A man walks past the flags of the countries attending the Gulf Cooperation Council summit at Bayan Palace in Kuwait City on Dec. 5, 2017. Kuwait and two other smaller members of the GCC, Qatar and Oman, are continuing to carve out a niche for themselves.
For decades, the United States has protected the small states in the Gulf from a succession of threats: the Soviets, the Iranian revolution and Iraq's Saddam Hussein. But after the Arab Spring, a new challenge has emerged to their independence: their own Saudi and Emirati neighbors. Using the cover of Washington's anti-Iran strategy, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are aiming to bring the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council into line. Bahrain long ago joined their side, but Qatar most certainly has not -- a fact that prompted a blockade on Doha over its refusal to crack down on dissidents that threaten Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among other reasons. At the same time, the region's big powers are also eyeing Kuwait and Oman, perceiving their independence as a threat to their stability....
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