The security environment in the Gulf region has dominated international headlines for over four decades. Beginning with the oil crisis in the 1970s and covering such events as the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the 1980-1988 War between Iran and Iraq, the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and subsequent liberation of Kuwait in February 1991, the rise of Islamic militancy throughout the 1990s culminating in the attacks of September 11, and then the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the issue of Gulf security has been a central focus of global political attention.
Given current and anticipated political, economic as well as strategic trends, the relevance and importance of Gulf security to the international community is not about to change. In fact, day-to-day events continue to underline the continued volatility of the region and its far-reaching impact. The situation of almost complete disarray in Iraq and the escalating tensions over the Iranian nuclear program are just the two most obvious examples. Overall, events in the first decade of the 21st century have contributed to a further deterioration in the regional security scene with the result that the possibility of another major conflict looms large. With oil prices already at record highs, any additional instability in the region is likely to have consequences all around.
Gulf security is thus a global and no longer simply a regional issue or phenomenon. The fact is that the Gulf region sits at the juncture of numerous overlapping and complex inter-relationships, all of which increasingly have international connotations. Gulf security is not only defined by a number of different policy issues – energy security, terrorism, weapons proliferation, border disputes etc. – but is also determined by the immediate regional actors (the six GCC states, Iran, Iraq and Yemen), to the wider regional neighborhood (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Syria, Turkey, Israel, Somalia), and the wider international community (the United States, Europe, and increasingly also Asian countries such as China and Japan).
All of the above complicates matters greatly. And while there has been much policy-oriented as well as academic debate on how the cycle of insecurity in the Gulf can possibly be broken, no structured attempt has been made to bring together all the various views of regional and international actors towards the region. The emphasis has been on highlighting the perceived irreconcilable different approaches rather than looking for the common, even if minimal, denominators.
The GRC is firmly convinced that Gulf security issues will not only continue to dominate the headlines in the coming years but that unless a more concerted effort at crisis management is exerted, the consequences will be both devastating and long-lasting. At the outset and within this context, it must be understood that both the regional and international relationships that define the current and near-term environment will be framed within a security context. Any policy deliberations about the Gulf region will necessarily begin with a discussion focusing on the security situation with subsequent decisions departing from this initial point of view. Therefore, it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of the various issues that define Gulf security in order to be able to construct a proper policy.
Objectives of the Gulf Forum 2008
· To make an assessment of the status of Gulf security and to look into the key components that define it.
· To highlight the position of the GCC states and to analyze in-depth their foreign and security-related policies.
· To look into how both regional actors and international powers view the issue of Gulf security and where their main emphasis and interests lie.
· To explore practical realities and to look at the policy steps being implemented by the regional states.
· To identify policy approaches that might help the region in overcoming aspects of the security dilemma and to see how other regions have overcome similar problem areas from a lessons-learned perspective
· To develop an action plan for overcoming some of the more persistent Gulf security issues and to promote relevant policy alternatives.