G.C.C – US Relations Under the Trump Administration

Introduction

            What was once considered a joke perpetrated by the playwrights of comedy cartoon known as “The Simpsons” turned out to be a reality after Donald Trump entered the White House as the President. When the long-running animation show scornfully represented Donald Trump as the ruler of the United States of America more than a decade and a half ago, no one could have thought that it was a prophecy. Indeed, this is what happened when he won the presidential race in November last year and was sworn in as the President and county’s premier in January (Cavna. 2016).

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With citizens of the United States being divided over his ascendency, questions have been raised over his aptitude to institute any popular command not only on the homeland but also in the international relations. In addition to his escalating workload, the business plutocrat must apparently work overtime to convince foreign administrations of his credentials as a serious legislator and his capacity to engage as a progressive multinational partner. Indeed, this encounter is perhaps most profoundly felt in the partners of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which is a region that was antagonized during the race to the White House with a wide range of comments, including a proposal to impose an embargo on Muslims entering America (Gulf Business., 2016). Although most GCC leaders did not welcome these comments, some leaders indicated a potential clash of civilization if Trump became president of America. However, now that the unthinkable has happened, major players of the GCC made moves to start on a course of good will and cooperation (Gulf Business., 2016).

The GCC under Trump’s Administration

            The Trump government has a chance to reorganize and make the most out of the United States’ strategic relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council. Indeed, many GCC leaders believe that their correlations will be better off with Trump’s administration as compared to Obama’s governance. Indeed, this is due to the fact that their relationship will be built upon major interests as opposed to the United States and Western principles regarding the issue of human rights, liberty, and plurality. In fact, those strategies were adopted during President Obama’s administration when dealing with the GCC and Arab countries and would have thrived if Hilary Clinton became the President of the United States of America.

            An excellent example of a policy adopted by President Barack Obama that was not founded upon interest but on the codes bordering bilateral relations was the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). In contrast, President Trump is paying more attention on the United States interests in the GCC region. Hence, he is likely to reinforce relations with the region based on mutual interests, which is a fact that will improve the US-GCC relations. It is imperative to note that the relationship between the Gulf Cooperative Council and the United States have existed for over seven decades. However, the relationship was significantly sidelined during the reign of President Obama (Akbarzadeh and Palgrave Connect. 2011). According to observers from the GCC region, unlike President Obama, President Trump has understood the fact that despite the human rights of being imperative issues, they should not delineate the relations and associations between nations, but rather, mutual interests should be prioritized (Toumi, 2016).

Adjustment to New Political Reality

            It is with no reasonable doubt that the GCC countries are ready to work with President Trump, a move that is likely to strengthen the ties between U.S. and GCC. Indeed, this engagement can be viewed in the manner in which things have been unfolding. First, leaders from the GCC region have shown their will to restore the lost harmony almost immediately after the presidential results were aired. In a few hours, their congratulations to the President-elect were viral in the social media. They all portrayed a desire to strengthen the old associations amid their distinct countries and the United States. For instance, the Prime Minister and the Vice President of the United Arab Emirates and the leader of Emirati Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum expressed his good will and best wishes to Trump. The leader indicated that the people of UAE were looking forward to sharing their missive of peace and harmony, tolerance, hope, and development for a better world with the reign of President Trump. In addition, both President Trump and the Saudi Arabian King, Salman reportedly conversed over the phone for hours after the election results were out (Anthony & Nazer, 2016). In fact, all leaders of the GCC countries gave their congratulations and aspired to work with the United States of America for a better future. According to a Saudi Arabian report on the conversation between King Salman and President-elect Donald Trump, both of them had similar sentiments concerning their relations and were fully cognizant of what was ahead of them.

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Trump Executive Orders

The United States shall not and cannot admit individuals who do not back their constitution and persons who possess vehement ideologies over the American regulations. President Trump holds that the ban is intended to ensure that individuals admitted on the land do not bear antagonistic approaches towards the nation and its instituting principles. Persons who oppress Americans based on various aspects such as race, sexual orientation, gender, and those who participate in acts such as bigotry and hatred will not be admitted to America under Trump’s administration.

