The International Spectator, Vol. 52, No. 2, June 2017

Numero speciale su "Foreign Relations of the GCC Countries amid Shifting Global and Regional Dynamics", a cura di Silvia Colombo e Eman Ragab

Editorial Note Free
Status and Foreign Policy Change in Small States: Qatar’s Emergence in Perspective Free

Numero: 
52/2
Data pubblicazione: 
07/06/2017
Special issue. Foreign Relations of the GCC Countries amid Shifting Global and Regional Dynamics
Guest Editors Silvia Colombo and Eman Ragab
Editorial Note
Silvia Colombo and Eman Ragab
This Special Issue examines the foreign policies of the GCC countries six years after the Arab uprisings in terms of drivers, narratives, actions and outcomes, paying particular attention to Middle Eastern countries, Iran and Western international powers. The assessment focuses on current affairs, but also contributes to establishing a productive link between empirical studies and the existing theoretical frameworks that help explain the increasing foreign policy activism of the GCC countries. All in all, the articles collected in this Special Issue shed light on and provide a more solid and fine-grained understanding of how regional powers like Saudi Arabia, as well as the other smaller GCC countries, act and pursue their interests in an environment full of uncertainty, in the context of changing regional and global dynamics and power distribution. The Special Issue brings together a selection of articles originally presented and discussed at the Seventh Gulf Research Meeting (GRM) organised by the Gulf Research Centre Cambridge at the University of Cambridge on 16-19 August 2016.
Keywords: Gulf, GCC
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Between Accommodation and Opportunism: Explaining the Growing Influence of Small Gulf States in the Middle East
Máté Szalai
Smaller members of the Gulf Cooperation Council defied theoretical and practical expectations as they were able to enlarge their international influence during the years of the Arab Spring. They adopted markedly different foreign policy strategies, which can be seen as stances lying between accommodation and opportunism, depending on the extent to which they respected the security concerns of their geopolitical patron, Saudi Arabia. The mainstream schools of IR theory – neorealism, neoliberalism and constructivism – offer different explanations for these phenomena. Although none of the three schools can provide a completely exhaustive explanation, neoliberalism seems to offer the most comprehensive framework for analysis.
Keywords: Small states, IR theory, GCC, foreign policy analysis, Gulf region
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Status and Foreign Policy Change in Small States: Qatar’s Emergence in Perspective
Babak Mohammadzadeh
Small states are just as easily seduced by status and glory as other states. When conceived as situated in a stratified international society, small states acquire an inherent tendency to overcome their disadvantage in conventional power terms through the pursuit of status. Hence, it is precisely because of their position in the international hierarchy, not in spite of it, that strategic ideas based on state size stimulate foreign policy change in small states. This mechanism provides an explanation to the question why the small state of Qatar has pursued such a high-profile diplomatic strategy since its emergence in the late 1990s.
Keywords: Status, hierarchy, small states, Qatar, foreign policy change
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Beyond Money and Diplomacy: Regional Policies of Saudi Arabia and UAE after the Arab Spring
Eman Ragab
The post-Arab Spring context created a window of opportunity for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to reposition themselves in the region as countries capable of using not only money and diplomacy, but also military means in pursuing their regional policies. Their military interventions in Bahrain in 2011 and Yemen in 2015 uncover different aspects of the militarisation of their foreign policies. The permanence of the militarisation of their policies is, however, challenged by the type of interventionist state unfolding from these muscular policies, their domestic and regional legitimacy and the institutionalisation of this foreign policy pattern.
Keywords: Post-Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia, UAE, militarisation, foreign policy, Yemen, Bahrain
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Foreign Policy Activism in Saudi Arabia and Oman. Diverging Narratives and Stances towards the Syrian and Yemeni Conflicts
Silvia Colombo
