From the U.S. perspective, the most sustainable and cost-effective end-state for the Iran problem is the achievement of a stable balance of power across the Persian Gulf. Encouraging the GCC to develop into an effective military alliance is essential to achieving this balance of power. But after three decades of effort, the GCC has yet to live up to this potential, as Abdullah’s pleading reveals. And the GCC has failed because its small members do not trust Saudi Arabia.

Just as NATO needed the United States to overcome Europe’s history of mistrust and rivalry, the GCC needs the United States in order to convince the smaller Sunni countries to finally work with Saudi Arabia. As a member of the GCC, the United States would reprise the roles it has played in NATO and Asia — the dominant outsider, with no claims in the region, and a player the rest of the teammates can trust.

Getting the U.S. Senate to ratify a collective security treaty binding the U.S. military to the Persian Gulf would be a very tough sell for a country weary of engagement in that part of the world. It would seem an insuperable task to round up politicians in Washington willing to commit America in advance to more Middle East wars.

But ever since the arrival of the Carter Doctrine in January 1980, the United States has made an expanding de facto commitment to the security of the Persian Gulf region.