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The role of the Gulf monarchies in middle East policy Washington
Material posted: Publication date: 15-07-2013

Careful analysis and study of the situation shows that began in 2010, the process of reformatting the Arab world, known as the "Arab spring", today moving to a new stage.

According to some Arab analysts, what is happening is not that other, as a new partition of the Middle East, causing the Association with the Treaty of Sykes-Picot[1]. Ongoing political processes set the countries of the region faced with the necessity of formation of the response not only on the vital challenges social and political issues that threaten the integrity of States, but also informational, ideological, religious, etc. In the twenty-first century geopolitical goals of the regional and geopolitical power centers are issued, including, and in religious arena, and in cognitive and information science that became new domains of war, which the unfolding confrontation.

The inability of the Arab countries, and regional power centers to form a response to the challenges emerging in the new domains of the armed confrontation can have serious consequences for the greater Middle East.

Today it is possible with a certain probability that the West intends to pursue its policy in the middle East based on the Gulf monarchies, Turkey and Israel, not secular Arab regimes. They must become a counterbalance to the desire of Iran to become a regional center of power in the middle East.

However, stability in these countries today is questionable: most of the regional monarchies have avoided direct involvement in the Arab spring, however, these developments seriously undermined the already vulnerable political situation.

From the point of view of the assessment of recent regional events of interest published in June this year at the Institute of strategic studies Army war College U.S. representative monograph of British academia Mohamed al-Katiri[2] "the Future of the Gulf monarchies in an era of uncertainty"[3].

In the monograph examines the complex external and internal factors, which, in the opinion of the author, on the background of the "Arab spring" constitute the main threat to the stability of monarchies in the long term.

Data in the work conclusions based on the research results of many months of monitoring processes in the region, more than 20 interviews conducted by the author with the decision makers in the region beyond, which makes the source very informative to understand Western policy in the region.

The aim of the study can be considered as an attempt to formulate on the basis of what strategy and with what resources and means the US must protect its geopolitical interests in the region.


Internal threats

The main internal threats to the stability of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain following.

1. The democratization of political and judicial institutions is one of the main destabilizing factors. It is about the growing needs of the population of the Gulf countries, mostly young people (and in the case of Saudi Arabia, also Islamists, liberals and women's movements) in democratization. According to the author, as a possible model of democratization is suggested to pay attention to the experience of Kuwait, whose internal structure is most similar to the democracies of the Western kind. Interesting you should accept the comment of al-Katiri that the majority of the ruling house Sadouskaya Arabia are also in favour of reform in order "to avoid the fate of deposed monarchs in the Arab countries".

Evaluating the author's conclusions and its approach to the assessment of processes inside the Gulf and the middle East in General, the following should be noted. Selected al-Katiri approach also addressing such critical towards Arab self-identification as belonging to his tribe. Built analysis method appeals to state actors and regional centers of power, bypassing the sub-state level tribal Arab society. However, the tribe plays a constitutive role in the Arab world, largely shaping the political, economic and social context of contemporary Arab society.

The problem of sub-state tribal level should recognize his closeness. Being extremely influential actors in the politico-military and socio-economic processes and the political arena in General, the tribes, however, remain closed to the outside world by the systems, the understanding of which is a non-trivial complexity of the task. The logic and the motives of the tribes should be recognized as extremely important for understanding the processes of the social domain lead to formation of requirements to the authorities about democratic reforms. Understanding processes and sub-processes in the social domain, knowledge of processes at the level of tribes is no less important, and sometimes bongreater role than the political interests of those or other economic and political groups. The coarsening and simplification of the overall picture through the neglect of tribal level should be recognized correctly and leads to inaccurate conclusions.

The necessity of considering the historical context, the processes within Arab societies is critical, and Arab scholars often view the Western model of democracy, as unacceptable, precisely because of its inability to operate is not the concepts of "civil society" as social reality in the Arab world, which is different from Western, and an integral part of which are the tribes[4].