Amid growing animosity and security concerns in the Middle East, the Gulf region appears to be on the way to becoming the new centre of gravity of regional equilibria. The increasingly active foreign policy postures of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is a key aspect of the new regional order in the making. Saudi Arabia and Oman are two examples of this trend. Their involvement in the Syrian and Yemeni conflicts reveals important differences regarding the aims, narratives, political and military postures, strategies and alliances pursued by Riyadh and Muscat and casts a shadow over the future of GCC cooperation and integration.
Keywords: Saudi Arabia, Oman, omnibalancing, swing states, Middle Eastern conflicts, GCC
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The Evolution of Saudi Foreign Policy and the Role of Decision-making Processes and Actors
Umer Karim
Saudi Arabia has witnessed a centralisation of power in the office of the deputy crown prince, which has amounted to a shift in decision-making from consensual and deliberative to swift and adventurous, most markedly in foreign policy. This centralisation is coupled with an increase in institutionalisation. A new decision-making pattern and rising Iranian power in the region have affected the evolution of Saudi foreign policy. The Saudi crown prince’s strict handling of Shia dissidents acknowledges the perceived extension of the Iranian threat to internal security. The relationship between these two princes and Saudi political competition with Iran will affect the evolution of Saudi foreign policy in a critical manner in the future.
Keywords: Saudi Arabia, foreign policy, Mohammad Bin Salman, Muhammad Bin Nayef, decision-making, Iran
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Iran, the GCC and the Implications of the Nuclear Deal: Rivalry versus Engagement
Riham Bahi
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, is consequential for Middle East regional security. It has raised a number of concerns for Arab Gulf states in relation to an emboldened Iran after sanction relief and the perceived shift of the US away from supporting its traditional allies in the Gulf. The international recognition and incorporation of Iran into regional power constellations resulting from the deal will intensify Saudi-Iranian rivalry to assert dominance. This rivalry and competition will increase in the short run, however, regional crises are expected to highlight the need for dialogue and engagement on regional affairs.
Keywords: Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, United States, JCPOA, regime security, regional alignments, Iran nuclear deal, Gulf Cooperation Council
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US-Arab Gulf Relations amidst Regional and Global Changes
Dania Koleilat Khatib
The Arab Gulf has long enjoyed privileged relations with the United States. Being home to the world’s largest oil reserves, the US saw it in its strategic interest to keep Arab Gulf states in its camp during the Cold War. The relation developed over the years to include other areas of cooperation such as in the military, economic and even academic fields. However, many factors today challenge this relationship. In the face of the US’ evident retrenchment from the region, the Arab Gulf is showing more inter-GCC cooperation, and Saudi Arabia is trying to forge alliances independently from the US. At the same time, Arab Gulf countries are intensifying their lobbying efforts in the US.
Keywords: US, Middle East, US retrenchment, Arab lobbying, US-Arab Gulf relations, US Middle East policy
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Russia as a Gravity Pole of the GCC’s New Foreign Policy Pragmatism
Alexander Shumilin and Inna Shumilina
Despite the obvious differences over the Syrian crisis and Iran, the GCC countries do not seem to be distancing themselves from Russia politically. To a large extent that is due to Russia’s growing military role (in Syria) and military cooperation (with Iran), as well as the diminishing role of the United States under Obama. Having accepted the situation in Syria (after the fall of Aleppo) as a fait accompli, the GCC’s elites seem to be looking at Russia as a powerful player able to reduce the scope of Iran’s expansion in the region. Their approach involves a carefully established mechanism of economic interaction exploiting Russia’s need for GCC finances and arms acquisitions.
Keywords: GCC, Middle East, foreign policy, pragmatism, Russia, Syria
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Book Reviews
Understanding the ISIS Phenomenon: History, Ideology and Governance of the Islamic State
Andrea Dessì
Review of: ISIS : a history, by Fawaz A. Gerges, Princeton University Press, 2016
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NATO in Libya and the Future of Transatlantic Cooperation
Andrea Gilli
Review of: Toppling Qaddafi : Libya and the limits of liberal intervention, by Christopher S. Chivvis, Cambridge University Press, 2014
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