In a landmark decision by Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud on September 26, 2017, a decree was issued allowing Saudi women to drive motor vehicles. In this short paper, we reflect on the possible impact of this decision on future domestic workers’ immigration trends.
The Gulf Research Center, the Geneva Center for Security Policy and the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University convened in Gstaad in June 2015 for their annual discussions on developments in the Middle East. Bringing together renowned regional, security, and policy experts in order to assess the current situation in the Middle East, the meeting focused on the changing strategic landscape and the geopolitical and regional dynamics at play, assessed the state and implications of the Arab Revolutions, and took an in-depth look at the situation in the Levant, Turkey, North Africa, the Gulf region, and Israel and Palestine.
This paper sets out a policy perspective on trade aspects of global economic integration of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as an important regional bloc as well as bilateral attempts by individual member states. The main objective of the paper is to critically assess the currents trends of external preferential trade agreements (EPTAs) of the GCC, identify hindrances, and lay out a policy perspective for the future. Given the increasing vulnerability due to the GCC’s overwhelming trade dependence, it is imperative to enhance economic integration with its main trading partners. While regional integration within the GCC has been moderately successful in terms of overall outcome, the GCC needs to also expedite the process of negotiating EPTAs with its main trading partners, as consolidating trade benefits of external economic integration is critical to its long-term economic growth and diversification
The need for an operational and effective regional body such as the GCC has never been greater. The geopolitical conditions of its birth and the region’s enduring instability provide the GCC with the imperative to deepen its institutions, but it is the effects of globalization (as an overwhelming external force) on the one hand, and the GCC states’ survival instincts (in terms of internal and regional challenges) on the other, which makes GCC’s convergence into a more closely-knit organization increasingly desirable, if not inevitable.
Gaps in labour rights and labour prices between nationals and migrant workers are the main causes explaining the low participation of GCC citizens in the region’s private labour markets. Past policies of “Gulfization” have not directly addressed these structural constraints but have rather attempted to impose higher nationalization quotas by fiat, with limited success. More recently, some of the Gulf governments have started to use taxes and subsidies to try to narrow the labour price gap; at the same time, some have improved the labour mobility rights of foreigners. This paper provides a preliminary assessment of these “second generation” policies. It concludes with general observations on how the rights and price gaps could be closed more systematically and on the broader distributional reforms this might entail.
This paper presents an overview of the labour market for migrant domestic workers in the Gulf Co-operation (GCC) countries. It discusses how current recruitment practices and working conditions contribute to the vulnerability of these workers to exploitation and abuse. The paper shows that although international conventions of the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation could provide frameworks for improved national legislation to protect the rights of domestic workers, GCC countries appear reluctant to ratify or implement conventions specific to migrant workers or domestic workers. Public pressure has led to alternative national legislation in some GCC countries, which is an improvement from a situation of limited or no legislative protection for MDWs; however there are several gaps that render this legislation weak. The paper concludes with policy recommendations to ensure more robust protection is extended to MDWs in the GCC.
In recent years, Russia’s Middle East policy has begun shifting back to the Soviet model, in which the region was regarded primarily through the prism of the strategic, geopolitical views of Russia, specifically in relation to its strategic competition with the United States. Under this model, economic interests are sidelined, being perceived as secondary to the greater political goals. The basic logic of the Soviet model is to achieve geopolitical goals at any financial or economic expense. The Arab Spring and the Syrian crisis have given further impetus to Russia’s policy toward such old Soviet logic. In the context of Iran, Russia continues to enjoy its position as a member of the P5+1 group and receive attention from states in the Middle East and beyond. The same is true for the Russian role as far as Syria is concerned. Moscow sees itself as a center of political gravity for the major regional actors, including the Arab Gulf countries, a role that is sustained despite Russia’s continued pro-Assad line. Overall, we can see a special, two-level model emerging in the Russia-Arab Gulf relationship: the political level reflecting agreement and disagreement over various matters and the business level where, to some extent, business deals prevail over politics.