The latter conclusion generally acknowledged himself the author, quoting a statement by king of Saudi Arabia Fahd al-Saud (1982-2005,) that the character and the lifestyle of Saudis are different from the traditions of the democratic world, therefore, free elections were unacceptable to his country.

However, speaking about the possible democratization of the Gulf countries, the author as the driving force sees young people, educated in Western universities, mainly in Anglo-Saxon societies (Anglo-Saxon societies)[5]. These circles should form the political Outlook and the future of the Gulf. Otherwise, the lack of clear rules of succession of power and strong democratic institutions will intensify infighting within the ruling families of the Gulf, forming a serious threat to the stability of Arab monarchies.

Given the high level of life of population of countries of the Persian Gulf can agree that the number of Western-educated much and theoretically should form the influential stratum of society. However, attempts to form long-term estimates and projections regarding the democratization of the Arab societies of the Gulf on the Western model require careful evaluation of another problem. We are talking about the clash acquired Western education and Western thinking skills with an innate tribal Outlook. Not taking into account tribal level of analysis, to make adequate estimates and projections is not possible. The results obtained should be regarded as "arbitrary" and "fragile", vulnerable to manipulation from both outside and within societies. In this context, calls for the democratization of society and even the change of power, which mentions al-Katiri, can be considered more as a means of pressure on the governments of the Gulf from the West or even Iran, rather than real demands for political freedoms.

2. The confrontation between the Shiite opposition to the Sunni ruling regimes are seen as a threat to the stability of countries such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which could lead to prolonged political crisis. Shiites in these countries are considered "second rate citizens" and "a threat to political stability and social cohesion."

The fall of Saddam Hussein and the empowerment of the Iraqi Shiite politicians, has brought to the region a new dynamism, which in importance is not inferior to the effect produced by the revolution of 1979 in Iran. Naturally, this expanded the area of Iranian influence in the region. Al-Katiri predicts the escalation of confrontation between Sunnis and Shias, first in Iraq and then throughout the region. Saudi Arabia in this scheme plays the role of leader of the Sunni world.

The attitude of the Shiites disdain and disgust even in Lebanon, where Shiite Hezbollah is a "political popularity". In this regard we can recall a meeting of the Patriarch of the Maronite Church Bishara Raya with representatives of Hezbola in 2012, which caught the opponents of such development of the situation off guard and even forced to appeal to the Vatican. The meeting has strengthened greatly the position of Hezbola and its supporting forces in the region[6].

Shiite-Sunni antagonism is most striking in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. This is one of the important factors that is forcing the ruling family to buy their way to political legitimacy through the subsidization of the population, which should prevent the economic decline in serious political crisis. However, such measures al-Katiri recognizes ineffective to meet long-term political and economic goals.

The author's desire to conduct historical and even psychological dividing line between Shia and Sunni shows the degree of importance of the problem for U.S. interests in the region.

It should be noted that simultaneously with the appearance of the monograph, in Lebanon, known for his provocative anti-Syrian and anti-Shia statements and actions of Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir called on Sunnis to leave the ranks of the Lebanese army[7], and in Egypt, a bloody clash between Sunnis and Shiites is typically not the case for Egyptian society[8]. Thus, the factor of the confrontation between Shiites and Sunnis becomes a handy tool to put pressure on the Gulf monarchies.

Not only Western geopolitical centers of power, but also Turkey, is interested in Shiite-Sunni confrontation, which could help it strengthen its influence in the middle East. You may recall that in 2011, Turkey tried to take over the functions of the intermediary, when Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan tried to reconcile the protesting Shiites of Bahrain, with a Sunni government. According to the Arab press, "the Gulf countries ignored the offer of Erdogan" and resolved the issue on their own, in Bahrain by sending its military forces"[9]. In Shiite-Sunni confrontation interested also ruling Saudi Wahhabi regime, believes "Islamisms". After the Wahabis and their Western allies have suffered military-political defeat in the region (in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon), the Wahhabi regime was to provoke sectarian clashes between Christians and Muslims, and between Sunnis and Shiites at home and in the region in order to divert public attention from their own mistakes[10].

