GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Evolving Foreign and Security Policies: A Comparative Study of Qatar and the UAE
Paper Proposal Text :
One major effect of the so-called Arab Spring was the redefinition of the Gulf security complex (Buzan 1991; Gause 2009) along lines which are still evolving. In this context, it is interesting to look at the associated progression of foreign and security policies of the GCC States. The proposed paper will focus on Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and offer a comparative study of their strategies prior to and after the Arab uprisings.

Amidst the profuse literature on Gulf security issues, few publications focused on the GCC countries’ own perception of their strategic environment. Most of them rather analysed the regional complex through the lens of Western priorities and primarily commercial interests.
Not only does this essay aim at filling a certain gap in this regard, but it also intends to confront the case studies of Qatar and the UAE to the theoretical framework of small states’ strategies
– a field of research where, as noted by the workshop description, a lot remains to be done.

The paper will first go through the traditional dynamics of the contrasted foreign and security policies of Qatar and the UAE. The idea will be to delineate a place of their own in small states’ studies. Some specific characteristics of their internal and external context indeed differentiate them from the multiple European small states after the Cold War – the security of which many studies focused on (Wiberg 1996; Inbar 1997; Neumann 2006). When it comes to their distinctive features, one could point to the superposition of a global context dominated by the American superpower and a regional context defined by ‘anarchy’ – to use the Realists’ taxonomy – and power struggles between middle powers, i.e. Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq. Hence, Qatar and the UAE, unlike their European counterparts after 1990, seemingly need continuous articulation between balancing strategies and attempted relative autonomy. On the internal stage, one should underline the constant nation-building process of young Qatar and UAE, which distinguishes them from European case studies, and the fact that they are, with Kuwait, the only ‘national-minority states’ in the world (Horinuki 2009: 69). These elements affect their foreign and security policies and, interestingly enough, did not translate in similar behaviours. Thus, this section will offer a comparative approach of the traditional policies of the two Gulf small states – a first, in itself – using, among other references, the Freudian “narcissism of minor difference”.

Our essay will then question the new ins and outs of these policies in the context of the so-called Arab Spring. It will offer an outlook of the evolving domestic, regional and international factors associated with the uprisings and the strategic repositioning of global actors in the Middle-East and North Africa (MENA) region. It will study the impact of these shifting balance of power and security issues on the strategies of Qatar and the UAE. Here again, the two countries adopted utterly dissimilar approaches. This is linked to their different perception of various issues such as Iran, the rising importance of the Muslim Brotherhood, the relevance of bandwagoning with Saudi Arabia and the GCC collective survival strategy, etc. The paper will look at their contrasted interests in the evolving context and their associated new strategies.
For example, it could compare the Qatari and Emirati contribution to the multinational operation in Libya as well as the determinants and consequences of their involvement in Egypt and Syria. Overall, this section will keep on assessing the theoretical implications of the two Gulf small states’ policies. The mobilised framework will constantly confront domestic and external dimensions (Putnam 1988; Caporaso 1997; Mesquita 2002).

Finally, the author will try and measure the emergence of a new regional security order. This last section will focus on the impact of these two small states’ foreign and security policies on the regional and sub-regional dynamics over the past four years. It will look at new security challenges they provoked, through means like the funding of radical groups associated with their interests, the instrumentalization of regional sectarian divides or the demonization of the ‘Iranian invisible hand’. Not only did certain Qatari and Emirati policies fuel the regional turmoil, hence putting many balances at risk, but they possibly created new domestic threats at the national level by magnifying internal GCC divisions. Today, the current situation in Egypt, precisely stirs opposition between Qatar and the UAE. The paper will study several empirical cases before assessing the feasibility of an integrated GCC security system in this light. Lastly, it will give a few prospects for the evolution of the Qatari and Emirati foreign and security policies. Issues to be considered here include the hypothetical impact of a US-Iran rapprochement, a study of possible scenarios in Egypt and Syria and the role of further cooperation in a bilateral or multilateral framework, with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or the European Union (EU).