A comparison for 1995, 2005, and 2011 reveals large discrepancies in the two main sources of population data, the censuses and the civil registration system. Possible reasons and implications of the observed discrepancies are discussed, and suggestions are made for actions and policies that might help improve data quality. This analysis suggests that the numbers recorded by the Public Authority for Civil Information (PACI) are likely to be relatively more reliable and valid than the census. However, a conclusive statement about this requires additional objective analysis. A system of post-enumeration sample surveys may be established as a usual mechanism for checking the accuracy of census data. Also, special studies designed to ensure the accuracy of PACI data should be conducted periodically.
ituating Egypt-Gulf interstate relations within the post-Mubarak regional dynamics, this paper highlights the regional constraints that upheld the Gulf-Egyptian informal alliance despite mounting tensions starting 2011. The paper looks at the Saudi and Egyptian states, which are the main social and political actors of this informal alliance. It depicts the politics and economics sustaining Egyptian-Saudi relations despite the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who was a personal friend of the Saudi royal family. It also assesses the role of non-state transnational actors in supporting and/or contesting their state’s policies toward each other. The paper concludes with an assessment of the major challenges facing Egypt’s relations with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf despite the current restoration of the Mubarak-era pattern of interaction.
The main objective of this study is to understand the status quo of the middle class in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The study begins by attempting to construct a theoretical framework for understanding the concept of the new middle class, its constituents and various categories, as well as its importance within the socio-economic and political structure. It also explores how the Saudi middle class has emerged historically, its size within the Saudi socio-economic structure, and delineates its different sections, the upper, basic (middle) and peripheral (marginal).
The removal of the Kingdom’s Interior Minister after only five months in office is a point of concern for many observers of the Saudi political scene. The sudden move surprised many Saudis both at home and abroad who see it as part of a worrying phenomenon among the Kingdom’s top leadership during the past two years that has already claimed the positions of a number of senior members of the ruling house of al-Saud. Whatever the motivations or reasons and avoiding any speculation, the sudden dismissal of a senior Prince from the key post of Interior Minister cannot be justified by the usual official justifications of ill health, private circumstance, or by an expressed personal desire for retirement. None of these frequently used justifications apply to this case as there was no official explanation. The analysis looks at the recent leadership changes that have taken place at the Saudi Ministry of Interior and also addresses Saudi succession issues.
Following the controversial presidential election in 2009, the political and economic environment in Iran has become increasingly complex. The divide between the conservative and reformist camps has increased, and disagreements have surfaced between Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini and President Ahmadinejad on a number of occasions. In the short run, a major political challenge will come in June 2013 when the country chooses a new president. On the economic front, sanctions have severely impacted the economy, and people’s dissatisfaction has been growing because of rising inflation and unemployment. The divisions among the ruling elite have made it difficult for the government to tackle the economic challenges. This paper analyzes some of the key political and economic events in Iran and tries to outline the emerging scenario in the country.
Historically, India has maintained close links with the Gulf region. Besides the people-to-people contacts built up over centuries, the trade relationship has also been very strong. Over the last several decades, the Indian workforce has contributed significantly to the development of the Gulf countries. A major economic player in the world today, India is now positioned to play a bigger role in the Gulf. Other than economic issues, security and energy issues too will play a significant role in the India-Gulf relationship. To explore the various aspects of the burgeoning India-Gulf relationship, the Gulf Research Center and The Nixon Center co-hosted a workshop in Dubai titled “India’s Growing Role in the Gulf.” This monograph contains the papers that were presented at the workshop.
Abstract: The international community has received Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons with great concern since it perceives that such acquisition will lead to dangerous instability in the Gulf region and beyond. There is concern that some countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey may be tempted to match Iran at least by acquiring similar nuclear fuel production technologies, while other powers may be tempted to strike militarily at Iran...
