As a center of a collision among various opposing political forces, the Persian Gulf region experiences enormous geopolitical, economic, and military overloads, and the balancing of these forces is key to preserving regional integrity and security. The intra-regional conflicts remain at the forefront of the political and diplomatic processes between different GCC countries over the past decades, and they continue to develop. One of the most recent conflicts posing significant threats to regional security emerged among Qatar and the neighboring states including Saudi Arabia and its main allies: Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain.
The conflict occurred on June 5, 2017, when the ally states announced the end of their diplomatic relations with Qatar. They explained this decision by stating that Qatar backs the terrorist organizations, which aim to destabilize the situation in the region (Greene, 2017). The problem is that the Islamic Republic of Iran, led by Shiites, is one of the biggest rivals of Saudi Arabia, governed by Sunnis. Moreover, the two large oil exporters support opposing sides in several regional conflicts including the one that currently unfolds in Syria.
Additionally, Saudi Arabia and the UAE pursue opportunities to strengthen ties with the USA. Therefore, they attempt to crush any opposition forces that strive to weaken the united front fighting against Iranian influence in the Middle East. For this reason, the states aim to put pressure on Qatar and make it stop providing aid to various radical Islamist groups.
National interests dominate the actions of the parties involved in the conflict. When speaking of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain, they implement anti-terror policies. Additionally, as part of these anti-terrorism efforts, Saudi Arabia aims to project its military and economic power both regionally and globally (Obaid, 2014). From the perspective of the state and its allies, terrorist groups undermine the political and economic stability and, consequently, their position within the region. Thus, the national interests are aligned with the problems of both national and regional security in the case of the ally GCC states. At the same time, Qatar aims to increase its power within the region through ties with Iran.
As Kamrava (2016) observes, Tehran and Doha share the largest natural gas structure in the world, and, therefore, it is in the mutual interest between the two countries to cooperate to achieve “the full utilization of hydrocarbon resources” (p. 167). It means Doha may try to develop its economy and increase control over the strategically important resources in this way. Since the conflict of interests can be observed between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, their cooperation towards regional security becomes impossible at the given stage.
The conflict between Qatar and other GCC states indicates an extreme vulnerability of the Persian Gulf region. Its security largely depends on such factors as access to energy resources, dissemination of extremist ideologies, lack of trust among states, and so on. The controversies, similarities, and differences of countries’ interests define the course of their military strategies to a substantial effect. It is possible to say that the situation is also significantly complicated due to the absence of a unified regional organization that would comprise all the GCC states. Such an organization could foster the establishment and strengthening of trustful relationships among the conflicting parties and, in this way, allow increasing regional security.
Greene, L. (2017). Arab nations cut ties with Qatar over alleged aid for terrorism. Web.
Kamrava, M. (2016). Iran-Qatar relations. In G. Bahgat, A. Ehteshami, & N. Quilliam (Eds.), Security and Bilateral Issues between Iran and its Arab Neighbours (pp. 167-187). Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.
Obaid, N. (2014). A Saudi Arabian defense doctrine: mapping the expanded force structure the kingdom needs to lead the Arab world, Stabilize the region, and meet its global responsibilities. Web.