In that connection, on January 27, President Trump signed an executive order that has restricted citizens of Sudan, Yemen, Libya, Somali, and Iraq as well as Iran from entering America for three months. The executive order also suspends expatriate resettlement program for four months and indefinitely sanctions Syrian refugees until further notice. In fact, this ban was based on the fact that most foreign-born individuals have been imprisoned in the United States with terrorist-related implications, including persons who entered America as students, visitors, with employment visas, or through refugee resettlement programs. Therefore, the United States ought to be vigilant during visa issuance processes to ascertain that those issued with visas do not have bad intentions and have no ties with terrorists (Al.monitor, 2017).

            Since the signing of this ban, different individuals have questioned its executive act, with some nations even indicating that it is intended to ban Muslims from seven countries from entering America. Surprising to many, the GCC members, especially those that President Trump has business ties in, have missed from the three months blacklist. Apart from Qatar, which expressed a subtle discontentment to Trump’s executive order, some GCC members have remained silent on this issue while others, such as the United Arab Emirates, have gone ahead to defend the issuance of the ban as the right thing for America to do, owing to the fact that it is a sovereign nation (Al.monitor, 2017). The GCC members have dismissed the widespread claim that the restrictive order is Islamophobic or a Muslim ban.

            The aspect of keeping quiet and supporting the move by President Trump by the GCC members has been shown as a way of maintaining royalty with the United States under President Trump. Indeed, these Gulf nations have numerous agendas that they believe will be best protected by pursuing tighter ties amid President Trump’s administration than those they enjoyed during the reign of the former president. The three main agendas that the GCC members could have lost by giving public criticism of the executive order include the safeguarding and maintenance of the Sheikhdoms from the IS (Islamic State) by America, securing greater rapport in the counterattacking Iran’s regional actions and conducts, and attraction of foreign investments for GCC members economic expansion programs (Al.monitor, 2017).  

How President Trump will Strengthen the Ties

            The America-GCC relationship can be compared to an upset but a customary marriage. Their union does not have a possibility for “marriage” annulment and substitute partners such as Russia for GCC or Iranian negotiating to take the partnership position in the United States. Not only would such an experience cause unwelcome challenges to the region, but also it would significantly transform the correlation amid the two partners. In fact, this is to indicate that there are various forms of strong shared interests between America and the GCC members, which can lay the groundwork for explaining why President Trump intentionally failed to include them in the executive order. The major mutual interests that help them keep their ties despite the complications and technical hitches include economic and security, among other aspects.

            Important to understand is that the US-GCC relation is not a one-way traffic, as some people may suggest. Despite the challenges they encounter, both sides acquire significant advantages from one another. The benefits comprise extensive American military gadgets and military personnel on the GCC soils that serve the security interests of both the United States and the distinct GCC countries (Boghardt & Henderson, 2017). They also facilitate counterterrorism activities against groups that pose potential threats to the two countries such as al-Qaida and Islamic States, with a focus on financing, ideology, and operations as well as extensive trade.

Another thing that the Trump administration ought to note is that the GCC member states are not a monolith, as each state has its established set of security priorities that determine the levels of interests and commitment with the U.S. The countries’ distinct concerns about security are founded on the ruling groups’ opinion of what translates into the most formidable menace. For instance, Iran and its supported elements are inside the country, which include al-Qaeda and Sunni terrorist factions. To meet the wide range of foreign policy objectives, Trump administration should expand the cooperation and relation to the Gulf States while considering the inherent inclination of each partner.

Strengthening Ties

One undertaking that would help strengthen rapport amid Trump administration and the GCC is to prioritize personal correlations at the governance level. The GCC states are deeply rooted in hierarchical orders, which suggest that their relationships must encompass the President and the deputy president along with the Kings in the Gulf, the leaders, as well as crown princes (Boghardt & Henderson, 2017). Such connections are actually important in the GCC’s centers of gravity, including Dubai, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Therefore, President Trump’s phone calls to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Muhammad Bin Zayed al-Nahyan immediately after his win were right and with intent.

The Trump’s administration should also make use of “carrots as opposed to sticks” policy when it comes to dealing with the Gulf States. Regarding US-GCC relations, boosting regional policies that align with the American interest ought to be followed privately through engaging in negotiations with the GCC leaders rather than using threats and intimidation. The Trump’s administration should consider what it could offer the GCC partners in interchange for American friendly policies that concern a prioritized issue.