Though civil society emerged in the GCC only a few years ago, it has attracted noticeable attention from researchers as well as scholars, due to the developments the countries in question underwent towards the end of the twentieth century. This book aims to analyze the significant stages in the emergence of civil society in the GCC as well as the most prominent features that characterize it in the context of the Arabic and English literature on the subject. From a theoretical perspective, the book tries to define and understand the meaning of civil society as well as the way it influences the governmental system and the role it plays in growth, democratic transformation, and political reform.
Since the nineties of the 20th century, the world has witnessed huge strategic, political, economic and scientific changes, which have left their impact on the regional and sub-regional systems in general, and the Gulf region in particular. This region has already witnessed two regional wars, the occupation of an Arab country, as well as social transformations as a result of the economic boom, scientific achievement and external influences. This book aims to analyze the consequences of these international, regional and domestic changes on the Gulf system. In a changing international environment, and with unstable regional and domestically ambiguous conditions, what is the political, economic and social role of the GCC states and what future do they have? In order to deal with the real challenges facing the GCC states as a result of external pressures and increasing domestic demands, the book concludes that the GCC really needs a sort of federal or confederal system, as well as additional political, economic andsocial development, to cope with the international, regional and domestic changes and play an active role in the international system, and so that their citizens achieve the stability, progress and prosperity they aspire for.
Abstract: Steve Tatham’s book starts with the observation that the 9/11 attacks horrified not only western citizens but also moderate Muslims around the world. Consequently, an unexpected degree of solidarity appeared to flicker in the international community. In the aftermath of 9/11, there was wide condemnation of Al-Qaeda acts, and a majority of those polled had a favorable sentiment towards the United States and all that it stood for. Yet within two years the pain and distress of that event and the unifying sympathy it elicited throughout most of the world was squandered – not necessarily through the invasion of Afghanistan, but through the subsequent war in Iraq which many of the closest friends of the United States did not support. Tatham argues that having largely lost international support, the United States failed to get its justification and messages across to skeptical international audiences, particularly in the Arab world. The massive efforts of the Coalition’s covert information operation – the leaflets and radio broadcasts, the text messages and e-mails – were only partly effective in the absence of honest and transparent engagement with the region’s media...
Özkırımlı’s book engages critically with the theoretical and normative literature on nationalism. His analysis is guided by three interconnected claims. (1) Nationalism should not be taken for granted, but problematised with care. The best way to do this, the author suggests, is through a ‘social constructionist’ approach which identifies the contingent, heterogeneous and shifting nature of nations. (2) Nationalism cannot be understood properly without taking its normative dimension into account. This is so not least because nationalism is itself a normative principle, or an ethical doctrine, which states a view about how the world should be organised. (3) There is need to adopt a critical stance towards the existing nation-state order. Many of the age-old problems of human society such as – economic inequalities, wars or intolerance – are still with us. Given that the track record of nationalism in solving these multifarious problems has not been terribly encouraging, it is necessary to attempt a radical rethinking of the system of nation-states and a careful consideration of its alternatives. This is all the more important in today’s globalized world, where the successful resolution of the most urgent problems requires a greater level of international cooperation
More than three decades after the British withdrawal from the Gulf, change can be discerned in the countries of the region in a number of ways. This study by Dr J E Peterson concentrates on one aspect of political change in the GCC – political participation. Specifically, its purpose is to survey the role of national assemblies and consultative councils, and evaluate their impact on the Gulf states. In this paper, which can be considered an update of an earlier study, The Arab Gulf States: Steps Towards Political Participation, Peterson says that while the regimes recognize the need for economic reform and are taking steps toward that end, their willingness for political reform falls far behind and there is a reluctance to make dramatic, fundamental changes. In the mid-2000s climate it is expected that the regimes will continue to rely on a policy of continuity in political matters, with slight, irregular modifications.
The struggle to govern and shape future development in the Gulf requires new thinking and creative approaches. One contributing geographic scale that is rarely considered in policy and analysis is that of the urban. This paper argues for a reconsideration of the developmental potential of the Gulf city-system that underlies the economic, political and social dynamics of the region. Across the longue durée, this armature has provided for the continuity and power for regional development; today there is growing evidence that the day-to-day lived space of the highly urbanized Gulf reverberates with transboundary linkages useful for conflict resolution and growth. As part of a package of creative empowerment, the city-system, if promoted and encouraged, could make a renewed contribution to the developmental future of the Gulf.
