GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Iranian Nuclear Deal and GCC Security: Conflict and Cooperation in a Shifting Geopolitical Scene
Paper Proposal Text :
The Iranian Nuclear Deal, formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in Vienna on 14 July 2015 between Iran and the P5+1, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany) has fallen short of subduing Gulf Arab fear of and suspicion about Tehran. Rather than being concerned with Iran’s nuclear ambitions per se, the six GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman) are more worried that the deal will legitimize Iran’s regional ambitions and grant Tehran immense economic and diplomatic tools to accomplish these geopolitical goals. Pointing to the Iranian involvement in deadly conflicts in Syria and Yemen, Gulf monarchies argue that the immense economic benefits that are going to accrue to Tehran’s coffers, as part of the deal, will be channeled to further destabilize the Middle East in general and the Gulf in particular. They are also concerned that the deal will prove insufficient to dismantle Iranian nuclear ambitions permanently.

Another concern is that Iran’s further involvement in regional politics will increase radicalization, strengthen terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaida and spread such extremist ideologies across the region. With such organizations wreaking havoc over the entire region, Gulf monarchies are concerned that already the fragile state system in the conflict-ridden or conflict-prone countries in the region will bring a total disaster. Although the Gulf monarchies have justifiable reasons for their apprehension with the agreement, especially given Iran’s past behavior, I argue that the threat perceptions the deal creates can expedite intra-GCC and GCC-international security cooperation, especially with non-traditional security partners such as China and Turkey. There is an obvious mismatch between the geopolitical goals of the GCC countries and Iran’s geopolitical ambitions, neither of the actors are willing to accept defeat. Both parties view the accomplishment of their security vis-à-vis their rival from a zero-sum framework: when Tehran enhances its security, the monarchies feel increasingly insecure and vice versa.

To this backdrop, I argue that the first, and perhaps the most beneficial, solution appears to be a redefinition of the Gulf Arab and Iranian security parameters, whereby both sides, potentially with the assistance and assurance from the US, arrive at a consensus on forming a regional security platform wherein regional issues are resolved through dialog and constructive negotiation. The next best option for the Gulf Arab monarchies is to take advantage of their collective security concerns vis-à-vis Iran and enhance intra-GCC and international security cooperation, as they have done while establishing the GCC.

This paper aims to examine the implications of the Iranian nuclear deal on the Gulf Arab security, with emphasis on current regional instabilities. It also examines how Gulf countries can take advantage of such insecurities to enhance their collective security with regional and international partnerships. To this end, the paper will first examine the most prominent security concerns the Iranian nuclear deal instigates in the GCC countries. Then, the Gulf Arab anxiety will be put in context with specific references to current geopolitical/sectarian conflicts in Syria and Yemen. In addition, Gulf Arab countries are worried that Iran will incite potential internal disquiet by playing the sectarian card. Finally, the options that the GCC countries can take to enhance their collective security in the aftermath of the deal will follow.