The International Institute for Strategic Studies

The US maintains a significant military presence across the Gulf region, designed to deter Iran, reassure Gulf partners, facilitate US counter-terrorism operations, sustain US deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and secure maritime sea-lanes.

This posture, which has served as the keystone of the Gulf security architecture for years, has become increasingly costly for the US, in terms of financial cost, political exposure and strategic rationale. Divergences between the US and its Gulf partners but also among Gulf states themselves, requirements for US deployments in the Asia-Pacific and a growing consensus in Washington for a lower military profile in the Middle East may all herald a new posture.

Under what circumstances would the US recalibrate its defence posture in the Gulf region? What are the prospects for a rethinking of the US posture after the 2020 presidential elections? What are the minimal and ideal levels of US security commitment and presence in the Gulf region from the US and Gulf perspectives? Could progress on defence cooperation among Gulf states facilitate US retrenchment or reduce their reliance on the US? Can traditional defence relations with the Gulf states trump changing political considerations and strategic requirements?