Abstract: The task of combating the threat of terrorism is one of paramount importance to the collective security of the Gulf region. In light of the importance of this subject, all the counter-terrorism legislation that has been produced in the GCC countries over the last year has been translated into English for the first time by the Gulf Research Center. The value of this kind of publication and the interest in these laws and treaties are no longer confined to local legal panels in each state but now have a much wider readership and use. The importance of national counter-terrorism legislation is directly linked to the global nature of the task of combating the threat of terrorism which has emerged as an international obligation through several UN Security Council Resolutions. Indeed, the wide and extended powers granted in these counter terrorism laws to the security and legal institutions of each state render them extraordinary legislation with a potentially remarkable impact on individual lives. Terrorism charges can now be directed against any individual, and are no longer restricted to the citizens of the concerned states only. In fact any individual can now be arrested and questioned in many, if not all, parts of the world, accused of terrorist activities in disregard to his nationality or his legal status. Thus these specific kinds of laws now form an integral part of the international legal framework. This publication is concerned with two regional aspects of counter-terrorism legislation. Part one contains the national counter – terrorism laws already enacted and now enforced in certain Gulf states, as in the case of the state of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates , and Iraq, or draft laws now under consideration as in the case of the Kingdom of Bahrain's draft law. Part two lists the full text of regional - or regionally applied treaties which are specifically designed to deal with the new phenomenon of inter-state or non-state terrorist activities with the ultimate aim of establishing an effective system of cooperation and coordination on the regional level. This includes the Gulf Cooperation Council counter- terrorism treaty, The Arab League, and the Islamic Conference Organization.
This paper aims to analyze the reform processes and subsequent institutional changes in Saudi Arabia that maintain the stability of the core elite. External and internal challenges caused the Saudi elites to form new tactical alliances with the business elites, members of the new middle class, professionals, and technocrats. Economic and socioeconomic changes and interactions between new actors and the core elite led to political and economic reforms, as well as to the emergence and change of formal and informal institutions. These institutional changes offer the predominant explanation for the core elite’s stability. The author further demonstrates risks and uncertainties to elites as they walk down the narrow path of institutional change. The paper provides two case studies supporting the assumption that institutional change and traditional power structures upheld the Saudi core elite’s power. However, institutional change offers the best explanation for this stability.
In the aftermath of the Second Gulf War, the GCC states have taken steps, albeit with varying degrees and different in nature, on the path towards political reforms. This process gained momentum after the September 11 attacks which led, among other things, to a noticeable change in Washington's policy in respect of the issue of democracy in the Arab and Islamic worlds. This paper focuses on the description, analysis and assessment of political reforms in the GCC states. It will explore the incentives for political reforms, both internal and external, that led to reform measures in these states. In addition, the paper will discuss the most important factors and problems related to political reforms in the concerned states, including the nature of the state and its relation to society, the dominant political culture, the specific nature of the civil society in these states and the extent of its effectiveness. Also, the paper will discuss the external factors, i.e. the regional and international factors, which created additional incentives for political reforms and their implications for political development in the GCC states. The Paper will discuss the future prospects for political reforms in the GCC states, especially in light of the rise to power of new leaders in these countries, the emergence of the role of civil society institutions in some cases, the unprecedented rise in oil prices, the continuing deterioration of the political and security situation in Iraq, all of which could have further impact on internal developments in the GCC states.