            The United States and the GCC states should also realize that wide ranges of differences underlie the different states. However, they should not use these differences to delineate their relationships unless the existing differences signify a vital element in the relationship between them. Although America has the aptitude to influence the GCC states on various issues, it cannot change these countries (Boghardt & Henderson, 2017). Nevertheless, when it comes to weighty and insightful systemic changes, the United States should wait for the GCC to believe in the changes and in turn, develop interest in making the adjustments.

GCC’s Support for Trump’s Administration

            Nazer & Duke (2016) indicated that Trump means well for the Gulf region and the entire Middle East. Therefore, the GCC should consider offering Trump their full support towards attaining higher cooperation. The author cites various utterances of Trump during the election period that have remained an inherent part of his administration. Having no experience of leadership previously, Trump is seen by opponents as inexperienced in handling foreign relations, particularly in Muslim-dominated areas. His Muslim ban has elicited mixed reaction from world with some nations like Iran indicating that Trump represents the real American hatred towards Islam. However, this is not true because Trump does not target the Muslims per se, but the terrorists in the Muslim nations. In fact, Trump is interested in securing Americans and the world from radical groups that use immigrants for purposes of organizing terrorist attacks (NA, 2016). However, the initiated bans have not in any way affected the US relation with the GCC. In fact, it is only Iraq, which is affected by the executive orders. 

Background of the G.C.C – U.S relations

            Historically, there has never been an upheaval between the United States and the GCC. The United States has been relying on several GCC leaders, particularly in Saudi Arabia and UAE to shape up policy in the vast Gulf region. The countries have indeed been supportive on various concerns affecting the world like the Palestinian issue, Iraq, and the Syrian war. It is apparent that things are not going to change since Trump’s inward looking foreign policy is unlikely to create trouble. In essence, Trump has been very friendly to the international community, particularly by softening the stance taken by his predecessors in Russia. If this is anything to go by, then the new US President could seek more partnership with the GCC and endeavor to bring them on board regarding several issues. The GCC countries also have a lot to benefit from the new administration because they can be assured that the United States under Trump will not meddle with global matters. Therefore, the GCC countries can be at ease with Trump than Obama whose policy was considered domineering and imperial.

A clear look in the past indicates that although Obama was a friendly figure in the Muslim community, his policies reflected the mainstream conventional American philosophy of dominance, although the GCC countries collaborated with his administration in a very effective manner. Therefore, it is expected that under Trumps hands-off policy, the GCC will increase its collaboration with the new administration (Persian Gulf Online, 2017). Regarding the Gulf and Middle East, the GCC and Trump have a lot to benefit from the relationship because the world is expecting them to resolve the crises in Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Palestine. In addition, the Islamic state (ISIS) poses a huge threat to global peace and security. Trump will need the GCC countries to offer ideas and goodwill in ensuring that the Arab countries are free from extremist attacks. Therefore, it is expected that the GCC leaders will likely back Trump on various issues and engage him on others engagements as a way of increasing the degree of success in global peace.

GCC’s Significance to the US

            Khan (2016) looks at the entire issue from a perspective of GCC’s significance as a voice of Arabs. President Donald Trump is the leader of the world’s most powerful state; therefore, he is tasked with governing the entire globe regarding peace and security. Trump cannot manage without the support of the Arab world, which is great and vast with resources. The region also plays a very important role in the global society regarding oil and gas exploration. Another important aspect of the Arab world is conflicts emanating from terrorism. The author affirms that no problems can escape the attention of Donald Trump, yet he cannot address them without leaders from the Gulf (Bandar, 1997).

The development of Arab solutions must involve them and the implementation of the same. Therefore, Trump will have to engage the GCC leadership on various issues surrounding the issues of policies. However, this engagement will purely emanate from the willingness and the perception of the GCC leadership. Previous errors made by the United States in the Gulf have produced more problems in the world, and for the U.S., Analysts have described the toppling of Saddam Hussein as the beginning of ISIS. Indeed, the aspect points at the history of isolation between the U.S. and the GCC. It is apparent that the Bush administration did not involve leaders in the GCC when making crucial decisions regarding the region. From his utterances, Donald Trump seems to have learned from the mistake of his predecessors, particularly concerning the Iraq invasion and its consequences. In fact, it is unlikely that Trump would be willing to take on the Gulf without consulting the GCC. If anything, the GCC has been supporting the previous administrations, particularly when they feel needed by the U.S.

