The Same, Yet Different: United States and Gulf State Interests in the Post-Arab Spring Maghreb

The 2010-2011 Arab Spring caused upheaval in North Africa’s Maghreb region, which comprises Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. This upheaval elevated the Maghreb’s importance globally, including for the United States and the Gulf Arab states—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar in particular. The Gulf Arab countries’ increased engagement in the Maghreb is the result of shifts within the internal politics of the Arab world. In the Maghreb, U.S. and Gulf state interests overlap to the extent that all players want stability, but each state has its own definition of what stability means. The U.S. and the Gulf states all support the Moroccan and Algerian regimes, but intra-Gulf rivalries are helping destabilize Libya, where different Gulfbacked proxy forces are exacerbating that country’s civil war. Moving forward, the United States and the Gulf states may find areas where their interests converge (e.g., stabilizing Tunisian politics, fighting terrorism, and promoting development) but also areas where they diverge, especially in Libya.

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