Persian Gulf Powers and the Shifting Geopolitics of US Military Alliances: Reportedly Refusing US Access to Bases for Anti-Iran Strikes


The geopolitical landscape of the Middle East, a region perennially embroiled in tensions and conflicts, is witnessing a significant shift in alliance dynamics. This change is especially apparent in the relationships between the United States and the Persian Gulf countries in the context of rising tensions between Israel and Iran. The Gulf War of 1991 marked a pivotal moment when the US heavily relied on its Gulf allies for military operations in the Middle East. However, recent developments suggest a stark transformation in these alliances, as Gulf nations exhibit a growing reluctance to support US military actions against Iran.

The Gulf States’ Stance on US Bases

Recent reports indicate that key Persian Gulf countries—namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, and Kuwait—have advised the United States against using their territories or airspace for launching attacks on Iran. This development comes amid escalating regional tensions following an attack on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, by Israel on April 1. The attack has heightened the risk of Iranian retaliatory strikes against Israel, prompting the US to consider its options in the region.

Sources, including a senior US official quoted by Middle East Eye, reveal that Gulf monarchies are intensively engaging in diplomatic efforts to distance themselves from any potential US military reprisal against Tehran or its proxies. This diplomatic maneuvering aims to prevent the Gulf states from being implicated in conflicts that could arise from the use of their bases against Iran.

Turkiye’s Position

Adding to the complexity, NATO member Turkiye has also reportedly barred the US from using its airspace for strikes against Iran. While this information has not been independently verified by sources like Sputnik, it underscores a broader regional trend of reluctance to participate in US-led military initiatives against Iran.

The Implications of a Non-cooperative Gulf

The reported refusal of Gulf states to facilitate US military actions against Iran marks a significant shift in regional politics and military strategies. The United States has historically maintained a substantial military presence in the Middle East, with key bases spread across the region:

  • Qatar: The Al Udeid Air Base hosts approximately 10,000 US troops and serves as the forward headquarters of the United States Central Command, overseeing military operations across the Middle East.
  • Bahrain: Home to up to 7,000 troops and the US Fifth Fleet, which operates in the Persian Gulf, the Red and Arabian Seas, and parts of the Indian Ocean.
  • Kuwait: Approximately 15,000 US troops are stationed here.
  • UAE: Hosts at least 5,000 US troops.
  • Saudi Arabia: About 2,700 troops and fighter jets are stationed at the Prince Sultan Air Base.
  • Oman: Allows US Air Force overflights, landings, and warship port calls.

The reluctance of these nations to support US military operations against Iran could significantly impact US strategic capabilities in the region, complicating Washington’s ability to project power and respond to regional threats.

Economic and Political Shifts

The changing dynamics are not merely military but also economic and political.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Kuwait—have expressed reservations about allowing the United States to use their territories and airspace for launching attacks against Iran. This stance marks a significant deviation from past practices where these nations were pivotal launchpads for US military operations in the region. According to a senior US official cited by Middle East Eye, these countries are “working overtime” diplomatically to distance themselves from potential US retaliatory strikes against Tehran or its proxies. This diplomatic maneuvering aims to prevent any association that might position them as complicit in US military strategies against Iran.

Reevaluation of US Basing Agreements

The reluctance of Gulf countries to facilitate US military actions against Iran comes amid a broader reassessment of their strategic interests and US basing agreements. Reports suggest that leaderships in these countries are raising critical questions about the specifics of these agreements, particularly the implications of hosting US forces if used against neighboring Iran. Such reevaluations are indicative of a shift towards a more autonomous foreign policy stance in relation to the US.

Turkiye’s Position

Compounding the complexity of the situation, NATO member Turkiye has also reportedly barred the US from utilizing its airspace for strikes against Iran. Although this information has not been independently verified by sources like Sputnik, it underscores a broader regional trend where traditional US allies are rethinking their strategic commitments. This decision, if confirmed, would represent another layer of challenge for the US, which is already facing a strategic quandary in the region.

Implications for US Military Presence

The United States maintains a substantial military presence across the Middle East, with over 40,000 personnel stationed in various bases. These include significant bases like the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which hosts around 10,000 troops and serves as the forward headquarters of the United States Central Command. Other important bases include the 15,000-troop garrison in Kuwait, up to 7,000 troops in Bahrain hosting the US Fifth Fleet, and about 5,000 troops in the UAE. The Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia and several facilities in Oman also host US forces. This extensive military footprint highlights the strategic importance of the region for the US, particularly in terms of rapid military response capabilities and intelligence operations.

The Changing Geostrategic Calculus

The Gulf states’ increasing inclination towards an independent foreign policy is possibly a significant setback for Washington. This trend is partially driven by several factors:

  • Economic and Military Independence: Nations like Saudi Arabia and the UAE are actively diversifying their economic and military partnerships. Saudi Arabia’s moves to break the petrodollar monopoly by engaging in oil trade with China, and the UAE’s participation in the BRICS Plus bloc, signify a strategic pivot away from exclusive reliance on the US.
  • Regional Diplomatic Realignment: There is also a noteworthy shift in regional diplomacy, as evidenced by Saudi Arabia restoring diplomatic ties with Iran and pausing its military campaign against Yemen’s Houthi militia. Such steps indicate a preference for diplomatic solutions and regional stability over military confrontations, diverging from past policies aligned closely with US interests.
  • Public Opinion and Political Dynamics: The Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the US’s staunch support for Israel during the Gaza War have also impacted public opinion and political dynamics within these countries. There is a growing sentiment among Gulf state populations against establishing closer ties with Israel, further complicating the US’s efforts to forge a unified regional stance against Iran.

In conclusion, the refusal of Persian Gulf powers to grant the US access to bases for conducting anti-Iran strikes reflects a broader realignment and reassessment of strategic priorities in the region. This development poses significant challenges for the US, which has historically depended on these alliances for executing military operations in the Middle East. As the geopolitical tectonic plates shift, the US may need to recalibrate its strategies and expectations, focusing perhaps more on diplomatic engagements and less on unilateral military actions. This shift is indicative of a maturing geopolitical landscape where regional powers are asserting more independence, reshaping the contours of Middle Eastern politics and US foreign policy in the region.

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