Awad Mustafa (2012), “UAE Navy Chief Seeks GCC Alliance on Piracy”, The National, 5 July,

25 “Saudi Arabia: The World’s Finest in Counter-Terrorism,” Al-Sharq al-Awsat, 5 February 2012,

26 US State Department (2012), Country Reports on Terrorism 2011 - Saudi Arabia, 31 July,,,,,SAU,,501fbca228,0.html.

27 “UAE renews commitment to counter-terrorism plan,” Khaleej Times, 1 July 2012,§ion=government.

28 “Kuwait laws ‘lacking’ in fight against terror,” Arab Times, 1 August 2012.

29 US State Department, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Country Reports on Terrorism, Chapter Two: The Near East, 2011.

30 Interview by the author with US Embassy officials, Manama, Bahrain, 12 September 2012; “USA hails counter-terrorism measures taken by Bahrain,” Bahrain News Agency, 8 August 2012,

31 US State Department, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Country Reports on Terrorism 2010: Qatar.,4565c225e,46d6814f2,4e5248192,0,,ANNUALREPORT,QAT.html.

32 Ibid.

33 Ibid.

34 Roger Cressey and Mahir Nayfeh (2012), Cyber Capability in the Middle East, Virginia, Booz/Allen/Hamilton,

35 Paul C. Dwyer (2010), Cyber Crime in the Middle East, Paul-C-Dwyer Security GRC and Cyber Crime Advisor, October,

36 Ellen Nakashima (2012), “As cyberwarfare heats up, allies turn to US companies for expertise,” The Washington Post, 23 November,

37 Triska Hamid (2012), “Cyber-warfare in the Middle East is no game,” The National, 14 November,

38 Andrew Hammond and Rania El Gamal, “Analysis – Some Gulf rulers wary of U.S. shifts on Islamists, Iran,” Reuters, 5 September 2012. In fall 2012 interviews with the author, a number of Sunni Islamists were astounded that President Obama publicly mentioned the main Shi’ite opposition society, al-Wifaq, during his speech to the UN General Assembly on 21 September 2011. These figures believed that the mere mention of al-Wifaq was proof that Washington was conspiring behind the Bahraini government’s back.

39 Husayn al-Harbi (2011), “Al-Mashir Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Khalifa li-Al-Ra’y: Nam Huhnaka Ma’mara li-Qalb Nitham al-Hakim…Wa Laysa Li-Ma’arada Silah bi-al-Rab’i al-‘Arabi” (Field Marshal Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Khalifa to al-Ra’y: Yes, there is a Conspiracy to Overthrow the Ruling System … And There is No Connection Between the Opposition and the Arab Spring), Al-Rayy (Kuwait), 11 March.

40 For background, see Frederic M. Wehrey (2012), “The March of the Hardliners in Bahrain,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 31 May,

41 Interview by the author with Office of Security Cooperation personnel, US Embassy, Manama, Bahrain, 17 February 2012.

42 Interview by the author with February 14 Youth Movement activists, Manama, Bahrain, 28 February 2012.

43 Josh Rogin (2012), “Obama administration seeks to bolster Bahraini crown prince with arms sales,” The Cable blog on, 11 May,

44 Ibid.

45 Interview by the author with senior officials in al-Wifaq, Manama, Bahrain, 1 March 2012.

This chapter was originally published in The Uneasy Balance: Potential and Challenges of the West's Relations With the Gulf States.