Strategically situated on the Arabian Peninsula, the Sultanate of Oman acted as a bulwark of stability in a region prone for the opposite. With a strong, yet legitimate regime in power, Muscat ensured its security without neglecting its gargantuan developmental needs. In recent years, it addressed many challenges as Omanis were called upon to shoulder nation-building responsibilities. In 2005, the Sultanate faced important challenges even as it ensured internal stability because potentially effective institutions were slowly emerging. Sultan Qaboos, certainly a gifted leader, motivated Omanis to excel. In turn, the latter inspired the ruler to rule with justice. This comprehensive essay first assesses contenders to authority and influence in Oman. It then analyzes economic contentions before turning to critical social debates. The study also delves into an analysis of the judiciary as well as several regional contentions facing the country. It concludes with an assessment of the Sultanate's fundamental raison d’etat that purports to create value and ensure sociopolitical constancy.
Since its inception in 1981, the Gulf Cooperation Council has been discussing the possibility of a unified trade and finance regime, though such efforts have been met with little success. Progress on this front has been hampered by sovereign interests and structural discrepancies among the GCC States and, more importantly, the lack of executive bodies with the power of enforcing region-wide policies. Through exploring the currently developing politico-economic dynamics in the Gulf region in general and in the Gulf Cooperation Council in particular and their impact on the wider framework of the GCC, the discussion herein puts forth the argument that economic integration will not occur as a result of formal policies and agreements. Rather, it is argued that there are realignments already taking place within the GCC that are not related to the signing of the bilateral free trade agreements, which have been touted as a wrench in the GCC integration plans. Diverging from the conventional narrative on economic integration, the author argues that it seems more likely that further integration within the GCC can only be established via pressures created through competitive or seemingly non-cooperative arrangements and developments that necessitate economic integration. In this respect, it is suggested that the negotiation of bilateral FTAs with the GCC States does not compromise the longer term opportunities to negotiate a strong GCC Union, but will rather pressure them into negotiating even better terms for inter-GCC trade.
In the wake of the Cold War’s end and the subsequent hegemony of the United States, the State of Israel, which has since its inception entertained strong ties with the superpower, has found itself in an interestingly strategic position as the gatekeeper to friendly relations with the US. This paper analyzes the relations of three regional powers – India, Russia and Turkey – with Israel, putting forth the argument that despite their opposing views on Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians, relations with the latter have developed positively and have provided the three suitors with an alternate source of arms, an alternate market for their goods and, more importantly, a boost in their relations with the US. The author explores the respective relations between the states by viewing them through the lenses of security, terrorism, economics and regional implications, assessing the benefits and shortcomings of the developing relations for all of the parties involved and providing an analysis of Israeli foreign policy that diverges from conventional discussions on the topic.
One by one, the governments of the Gulf Cooperation Council member states seem to have resigned themselves to the fact that a broad political reform process and a general overhaul of their respective political systems is both necessary and desirable. The current pressures being exerted upon the existing ruling arrangements make the transition towards a more participatory and liberal political order inevitable. In this context, the focus on current research efforts in terms of the political development process that is taking place in the Gulf should look at the existing and emerging domestic dynamics (population, education, the spread of IT etc.) as much as the prevailing external determinants (consequences of the Iraq War, the US Greater Middle East Initiative etc.), which traditionally have received the majority of attention. The result of the current environment is that the majority agrees on the need for a reform process but nobody really understands the parameters to follow or the systemic factors driving the process itself. What is particularly lacking is a consideration of the political reform movement from an internal GCC perspective and how the debate in terms of a more participatory and equitable form of political representation is being viewed and formulated within the Gulf societies themselves. This paper takes such an internal view as its point of departure to develop a thorough understanding of the meanings of reform and provide an overview of the key domestic factors that are determining the current path to reform. A related focus is whether outside efforts and discussions about the key elements of a proposed reform strategy are in essence based on the wrong assumptions and are therefore more or less futile attempts that ultimately will have only a very limited impact.
The Arab-Israeli Conflict represents a major aspect of the regional and international conflicts alike. GCC states have played a major role in the confrontation for religious, nationalistic and strategic considerations. These countries began an early participation in the conflict, but it became obvious and gained prominence during the June 1967 war. When the Arab-Arab differences broke out in 1990 because of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the active role of GCC states in the conflict with Israel almost vanished. This study does not notice a re-emergence of this role, except in the late months of the 1990s and during 2000. This study attempts to discern and analyse of the role of GCC states in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Despite the fact that these states (except Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) became Independent three decades ago - a relatively short period, yet they played a vital role in supporting the Palestinian cause in the economic, political and military arenas and in several phases of the conflict. Accordingly, their absence has represented a clear drawback in the conflict.