Areas of Commonality

            The US and the GCC share a lot in common regarding policy and threats in the Gulf region. As a result, there are higher chances that GCC leaders will embrace Trump in a bid to stabilize the region to avoid the rise of extremism. One of the issues that unite Trump and the GCC is the rise of Iran. It is evident that Trump has been against the rise of Iran, particularly the possession of nuclear power. In fact, this is the same concern that GCC leaders who are collectively opposed to the emergence of Iran as an alternative power in the Gulf region. Therefore, the cooperation between the GCC leaders and Trump is guaranteed because there are natural forces that will automatically bring them together (Juan, 1987).

Whereas the US is afraid of Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons for its security, the GCC fear that the rise of Iran could create an equilibrium problem with the radical Shia Islam neighbor. Therefore, the GCC and Trump will see the need to cooperate in order to face a common enemy in Iran. Other avenues that will catapult the GCC to cooperate with Trump include the Syrian problem, where the US wanted a deal for the ouster of the president. The ongoing war has a negative impact on the United States and the world at large. As Trump and Putin are likely to agree on the matter, the GCC leaders must be brought on board to increase the likelihood of success. The Islamic states have emerged as the greatest threat to security, particularly that of the United States and its interests across the world.

The GCC is equally unhappy with the ISIS, that is likely to create a radical caliphate that could destabilize the Gulf. Trump and the GCC require a common ground regarding the problem. Therefore, a common approach between the GCC and the United States is of great importance in the sense that such collaboration transcends the current problems facing the Gulf and the world. The collaboration will create future avenues of cooperation that will reduce conflicts and guarantee peace, order, and stability. The two parties need each other and no single party that can do without the other. Whereas the GCC needs to remain in control as the most formidable Gulf authority, the United States would like to feel safe and access oil products (Goldenberg & Dalton, 2015). Indeed, this is a symbiotic relationship that needs both parties to understand their need to collaborate.

The Strategies

            Trump needs to initiate a diplomatic mission that will make their maiden gesture towards the GCC. For the Fifty days he has been in power, Trump should realize that the GCC is an important partner of the United States. Under normal circumstances, the GCC has never had counter aspirations with the United States. In realizing this, Trump must consolidate the long friendship between the GCC and the United States. Indeed, if this move is not enough, the president should increase the levels of collaboration to higher levels to create new frontiers of cooperation in the future. The United States under Trump must make all the GCC leaders aware of their significant position towards securing American aspirations in the Gulf region. Once this has been done, the President should seek to develop a new framework of collaboration that will be an offshoot of negotiation. The GCC leaders will be required to state their terms if any, so that the new administrations can consider them (Al-Rantawi, 2011). In addition, the GCC should offer their areas of concern to the United States and how they would like them to be addressed. On the other hand, the United States should be willing to engage the GCC leaders even in the hardest circumstances because the existing threats are much bigger for the United States to ignore.

The position of the GCC should be heightened in the world, and the United States should make them see the need to engage the GCC. For instance, the existing situation indicates that in the Arab world, the United States has the goodwill of the UAE and the Saudi Arabia. These are key pillars of the GCC who can advance the preference of the US. The Donald Trump administration should proactively and support the GCC leaders in every endeavor. In that aspect, this will increase the need and willingness of the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to support the United States. In other words, the United States under Trump must do something new, especially bringing onboard the GCC leaders. In fact, the GCC leaders have a role to play in the entire situation since they cannot pretend that they do not need the US. The US and GCC’s aspirations, concerns, and goals are intertwined to the extent that each player needs the other. The GCC should not wait for the Trump administration to initiate collaboration; the GCC can also initiate steps towards improving ties with the US (Eilts, 1980).

Expectations

G.C.C.-U.S. Relations under Trump’s Administration will be a bigger test of the new government’s commitment to engage the international community. The GCC constitute a sizable constituency regarding the process of bringing the world together to solve global problems. The leaders of the GCC are important in reaching agreements on various issues affecting the globe. As usual, the United States plays the vital role of initiating collaborating with regional kingpins to ensure that peace, stability, and prosperity are preserved. The GCC is a major ally of the United States both in political and economic areas. In fact, when it comes to challenges facing the world on security, the GCC plays a critical role. Among the issues on Trump’s priority list are North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and ISIS (Rose, 2010). Coincidentally, these are the same issues that trouble the GCC leaders. The Saudi monarch is agitated by the growing influence of ISIS in the Arab world. In essence, the terrorist group is a huge threat to peace and stability in the Gulf region. Therefore, the Gulf leaders can cooperate with the United States in the development of mechanisms to defeat terrorism and violence in the Arab world. Having greater control of the Gulf and with the potential of absorbing Morocco and Jordan in the offing, the GCC remains the strongest Arab block that can negotiate with the United States on the global stage.

