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Between Accommodation and Opportunism: Explaining the Growing Influence of Small Gulf States in the Middle East


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