GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
GCC-Iraq relations in the new Middle East: closing the political gap
Paper Proposal Text :
The political scene in the Middle East is anything but stable. The withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, the sudden emergence of the Arab spring and the growing conflict between Iran and the international community, are all complex political manifestations that are significantly changing the political landscape in the Middle East. These political manifestations are also very well linked to a rapidly increasing sectarian division in the Arab world that had to a large extend dismantled the long held concept of Arab unity and replaced it with aggressive sectarian loyalties. This growing political instability has introduced some significant security challenges to the whole Middle East, but more specifically to the Gulf region due to its geostrategic position. Therefore, troubled by some serious internal and external security issues the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is faced with a new challenge of reassessing its foreign relations with regional powers such as Iraq, Iran and Turkey. However, I focus my analysis in this paper on the GCC-Iraq relations especially since there is a great potential for the new Iraq to grow into a regional mediator that can promote peaceful relations among Middle Eastern states.

Iraq has gone through major political reorientations after the fall of the Ba’ath regime, reclaiming its role as a key player in determining the political destiny of the region. Iraq’s close relationship with Iran particularly under the leadership of Nour Al-Maliki has raised the concern of many of its Arab neighbours particularly the GCC states who have long considered Iran as a security threat. Therefore, and despite a long period of political reforms since the fall of the Ba’ath regime, Iraq and GCC states have not yet formed any solid or clear relationship that can determine the level of cooperation that can exist between the two bodies particularly on the political and economic level. In fact, I argue in this paper that the relationship between Iraq and GCC states lacks a common political narrative and therefore is extremely vulnerable to the currently ever changing political reality of the region. In this argument I examine the role of different political dynamics that stand in the way of developing meaningful relationship between Iraq and GCC states; these political dynamics include sectarian tensions, economic variability, issues of sovereignty and heterogeneity in political discourse concerning the ‘enemy’.

My argument in this paper follows a political science theory that interrogates the concept of the ‘enemy’ and the role that this contested concept plays in creating political rifts within the Arab world. I maintain here that Iraq and GCC states stand on different political grounds in defining their enemy; I argue that this reality creates a gap between these two political bodies, a gap that needs to be realized and fully understood in order for any meaningful relationship to prosper. By analysing this political gap and examining its role in promoting fear and suspicion on different political levels, my aim in this paper is to generate a new line of thinking for researchers and policymakers that explores the potential for enhanced GCC-Iraq relations in the new Middle East.