GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
How the relations between the Arab Gulf States and Iran will influence the cohesion of the Gulf Cooperation Council
Paper Proposal Text :

Anna Gawlik
February 11, 2016

How the relations between the Arab Gulf States and Iran will influence the cohesion of the Gulf Cooperation Council

A Paper Proposal

In the proposed paper we will inquire how the complex relations between the Arab Gulf States and the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) influence the cohesion of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). That the two parties are antagonists is easily observed in several spheres. For example, IRI has been trying to impose its revolutionary agenda in Iraq (Shia government), Lebanon (Hezbollah), Syria (President Bashar al-Assad), and Yemen (Houthis), while the GCC countries, led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KAS), are supporting the opposite parties in the very same regions, such as al-Nusra Front in Syria, President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in Yemen, and the Sunnis in Iraq.

There is little doubt that the Arab Gulf states are threatened by the revisionist agenda of IRI. The weakened position of Egypt and Iraq effectively left the playing field to the two regional heavy weights - KAS and IRI. In this revised setting, the importance of coalitions increases, which in turn can be expected to cement the GCC alliance. But in the months and years to come, this centripetal force could be countered by centrifugal pressures. For example, the recent thaw in the relations between IRI and the US could tempt members of the GCC to develop new commercial relations with the 76 million people strong Iranian economy. Such a tendency will likely cause frictions within the GCC, assuming a hostile reaction of KAS to any openings to IRI. That the GCC already does not have a uniform stance towards IRI, or that individual members of the GCC are looked at by IRI quite differently, is easy to illustrate:
- The United Arab Emirates profits from serving as a trade center and a financial agency for IRI, yet the dispute over strategically located three Gulf islands clouds this relation;
- Oman plays the role of the mediator between IRI and KAS, while pursuing its own economic, energy, and ideological agenda;
- Qatar and Iran co-own a large gas field, which requires coordination and joint management;
- Bahrain remains a bone of contention between IRI and KAS as the Saudis taunt the Ayatollahs’ regime with inciting protests over Shiite discrimination, and IRI claims that Bahrain is a part of its own territory;
- IRI and Kuwait do not maintain close relations as IRI still perceives the Kuwaiti support for Saddam Hussein during the Iran - Iraq war to be immoral.

Thus, in the proposed paper we will seek to assess the likelihood that the overall relations between the Arab Gulf States and IRI will strengthen the cohesion of the GCC or, alternatively, that the heterogeneity in the stances towards IRI will erode the cohesion of the GCC.