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How Gulf States Have Undermined Israel’s Case on Iran

President Obama meeting leaders of the Gulf nations at Camp David. Image: Pete Souza/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations on 13 August, 2015.

In its relentless opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers that was signed on 14th July, Israel has argued that the deal would pose a grave danger to the entire region. Israel’s case against the nuclear deal with Iran has shifted away from attacks on the substantive terms to focus on its regional implications. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly outlined that Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States are at least as concerned as it is regarding the dangers of the nuclear deal, and the possibility that Tehran will use the lifting of sanctions to cause mayhem throughout the Middle East. Now, Israel’s case has been dealt a serious blow with the public backing, albeit cautious, of the Arab Gulf States for the Iran nuclear deal. » More

Spilling the Beans, Riyadh Style

Obama meeting with senior Saudi Ministers. Image: Tribes of the World/Flickr

This article was originally published on openDemocracy on 19 May 2015. It is also available here.

Saudi Arabia and other oil rich Gulf countries don’t want to live in the shadow of an Iranian nuclear bomb. Yet when the US embarks on an agreement to prevent this very possibility, they fear it might lead to a grand bargain that gives Iran carte blanche for expansionism in the Middle East.

Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist close to the Saudi ruling family, is already speaking of the “inter-Muslim struggle of the century” and Prince Turki al Faisal, former chief of Saudi intelligence and erstwhile ambassador of his country to Washington, is travelling the conference circuit warning that Saudi Arabia will strive to get a nuclear device should Iran do the same. » More

Mitchell Belfer on Small States and Security

The Persian Gulf. Image: Hégésippe Cormier/Wikimedia

Trying to define what, exactly, constitutes a ‘small state’ remains a matter of interpretation. The World Bank, for example, defines such a state as a country with a population under 1.5 million, while the United Nations’ Forum of Small States (FOSS) has over 100 (and often more populous) members. In today’s podcast, Mitchell A. Belfer explains why there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ definition of a small state. He also reveals 1) what inspired him to study the contributions that small states make to security; 2) why small states such as Bahrain are often good indicators of the security and geopolitical forces that shape a particular region; and 3) reveals which small states warrant greater attention on the international stage.


Mitchell A. Belfer is the founder and Head of the Department of International Relations and European Studies at Metropolitan University Prague, Czech Republic, and Editor in Chief of the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies (CEJISS).

For more information on issues and events that shape our world, please visit ISN Security Watch or browse our resources.

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Gulf States Under Pressure

Protests in Bahrain in 2011

Protests in Bahrain in 2011. Photo: Al Jazeera English/Flickr.

Since independence, relations between citizens and their states in the Gulf have been shaped in part by the oil and gas wealth that these countries enjoy. Control over oil and gas revenues allows the governments to offer extensive benefits to citizens, while hardly needing to extract any taxes. This system, often described as a rentier state, means that while the state is absolved from the usual need to obtain income from its citizens, they in turn have less of a stake in demanding transparency, accountability and so on, or so the argument goes. Meanwhile, others in the Gulf see their state benefits as evidence of the magnanimity of paternalistic rulers.

The arguments between those who see dissidents as mere ingrates, and those who see conservatives as regime stooges, have been growing more polarized. The resulting political tensions are visible above all in Bahrain, where renewed protests are being met with an intensive crackdown today; and in the UAE, over the recent sentencing of opposition activists, and to some extent also in Kuwait. But either way, the fact remains that this economic model is not sustainable in the long term. » More

ISN Weekly Theme: Gulf State Diplomacy

A highway in Kuwait City / Photo: Fawaz Al-Arbash, flickr

A highway in Kuwait City / Photo: Fawaz Al-Arbash, flickr

This week we’re highlighting the shifting diplomatic ties between the US and the Gulf states and the linkages between these monied monarchies and East Asia, starting with our Special Report, Gulf States Go Global, where Phillip McCrum argues that the US’ declining influence in the area has allowed regional players to stretch their diplomatic muscles. Because of this shift, according to Christopher M Davidson, not only are regional actors asserting themselves, East Asia is also becoming a major player.

In keeping with our theme, also check out The Consolidation of Gulf-Asia Relations: Washington Tuned In or Out of Touch? from the Middle East Institute in our Policy Briefs.

By the way, the Gulf Cooperation Council Charter in our Primary Resources section makes for good reading too.

We’re featuring the Gulf states throughout the ISN website this week, so be sure to check your RSS feeds, subscribe to our Twitter feed and join our Facebook fan page.