GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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The Gulf Arab Countries’ Foreign and Security Policy post-Arab Spring: towards Greater Regional Independence of the Middle East?
Paper Proposal Text :
This paper analyses the changing regional and international context of the GCC countries’ foreign and security policies post-Arab Spring. It assesses the attainment of EU’s and US’s foreign and security policy aims vis-à-vis the Arab Spring countries and compares them to those of the Gulf Arab countries. This enables the paper to contribute theoretical and empirical insights into the recent developments in the Middle East and the changing regional balance of power. The overall argument is that relatively speaking Western external and security capabilities have declined, while regional actors (i.e. the GCC countries) have come to play an increasingly important and more independent role in determining outcomes in the context of the Arab Spring.
The paper’s main theoretical contribution is its innovative conceptualization of power, which is focused on an actor’s ability to have ‘a say’ in the arrangements in its immediate environment. This is an inverted description of the classic understanding of power that sees someone as powerful to the extent he/ she can make others do what they wouldn’t have otherwise done. Instead, the conceptualization of power employed in this paper is concerned with the question whether an entity (i.e. the GCC countries) is able to determine its destiny without outside interferences. If regional actors are becoming more prominent in influencing foreign policy and security developments, outside actors, like the West, are likely to be losing stance. This conceptualization allows analysis using traditional power measurements, while avoiding a Western-centered viewpoint.
To develop its argument, the paper’s substantive part starts by explaining the conceptualization of power used. This allows outlining the key determinants of the foreign and security capabilities of the GCC states. Next, the paper takes into account the historical perspective. It describes the Middle Eastern capabilities post-WW1, which provides an illustration of a region unable to determine its destiny. The third section engages with whether the Arab Spring is the culmination so far of a trend towards greater regional independence. It considers the following: 1) the indigenous character of the Arab uprisings; 2) the West’s major policy goals for the Arab Spring and analysis of their attainment so far; 3) the West’s multifaceted constraints on playing a more decisive role (the legacy of the war in Iraq; the lack of financial and economic capabilities; inability to have a coherent reaction in the face of key developments – the example of the overthrow of Mursi in July 2013); 4) the crucial and often much more decisive role of the Gulf Arab countries during the Arab Spring – their cooperation (with the West) for resolving the crisis in Yemen (2011); the response of the Gulf Arab countries to Mursi’s overthrow. These points matter because of the likelihood of some long-term divergence of the Western and Gulf Arab strategic preferences for some of the outcomes of the Arab Spring. A finding that the Gulf Arab countries have increased foreign and security policy capabilities will lead to an expectation that they will play increasingly decisive and more independent role in shaping the destiny of the Middle East, at times at the expense of attainment of the outcomes preferred by the West. The analysis offered in the paper will allow spelling out the main areas where Gulf Arab countries’ contribution is expected and the main tools used for attaining their foreign and security policy goals. The paper finishes with a summary of the main findings and emphasises that a key consequence of the changed balance of power due to the increased external and security capabilities of the Gulf Arab countries will be their significant contribution to the outcomes of the Arab uprisings.