3. Political Islam, "democratically" established in Tunisia and Egypt, led to changes in the political landscape of the region. Bay is concerned about the possible impact of the "Egyptian democratic experience" in their society. The worst scenario for the Gulf monarchies could be the desire of the Egyptian "Muslim brothers" to spread its influence in the region by expanding support for other Islamist groups. Even in "rich Arab Emirates" opposition Islamists to demand democratic reforms.

Speaking of the coming to power of political Islam in Tunisia, it is worth remembering that the Arab spring was an opposition political coalition, consisting of eleven parties, which demanded from the new authorities not to succumb to the pressure of external forces and to retain in the new Constitution, the article establishing criminal penalties for normalization of relations with Israel[11].


External threats

Iran, according to al-Katiri, is the main external threat to the stability of the Gulf monarchies. Iranian dominance in the region threatens the national interests of the United States in the Gulf and middle East region. When this is said about the nuclear ambitions of Iran which may trigger a surge of nuclear ambitions "as a deterrent" to such States as Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Iraq and Egypt. Also indicate the rejection of Iran's Pro-American policies of monarchies, the support that Iran provides the Shi'ite populations of the Gulf countries, territorial disputes with the UAE and the desire of Iran to become a center of the Islamic world.

It is important to note that the author for some strange reason does not mention the Palestinian issue as the most important priority of Iran's foreign policy[12]. The rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia takes place, including around the commitment of both countries to monopolize the Palestinian problem. You can probably talk about the author's attempt to evade the consideration of Palestinian, Arab-Israeli conflict, and discuss external and internal threats to the Gulf countries through the prism of the Shiite-Sunni confrontation, Reaffirming the fairness of this approach and historical context, and frequent appeals to history. However, the impression that the author tries to convince readers of the impending doom of the Iran-Arab relations. Comparing historical "Iranian superiority" with "the relative modesty of Arab neighbors," the author concludes that the tensions between Iran and most Gulf monarchies are due not so much geopolitical as historical and ideological differences. "Forgetting" about the Arab-Israeli conflict, where Iran could act as an ally of the Arabs.

A territorial dispute between Iran and UAE is seen as an important threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf. The three Islands - greater and lesser Tunb and Musa, jurisdiction over which Iran was established in 1969. However, al-Katiri is silent about the issue of the three Islands of Saudi Arabia in the Straits of Tirana - Tirana, Sanafir and Firsan that protivoastmaticheskogo of sea shield in the Gulf of Aqaba became the sea gate of Israel in the six day war in 1967. The Gulf of Aqaba separates the Sinai and Arabian peninsulas and the Islands are critical to the strategic security of the Gulf monarchies and Egypt. It is important to note that in the Arab press argued about the fact that the government of Saudi Arabia and the world's media is deliberately silent about this fact, redirecting public opinion in Iran and other "island problem"[13].


Opinion research center of the channel "al Jazeera"

In the light of the al-Kathiri analysis is also interest and the material research center "al-Jazeera" (financed by the Emir of Qatar), entitled "Iran's strategic ally in the objective conditions"[14]. Appearing in 2009, the article is still reprinted again and again, Palestinian electronic media, the Arab Diaspora in the United States and a number of other sources.

The article analyses external and internal threats to Arab States and comparison of different points of view on the concept of the Iranian threat. The article concludes that Iran should not be included among the factors that form a threat to the stability of North Africa. In the remaining Arab countries, it rather acts as a competitor, in certain cases, and an ally in others.

Historic disputes between Iran and the Arab monarchies of the article describes how the dispute over the name of the Persian Gulf, which the Arabs traditionally called Arabic. Iran's nuclear program are also not included in the list of primary threats and is regarded as relative.

