GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Potentials and Challenges for Iran-GCC Integration Lessons from EU and ASEAN Experiences
Paper Proposal Text :
Following the Iranian Islamic Revolution, the Gulf Cooperation Council was established, somehow in the form of the European Concert of the 19th century, to preserve the regional monarchies and to stop the spread of revolutionary ideas among the Gulf nations. Fear of an Iranian hegemony, especially of a religious/ideological essence, has been the main raison d’être for GCC since its foundation. And this fear now seems to be no less than ever. With the legitimacy of the Iranian government restored by the recent elections, and as a result of a relative setback in US Middle East policy, it seems that Iran is again on the rise to become a powerful actor in the region. In the light of developments in Iran’s nuclear program and especially after the recent accord between Iran and the major world powers, several countries in the Middle East are concerned that Iran would stabilize its position as the ultimate hegemon of the region.
The main argument of this paper is that both Iran and GCC states need to seek an alternative to the “hegemonic” discourse which has ruled over the two sides’ relations for more than three decades. The Gulf monarchies must acknowledge Iran’s important place in regional as well as global politics and economy. Iran, on the other hand, should abandon its isolationist and self-reliant policy, based on the goal of becoming the leading country of the region in all aspects. This problematic leadership-oriented trend should be replaced by a new constructive discourse advocating for regional development and interdependence. There is a need for the change of mentality: The aspiration for becoming the sole triumphant state in a weak and chaotic region should give way to the idea of all powerful states in a stable, prosperous, region. This change of perspective is by itself a prerequisite and a crucial part of any trust-building process.
In this paper, I would like to develop a theoretical ground for Iran-GCC integration. Although the term “integration” might sound far from realization at this stage, this paper takes the ambitious step to suggest that this could become a reality in the future. Instead of a European Concert model, there is a need to take lessons from the European Union or ASEAN for creating a system of collective security and regional integrity among Iran and the Gulf nations. Although a variation of racial, religious, historical, and political elements has constantly pushed for more divisions between Iran and GCC states, I believe that these splits are by no means larger or more deep-rooted than those which had divided nations in Europe and south-east Asia for centuries. There are many reasons for Iran and GCC to move towards a broader regional cooperation system, and indeed, there is no other choice for them in the long run.