The Trump administration is expected to seize the opportunity and consolidate this great ally of the United States. The GCC countries will take advantage of such a gesture to create a new phase in GCC-US relations in a manner that transforms the Gulf and the world at large. The GCC leaders are cautious and wary of several things that concern the United States, and this will form a platform for more collaboration in future.

 

References

 Akbarzadeh, S., & Palgrave Connect (Online service). (2011). America’s challenges in the greater Middle East: The Obama Administration’s policies. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Available at https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=JVTNCwAAQBAJ&pg=PA68&dq=us-gcc+relations&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=us-gcc%20relations&f=false

Al.monitor. 2017. Why GCC has been Silent on Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’. Retrieved on 14th March, 2017, from http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/02/gulf-states-silence-trump-muslim-ban-saudi-arabia.html

Al-Rantawi, O. (17 July 2011). “GCC membership may be a burden on Jordan’s security”. Retrieved 26 June 2012 Available at http://www.albawaba.com/gcc-membership-may-be-burden-jordan’s-security-383535

Anthony, J. & Nazer, F. (2016). GCC-US relations under a Trump administration.

            Available at http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/features/2016/12/20/GCC-US-relations-under-a-Trump-administration.html

            Available at https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/04/21/united-states-gulf-cooperation-council-second-summit-leaders-communique

Bandar S. A. (1997). “The GCC security convention” (PDF). University of Glasgow. Retrieved 14 March 2017. PDF

Boghardt. Lori,P. and Henderson, S. 2017. Rebuilding Alliance and Countering Threats in the Gulf.  The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 

Cavna, Michael. 2016. The Simpsons Predicted a Trump Presidency 16 Years Ago. The Writer Explains Why. The Washington Post. Retrieved on 14th March 14, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2016/03/18/the-simpsons-predicted-a-trump-presidency-16-years-ago-tomorrow-the-writer-explains-why/?utm_term=.e8b1af64c79f

Eilts, H. (Fall, 1980). “Security Considerations in the Persian Gulf”. International Security. 5 (2): 79–113. doi:10.2307/2538446.

            English.alarabiya.net. Retrieved 14th March, 2017, from http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/features/2016/12/20/GCC-US-relations-under-a-Trump-administration.html

Goldenberg I. & Dalton, M. (2015). Bridging the GulfHow to Fix U.S. Relations With the GCC, Foreign Affairs. Available at https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/bridging-gulf

Gulf Business. 2016. Trump and the GCC: What can we Expect? A look at the Trump Presidency could mean for the Gulf Region. Retrieved on 14th March 14, 2017, from http://gulfbusiness.com/trump-gcc-can-expect/

Juan R. I. C (1987). “Rival Empires of Trade and Imami Shiism in Eastern Arabia, 1300–1800”. International Journal of Middle East Studies. 19 (2): 177–203 [186]. doi:10.1017/s0020743800031834. JSTOR 163353.

Khan, N. (2016). The US Policy Towards the Persian Gulf: Continuity and Change. Available at https://www.idsa-india.org/an-may-4.01.htm

NA (2016). United States-Gulf Cooperation Council Second Summit
Leaders Communique, The White House.

Nazer, F. & Duke J. (2016). GCC-US relations under a Trump administration, Al Arabiya

Persian Gulf Online. (2017).  “Persian Gulf Oil and Gas Exports Fact Sheet (U.S. Department of Energy)”. Available at http://www.persiangulfonline.org/interestgroups/oilfacts.htm

Rose, J. I. (December 2010). “New Light on Human Prehistory in theArabo-Persian Gulf Oasis”. Current Anthropology. 51 (6): 849–883. doi:10.1086/657397.

Toumi, Habib. 2016. Under Trump, US Relationship with Gulf States could Improve. Gulf News. Retrieved on 14th March, 2017, from http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/under-trump-us-relationship-with-gulf-states-could-improve-1.1927778          

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