GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Followers and entrepreneurs: The growing influence of small Gulf states in the Middle East
Paper Proposal Text :
The academic and public discourse on the Middle East is usually framed in the context of great power rivalry between the most important local and global actors, namely the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, etc. Nonetheless, due to systematic, regional and local developments, the leverage and influential capacity of smaller states has grown significantly in the last decades, changing the strategic landscape in a profound manner. This is especially true for the small states of the Persian Gulf, some of which were able to enhance their international position in the politics and economic relations in the broader Middle East, surpassing the theoretically identified obstacles standing in the way of effective power projection of small states.
The presentation aims at discovering the leverage, the possibilities and the actual capabilities of small Gulf states throughout the region, stating that by the 2010s, the various alterations of circumstances enabled such entities to have a more profound effect on the outcome of political and economic processes in the Middle East. Firstly such developments– technical and systematic evolution, changes in the local elites, diminishing leverage of the greater nations – will be identified, followed by a second part, which would compare the goals, aims and identity of the different Gulf states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates). In this section two groups of these countries will be defined vis-á-vis the perception of their own role in the international system, namely the “Followers” – those which defined their interests in the framework of usual small state behaviour – and “Entrepreneurs” – those which pursue a bigger agenda defying theoretical expectations relating to the lack of huge material resources. The analysis will try to explain the differences of these categories and to identify the national causes which urge the leadership to take a more extensive role in international affairs. In the last, third part, Qatar and Oman will be analysed as case studies, which will prove that between the appropriate internal and external circumstances, small states can alter their security environment to a great extent.
Examining the newfound role of Middle Eastern small states promises important consequences from different aspects at the same time. First of all, regional affairs – such as the Syrian, Yemeni and Libyan civil war, the Egyptian revolutions and their aftermath or the Iranian-Saudi rivalry – can be better understood by including the points of view of Gulf small states neglecting the mainstream approach according to which these conflicts are only a result of great power rivalry. Second of all, such inquiry would help the IR academic community to upgrade and rethink the current perceptions of material size and its effect on foreign policy.
Although the author seeks to set up a thorough theoretical framework for the analysis of small Gulf states, the paper does not mean to be a purely ideological academic research but an inquiry based on applied social science.