Though it is not impossible to achieve democratization in post-Saddam Iraq, the process remains at heart an extremely complicated and difficult task and it might take a relatively long time. It is no exaggeration to say that Iraq is one of the most difficult countries, if not the most difficult, to effect change in the entire Arab world. In fact, there is a need to provide and help nurture the right domestic requirements necessary for democratization to take place, because democracy cannot be imposed by external forces. In this context, external support remains an important factor that could help boost the democratization process in Iraq, but its role remains merely supportive. As such, the objective here is to discern and analyze the major obstacles hampering the process of democratization in Iraq, while dwelling on the background, dimensions and effects of the existing hurdles on the democratization process and the opportunities available for the achievement of democratization in Iraq.
Invading and occupying a country are by definition acts that run counter to legitimacy and international law. Whenever they unfold, invasion and occupation constitute a de fact and temporary state of affairs, and never assume a viable or legal status. The role of international law in confronting acts of invasion and occupation lies in reducing the enormity of the hardships that usually go along with them, pre-empting the crimes that accompany them, infusing resistance against both acts with legitimacy, and protecting the people joining resistance whether the resistance against invasions and occupations take the shape of a spontaneous popular uprising or organized armed resistance. Civilian populations, too, must be protected. The civilians' rights, their legal integrity along with the life of both laypeople and political figures must be preserved. Setting out from this concept of resistance, one could say that the Iraqi resistance is no exception to other resistant insurgencies known throughout the history of wars, save perhaps in so far as the speed with which the Iraqi resistance came into being and the promptness of its reaction against occupation are concerned. In fact, the Iraqi resistance emerged on the scene so fast that political observers could hardly draw a line between the time US occupation settled in and the emergence of the Iraqi armed resistance. Under such conditions, the question of legitimacy is no longer restricted to the act of war itself, but it is also a question that hovers closely over both the occupation and the resistance in the sense that one wonders which one is legitimate and which is not. This dilemma grows more complicated in light of the fact that all justifications for the war have proved unfounded and the real war has turned out to be a confrontation between occupation troops and a national resistance movement. This, indeed, is the core argument that drives this study and is the pivotal question that begs a satisfying answer.
Abstract: The Gulf research Center (GRC) Newsletter is an attempt to highlight the most significant developments in the GRC calendar. The primary objective of this quarterly periodical is to let people know what the GRC is doing and, more crucially, how it is happening.
This paper seeks to trace and analyze the major determinants that govern the future political system and state structure in Iraq. In parallel, the paper endeavors to articulate the main issues and dilemmas pertinent to its topic. Forecasts are advanced as to the future prospects of the political system and state in Iraq and a number of possible ramifications for the insecurity and stability of the Gulf region are carefully explored. Setting out from the realities unraveled by the war against and occupation of Iraq and out of a close analysis of prevalent conditions in this war-torn country, the paper seeks to shed light on the major factors likely to rule the future political system in post-Saddam Iraq as well as put forth the prerequisite conditions necessary for reviving state institutions. While the paper offers various probable and predictable scenarios, it emphasizes the undeniable reality that Iraq today stands at a critical historical turning-point. It could either chart its way towards real independence, political stability, economic development and democracy-building; or, it could slide into the quagmire of domestic strife and civil wars, which might induce the utter implosion of the state. To be sure, precluding a worst-case scenario from unfolding entails edifying a platform on which the different Iraqi political forces could consensually formulate a sustainable political formula for the political future of Iraq. Arab states, for their part, need to move along the lines of a well-devised strategy capable of pre-empting the worst-case scenario from materializing.