On the other hand , the American military presence in the Gulf is seen as a threat to the stability of Arab countries. As one of the main threats to the Persian Gulf called rivalry between Iran and the U.S. for influence in the region. Shiite-Sunni problem in the study is not mentioned at all, but talked about the role of Iran as an ally of the Arabs against Israel. Also referred to as the statement of U.S. President George W. Bush. W. Bush during his trip to the region in 2008, when he demanded the Arab countries to create anti-Iranian block along with Israel. Occupying at that time as Minister of foreign Affairs of Israel Tzipi Livni expressed the readiness of his country to join the Sunni countries in the region to repel the Iranian threat.



Monograph of the British researcher Mohammed al-Katiri, allows you to get an idea of the goals and objectives of the policy and strategy of the U.S. and its allies in the Persian Gulf.

The analysis of sources suggests that the main thesis which the author gives in his study, is reduced to the necessity of joint efforts, the U.S. and its Western allies, to prevent the concentration of oil and gas resources of the region in the hands of one power center. Speech thus goes not about bias, but geostrategic design in which the relations between Iran and the Gulf monarchies and the Arab world in General, through the prism of Shiite-Sunni confrontation, the Iranian threat, the Arab revolutions etc. aim to create the necessary context within which it will be possible to solve the problems.

However, the evaluations allow us to conclude that the concept of "Shiite-Sunni confrontation," is largely speculative. Attempt to make the confrontation between two religious sects in Islam, geopolitical, military-political and socio-economic dimension should be considered as an attempt to turn a religious issue into a tool of the geopolitical arena. Political history provides many examples of successful policy and political Islam could become a successful project.

The example of Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey and Qatar, shows that political Islam and the "Muslim brotherhood" is too fragile a design to make serious overload. The possibility of losing control of processes and the transition region in condition of crisis instability when trying to reformat the region becomes the scenario, the probability of which is quite high, and perhaps even the most likely. Political Islam, as well as "Shiite-Sunni" confrontation, therefore, should be considered as one of the tools through which geopolitical and regional power centers intend to manage the processes in the region, rather than something independent and accomplished. Monarchies of the Gulf, especially the UAE, quite soberly assess the gravity of the threat and strongly oppose the activities of Islamists on its territory, often subjecting them to arrest members of Islamist cells. It can be noted that the fall of the regime of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt have been interpreted in the United Arab Emirates as a chance to strengthen relations with Egypt, and we have already decided on the official visit of the delegation of Ministers for the UAE to Egypt[15].


Armine Hakobyan, an expert on the Middle East, orientalist-Arabist

[1]"Committed",March 04,2013, July 09,2013, <ايكس_بيكو_جديد_يطبق_في_المنطقة_العربية>; "Tariq Al-Islam", May 05,2011,July 09,2013<>; "Al-Beyda Press",July 21,2013, July 09,2013;

[2] Mohammed al-Katiri is a senior analyst of the Center for conflict studies in the UK, he was previously a research fellow defence Academy of the United Kingdom. 03 July 2013

[3] Mohammed El-Katiri, “The Future Of The Arab Gulf Monarchies in The Age Of Uncertainties”,

June 10, 2013, July 03,2013,

[4]"King Saud University Faculty Members' websites". July 08,2013,<>.

[5] Mohammed El-Katiri, “The Future Of The Arab Gulf Monarchies in The Age Of Uncertainties”, June 10, 2013,
July 03, 2013. p.32 <>

[6] al-Safir, November 11, 2012 08 July 2013 <>.

[7] "Arabi-press", June 23, 2013. July 08 2013 <>

[8] "Arabi-press", June 27, 2013. 08 July 2013,<>

[9] "Al-Ahram", July 06, 2013. July 08 2013 <>.

[10] "Islamtimes",July 08,2013, October 12,2012,<>

[11] "Arabiya-news", July 08,2013, 15 October 2012,<>

[12] "Al-alam", June 12,2013. July 5,2013 <>

[13] "Al-Bayyina Al-Jadida" June 17,2013. July 08,2013,<>

[14] "Arab Spring News", May 27,2013. July 09, 2013,<>.

[15] "Arabi-press", July 07,2013. July 07,2013<>

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