GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Saudi Arabia and Oman: So Close and Yet so different?
Paper Proposal Text :
Amid growing animosity and security concerns in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the Gulf region appears to be on the way to become the new centre of gravity of regional equilibria. The increasingly active posture in the foreign policies of the Gulf countries towards the region is a key aspect of the new regional order in the making. This paper aims to shed light on the contradictions in this trend by exploring the foreign policies of two important regional players, Saudi Arabia and Oman, in the Middle Eastern region since 2011. Particular attention will be paid to the Syrian and Yemen conflicts as case studies, by addressing the aims, narratives, political and military postures, strategies and alliances pursued by Riyadh and Muscat when dealing with these two proxy wars.
The analysis will highlight the existence of similarities and differences between the two countries’ foreign policies and will offer an explanation to them. On the one hand, in both cases it is possible to observe a certain degree of independence and of pragmatism. On the other, in the Saudi case these features are translating into increased assertiveness, while in the Omani case moderation prevails. The explanation of these differences rests on a number of factors that have to do with two categories: first, some structural features, including the size of the country, its geographic position and its economic resources endowment, second, a mix of ideational and contingent factors prompted by the internal developments following the outbreak of the Arab uprisings. The paper will conclude with some reflections on the implications of these divergent foreign policies trajectories on bilateral Saudi-Omani relations, on the prospects for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)’s cooperation and integration, and for the future of the MENA region in general.