GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Strength in Unity: Towards a Redefinition of Gulf Security
Paper Proposal Text :
From the very beginning of its unraveling, the Arab Spring has been described as a shock wave. Five years after the first uprisings that occurred from Maghreb to Mashrek, an assessment of the situation allows one to confirm that regional events which were associated with the so-called Arab Spring have indeed brought many changes to the whole MENA region. From the perspective of the GCC countries, they have translated into additional security challenges, mainly with regards to the political and military dimensions of their security. Local regimes have indeed felt threatened both by potential attacks on their territorial security (from states such as Iran or non-states actors such as AQAP and ISIS) and by possible attempts at undermining their monarchical stability (from outside powers through proxies or internal opposition galvanized by regional examples). To complicate matters, it is worth mentioning that the threat perception of GCC countries with regards to the political and military dimensions of their security has been heightened by the fear that their traditional US ally is no longer as reliable a strategic partner as it used to be.

However, one should also note how crucial other dimensions of security, namely economic, social and environmental dimensions, have become recently. The drop in oil prices has indeed put economic pressure on local actors, as illustrated by the adoption of austerity measures in Saudi Arabia, for instance. It should also be underlined that the issue of preparing for post-oil era already represented an economic challenge for most GCC countries before the drop in oil prices. In terms of social security, it can perhaps be said that the GCC countries which face the highest difficulty are the ‘national-minority states’ – that is “countries where nationals (citizens holding nationality) are a minority among the population –, particularly Qatar and the UAE, although other GCC members are not immune to troubles in this area either. Indeed, their lack of human resources has somewhat proven an obstacle to the implementation of their multi-faceted survival strategies, as will be assessed. Finally, environmental issues as well as food and water security are a matter of upmost emergency that GCC countries need to address sooner rather than later – although it does not rank high on their agenda at the moment.

Our proposed paper argues that the accumulation of these risk factors calls for a complete reevaluation of the overall security dynamics which the Gulf regional security complex rests upon. It offers the hypothesis that the solution to address all aspects of their security challenges today lies in unity, not only at GCC level but even at a more inclusive level – with Iran and Iraq. In order to test this idea, our paper will start by confronting perceived and real threats which GCC countries face today – one of which lies in the “Gulf Cold War” between Saudi Arabia and Iran that has unleashed on several theaters throughout the region. The essay will then turn to analyzing the multiple domestic, regional, and international incentives which should push GCC regimes to consider implementing the idea that “united we stand (divided we fall)”. Finally, the paper will give an overview of multilateral cooperation schemes which could help redefining Gulf security dynamics, namely a polygonal partnership with China and India, or region-to-region partnerships of Gulf countries with the EU or ASEAN countries.