GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Iran-GCC Energy Cooperation: The Need for a Comprehensive Approach
Paper Proposal Text :
A discussion of the feasibility of energy cooperation and partnership between Iran and the leading members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, and Qatar) must begin by considering the broader relationship between the Islamic Republic and such Arab monarchies. Given the strategic importance of oil and gas exports to the economic well-being and the national security of all these countries, energy cooperation between Iran and the GCC will only materialize if both sides come to see their economic well being and security as intertwined. Only by addressing the current sources of tension and the schism between Iran and the GCC will it be possible to entertain cooperation and partnership in their respective oil and gas industries. This paper will examine the root causes of the schism between Iran and GCC countries and it will propose confidence building measures that can aim to expand interaction and trust between the two sides.

Despite their geographic proximity and cultural affinity, the relationship between the Islamic Republic of Iran and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (with the exception of Oman) remains fraught, and threatens to further undermine regional and international stability. The ongoing ideological and sectarian divergence between the northern and southern shores of the Persian Gulf is one of the main causes of the humanitarian catastrophe that has engulfed Syria and Iraq, and threatens to spread beyond these countries' former borders. The rise of ISIL, Al-Qaeda, and other extremist groups across the region can only be brought under control if Iran and Saudi Arabia (leader of the GCC block) come to see their economic and security well being as intertwined.

Since the victory of the Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979, the government in Tehran has pursued the empowerment of Shia communities in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere in the region as a defining feature of its state ideology. Partially in response, members of the GCC (with the exception of Oman) have attempted to counteract Iran's perceived expansionism by (publicly or privately) supporting Sunni movements which see the Shia faith as heretical and anathema to what they see as the real tenets of Islam. The current situation, if unresolved, threatens to undermine the stability and security of the entire region.
The following confidence-building measures may be helpful in bridging the gap between the two sides:

• Establishing an annual Gulf Security Forum, which includes the GCC, as well as Iran and Iraq to explore common approaches and cooperation in combating extremism

• Through the authority of Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), establishing an ongoing Islamic Dialogue Forum, focused on highlighting the extensive commonalities between Sunni and Shia Islam, and the vast contributions of Iranian scholars to Islamic civilization

• Using the ongoing nuclear dialogue between the P5+1 and Iran as a launching pad for establishing a broad Gulf Energy Forum, which moves beyond hydrocarbons and includes nuclear and solar energy. Given the UAE's planned acquisition of nuclear energy production capacity (with help from South Korea) by 2017, and given the country's advancement in energy efficiency technologies, it may well be an ideal host for the above-noted forum.

• Expanding people-to-people, academic, and cultural exchanges between Iran and GCC countries.

• Establishing a joint Emergency Preparedness Protocol between Iran and GCC countries, intended to address the challenges posed by earthquakes, oil spills, nuclear accidents, and other non-traditional security threats. This is especially important given the location of Iran's nuclear reactor in the Persian Gulf port of Bushehr, in close proximity to GCC countries.