This research aims to investigate the pattern(s) of the elections in Yemen. In doing so, huge materials were gathered and analyzed most of which were collected through interviews with different politicians and civil activists and questionnaires distributed on MPs. The field work however was conducted by the author during intermittent periods of time. Following unification, the international arena and domestic balance of power fostered a multiparty system. However, the struggle for power and the party organizations did little to help promote the role of Parliament. This study, therefore, explores the elections and sees the functions of the Yemeni Parliament and evaluates the extent to which it shapes politics. The Republic of Yemen has had three Parliaments since May 1990. During the 1990s the country was affected by important domestic and international events, such as the Gulf War, which resulted in the repatriation of around a million workers from the neighboring oil-rich countries, the eruption of the civil war in 1994, and the introduction of the economic structural adjustment programs. All these had great social, economic and political repercussions.
No doubt, the Third Gulf War, which led to the removal of Saddam Hussein and to the US-UK occupation of Iraq, constitutes a watershed event, not just for the history of modern Iraq, but also for the history for the whole Gulf region. The war carries a slew of implications, both current and potential, for the GCC States, which have to bear part of the brunt of the deteriorating conditions in Iraq. This is due mainly to the GCC States’ geographical proximity to Iraq as well as their prominent standing on the world oil stage. It would, certainly, not be far-fetched to say that the future security and stability of the GCC States in particular, and the wider Gulf region in general, rest in great measure on the course developments in Iraq would take in the future. In view of the fact that the war in Iraq is not yet completely over, particularly since conditions across the towns and villages in the country are getting more complicated by the day, the GCC States need to dwell seriously on the dilemmas arising out of the current situation in Iraq. The GCC States, indeed, need to formulate a sustainable vision for the future in a bid to articulate appropriate policies capable of managing the myriad developments unfolding in post-Saddam Iraq. It needs to be stressed that the deepening insecurity in Iraq, compounded by worsening political and socio-economic conditions, are bound to confront the Gulf region one way or another with multiple challenges.
Based on the premise that “dialogue is the essence of life”, Professor Fred Halliday suggested that the future of the Arabian Gulf would depend on the way the evolving politico-socio-economic changes are managed. The long-term challenge in the region, in his opinion, is to ensure a working relationship between the Arab Gulf countries and Iran, and especially between the three big regional players – Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq. The London School of Economics academic insisted that the Arabian Peninsula is a “political state”, whose unity is compelled by socio-economic factors and influenced by events around it – the history of the Gulf is greatly influenced by Nasserism and the 1958 and 1979 events in Iraq and Iran respectively. He also suggested that conflicts in the region are not based on historical struggles as much as being rooted in nationalism – the Iran-Iraq struggle was essentially a result of a clash between anti-Persian and anti-Arab sentiments. He urged caution in evaluating the role of external forces in the region – their influence should neither be overestimated nor underestimated. In defense, he cited the inability of Russia to influence Saddam Hussein’s aggressive policies and pointed to the flaw in big powers ignoring smaller states in international politics. Discussing future regional stability, he said that despite witnessing major wars in the last 25 years, no outstanding problem is without a peaceful solution. Citing the complex Indo-Pak and Chinese-Taiwanese crises, he said the Iran-Iraq differences over the Shatt-Al-Arab and the Iran-UAE differences over the Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs islands are minor irritants from the perspective of international relations and could be resolved bilaterally. Providing a prognosis of the link between domestic and foreign policies, he said that education, empowerment of women and the level of government transparency are the defining factors of domestic freedom in the region, which would only be marginally influenced by external factors. Predicting no quick-fix solution to the push for democracy in the region, he stressed that Western history showed that democracy took a long time to evolve and contended that democracy occurs only when rulers introduce reforms in response to people’s pressure for their rights and not as a result of external pressure – the history from below has been ignored in favor of history from above. He concluded by saying that the West holds considerable prejudice towards people in the Middle East, mostly due to a lack of awareness about the region and its peoples. At the same time, he pointed to the region’s stereotyped prejudice against the West, implying that “dialogue is the essence of life”