GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
The UK and the Arabian Gulf Security after Brexit ..extent of contributions and obstacles: Bahrain as a case study
Paper Proposal Text :
The general idea of the paper
Given the dividing lines between regional and world security have come to an end, studying the British-Bahraini relations is of paramount importance, especially after the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (Brexit). The Brexit raised questions about its effect on the UK’s relations with the Gulf countries, including Bahrain, at the security and defense levels in particular. The UK was historically the primary guarantor of the security of the Gulf before the full withdrawal from the Arabian Gulf region in 1971. However, concluding the agreement for the Naval Support Facilities, which came into effect in December 2016, was an indication of the latter’s desire to play a new role regarding the Arabian Gulf security on the one hand, and to support Bahrain, which is a small country, in terms of security on the other.
Bahrain has four defensive options: The first option involves buying up-to-date weapons to compensate for the small number of the population. The expansion in the number of troops, however, remains limited due to the small number of population.
The second option is concerned with engaging in alliances with regional parties. This depends on existence of common interests or not.
The third option is to adopt military neutrality. This, however, will not succeed, as the regional parties are not willing to respect such neutrality.
The Final option is concerned with coalitions. However, these coalitions might not provide small countries with security guarantees, especially if exposed to internal security threats, such as civil wars.
There are foundations that can be built upon within the Bahrain-UK partnership. These include the opening of the Gulf Naval Operations Center in Bahrain in 2016. In addition, the Bahraini naval forces have undergone modernization and Bahrain has a role in the fight against piracy outside its territorial waters. Meanwhile, Brexit means that the UK has become outside the military and security European arrangements, giving the British military role greater flexibility. This is reflected in the UK’s contribution to the war on terrorism, in addition to arms deals with the Gulf countries. Moreover, the UK announced sending a British destroyer to deal with the threats to the international navigation in the Strait of Bab el Mandeb in November 2016. It is an up-to-date destroyer and is staffed by 190 sailors qualified to deal with all military and relief activities, and to combat piracy. It is worth noting that the UK relies on this strait in the majority of its oil supplies. Therefore, any obstacles to the flow of such supplies mean blackout for most parts of the UK. In addition, the UK has been managing a US Naval force in the Gulf for the first time from November 2016 through February 2017.
There is also a political framework for the British-Bahraini partnership. This included visits by official delegations. The British Foreign Secretary paid a visit to the Gulf countries in May 2016. There were also visits by some British parliamentary delegations to Bahrain during 2016. The highest-level visit was by the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, who participated in thirty-seventh Gulf summit, which was held in Bahrain in December 2016. During the event, May asserted to the GCC countries that “The Gulf security is our security, and your prosperity is our prosperity”. In addition, Bahrain’s King visited the UK in October 2016.
While this partnership is important, it operates in regional and international environments that have opportunities to enhance it, and restrictions to it as well. These opportunities include results of the US elections and Donald Trump’s desire to rethink the US relations with the NATO. In addition, the leader of France’s National Front Party, Marine Le Pen, said that she would withdraw the French army from the NATO and the European Union if she won the position of the president. This means that when it comes to the security of the Gulf, there would be a greater role for Western countries, including the UK, individually not through the NATO or the European Union. Statements of the British Defense Secretary, Michael Fallon, should also be taken into account in this respect. Fallon said that even after Brexit, the UK “would continue to oppose any plan to set up a European army, because the NATO must remain as the defense cornerstone in Europe”. There is also keenness on part of the UK to maintain such a partnership. This was confirmed by the British Prime Minister Theresa May who said, “The Gulf security is a priority for the British government”. “We want a real partnership with the Gulf countries,” she added.
In spite of these opportunities, there are restrictions when it comes to the British military intervention in regional crises. The UK participated in the Kuwait liberation war in 1991. It also participating with the United States in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. However, such intervention might face difficulties in the future, because of the confirmation by a British parliamentary report that the military intervention against the former Libyan regime depended on false information. In addition, there is parliamentary commission of inquiry into the Iraq war.
While Bahrain needs an international partner that has the ability to understand specialty of its status and its security concerns, Bahrain’s acceptance of the establishment of a partnership with the UK does not mean reducing the American role regarding Bahrain’s security. It worth noting in this respect that Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said, “The partnership with the UK is not at the expense of the US”. The UK is one of the parties concerned with the Gulf security after Russia’s involvement into interactions in the Middle East to strengthen its influence by means of the military presence in Syria. In addition, the commander of the International Coalition forces, the US General Steven Tausend, said that his troops needed “to ensure a permanent presence in Iraq after the battle of Mosul, no matter how long such battle would continue”.
Another factor in this respect involves how the UK can achieve a balance in its relations with Bahrain on the one hand and with Iran on the other hand. The fact that the UK was one of the countries that participated in the invasion of Iraq should be taken into account in this respect as such invasion led to strengthening Iran’s regional role. Moreover, the UK was one of the countries that pushed towards concluding the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 countries.
Based on what is reviewed above, the goal of this paper is to answer five key questions:
First, how had the UK managed to maintain the regional balance of power before withdrawing from the Gulf region in 1971?
Second, what was the effect of withdrawal of the UK on it security policy towards the Gulf region, with reference to Bahrain?
Third, what are the components of the security and defense British policy towards the Gulf region and Bahrain? Does such policy meet the security and defense needs of Bahrain?
Fourth, can the UK achieve the concept of balance of power in the Gulf region?
Finally, what are the obstacles to the British role regarding the Gulf security in general and Bahrain’s secueity in particular?