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The GCC Monarchies: Perceptions of the Iranian Threat amid Shifting Geopolitics


The systemic shift triggered by a progressive retrenchment of the United States (US) from the wider Middle East region has been a fundamental game changer in the security perceptions of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) monarchies. The retrenchment activated a security dilemma in US-GCC relations, especially in relation to their view of Iran. However, the impact was uneven. While the dilemma triggered fears of abandonment in the three more hawkish players – Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain –, it generated fears of entrapment in the three less hawkish players – Oman, Kuwait and Qatar. The key differences between these two camps lie on their threat perceptions. Seemingly shaped by state ideology and religion, narratives of identity, socio-political demography and, finally, leadership cognition, these fears interact with domestic factors such as structural vulnerabilities, to affect the perception of Iran as an existential or non-existential risk.
Keywords: GCC foreign policy, GCC threat perceptions, Iran, US geopolitics