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The withdrawal of the European powers from their Middle Eastern territories created several new states in the Arabian peninsula, which before the OPEC price rises of 1973 were economically inconsequential in comparison to their neighbours. Post 1973 these states became extremely wealthy as a result of a four-fold increase in the price of oil. However, since this period states such as Qatar or the UAE have been politically constrained due to their size by the larger actors in the region. In this paper it is my intention to analyse the foreign policy constraints affecting these players, by firstly identifying them and the factors determining their homogeneity for the purposes of this paper, secondly their role in the political structures and crises which have occurred, and finally their prospects for the future. The gulf sheikhdoms - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE (a federation of seven emirates, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sarjah being the most important) have several common characteristics. Firstly they all speak the same language with only slight variations in dialect, a not unimportant consideration for their political intercourse. Secondly they all possess small territories compared to their neighbours Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Also the population of the sheikhdoms are small, in 1991 their combined population was only 40% of Saudi Arabia, 31% of Iraq and 11% of Iran 1 These figures are affected by the fact that several of the monarchies have large numbers of 'guest workers' either cheap labour or skilled specialists for tasks which have no local specialists, inflating the population statistics leading to a reluctance to have a regular census. Thirdly these states share a broadly similar culture, that of the Bedouin clan and are practitioners of the Sunni branch of Islam. Further the social structures which result in these states being conservative absolute monarchies ruled by a family such as the Al-Sabah's in Kuwait, even the UAE is divided into seven absolute monarchies which consult one another over particular matters. The next similarity is that all these states are economically dependent upon the production and export of oil and gas. In 1991 the conservative monarchies (excluding Saudi Arabia) had 201.5 billion barrels of proven oil reserves of a total 705.9 in the Persian Gulf 2 The consequence of this is that firstly the per capita GNP of these emirates is very high, secondly there has been little incentive to diversify their economies from traditional agriculture, or the post 1973 financial services boom to handle the influx of petrodollars. The final similarity which ends this introduction to the sheikhdoms is that of their foreign policy. Whether under protectorate status or a dependency, the monarchies were content to relinquish their foreign policy function to the 'mother country'. The significance of this is that these states were it could be suggested neophytes to the idea of foreign policy, tending to rely upon their 'peers' such as Saudi Arabia. Secondly the position of these states has been a result of artificial-engineering by an imperial power, presenting potential areas for conflict over borders, as in the case of Kuwait which requested British intervention in 1962 to prevent an Iraqi invasion to reclaim Iraq as its 19th province. Having analysed the similarities shared by the conservative gulf monarchies it is now my intention to show the role played by these states in the political structures of the Middle East and the crises which have occurred, examining specifically the 1973 OPEC dispute, the Iran/Iraq war and the Gulf Crisis of 1990-1991. In the context of the Arab-Israeli dispute, the sheikhdoms had little political involvement pre1973, none of them belonging to the oldest regional organisation, the Arab League based initially in Cairo. By the time of the Yom Kippur war - the trigger for the four fold increase in oil prices, all the gulf states except Oman and Bahrain were members of OPEC and only Oman the OAPEC organisation, the latter setup to represent the specific interests of the Arab producers. OAPEC based in Kuwait could be suggested as being of greater significance for two reasons, firstly for a culture which has had little contact with foreigners, the Arab League, an organisation based 1,500 km away did not represent their interests, also its record in the Arab-Israeli conflict was not one of success. Secondly OAPEC signalled the cohesion of interests between the gulf monarchies about the future nature of their relationship with the oil cartel, known as the "seven sisters", an issue of more immediate concern for states attempting to understand the limits of their self-determination and sovereignty particularly due to their reliance upon oil royalties. The breakdown in price negotiations at Geneva could be seen as providing both an increase in GNP and the beginning of the end for the sisters monopolisation of the oil production, most states becoming part owners of the local operations.
The 1978 revolution in Iran resulted in the installation of a Shia fundamentalist regime hostile to the conspicuous wealth and their conservative application of Islam. This coupled with revived claims from Tehran relating to Bahrain, and Abu Musa and the Tum islands led to growing insecurity between the gulf monarchies, acting as an impetus for the creation of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) in May 1981. By this time war between Iran and Iraq over the disputed Shatt Al Arab waterway was in full swing relieving some of the immediate fears of Iranian expansionism. The GCC included Saudi Arabia plus all the conservative monarchies and aimed to enhance coordination on government policies, in order to end the duplication of prestige projects such as the vast number of airports which had been built. Also included was internal security co-operation, it could be suggested a subtle anti-fundamentalist pact, and co-operation over defence procurement and security. An early aim was to continue to prevent western access to the Persian gulf or the establishment of military bases by the United States in particular, although Oman already allowed US access to the Massiran Naval facility, replacing the British presence there, for which it was rumoured the GCC offered Oman £610 million to cease 3 As the Iran/Iraq war intensified in the early 1980's and Iraq began to lose ground to Iran the fears of the GCC increased significantly, and the GCC members began to provide financing and practical help to Iraq during the arms embargo on both belligerents in the early stages of the conflict, specifically Iraq obtained armaments from Egypt using Oman as a middle-man keeping Egyptian industry running at 99% throughout the war 4 By 1984 the conflict had entered into stalemate, a situation Iraq was keen to avoid, as entering a war of attrition would see the defeat of Iraq. To escape this Iraq broadened the war, targeting Iranian cities and gulf shipping in order to break the stalemate. However for the sheikhdoms, and Kuwait in particular this was to pose a problem. Whereas Saudi Arabia had an oil pipeline to the Red Sea, the Gulf states had to run the gauntlet of the gulf, their tankers moving through the strategic Strait of Hormuz, which Iran could use to retaliate. The Kuwaitis approached the UN Security Council members for assistance, but were slow to act, until the Soviet Union agreed to ship oil on Soviet flagged vessels through the strait ensuring Kuwaiti participation in the oil trade. This stimulated the United States who saw the proposal initially as "April Fool's joke" 5 allowing the re-flagging of Kuwaiti shipping, which soon spread to the other gulf states, and before long US navy warships were protecting convoys through the straits to the limit of territorial waters on a regular basis. Some European states also took part, with the Armilla Patrol initiated by the UK for example. To summarise the Gulf states foreign policy options in this period, it could be suggested that they were tied through the GCC to Saudi Arabian interests, namely ONE - the prevention of an Iranian victory over Iraq, and TWO - the interruption of oil supplies to the west. For the gulf states the Kuwaiti initiative was simply to go outside the region for help, although distrustful of foreign motives for assisting, hence the strict interpretation of the re-flagging agreement with the United States in order to avoid any accusations of pandering to the west by their brothers. The Gulf crisis of 1990-1991 was arguably a result of the Iran/Iraq war. Both countries were seeking to rebuild their infrastructure, but Iraq had far greater debts both to the west for arms transfers and to the Gulf states for financial aid. The 1990 OPEC meeting saw Iraq wishing to raise the price of oil to $25 per barrel noting "Our financial and economic situation motivates us to speak loudly" 6 This was opposed by the other states who saw $18 per barrel as more realistic. In terms of daily production the Gulf states accounted for two and a quarter times that of Iraq, Kuwait alone produced a little over half Iraq's daily supply, Iraq producing under a third of Saudi Arabia's daily production, and under 50% of Iran. The subsequent invasion of Kuwait, and the violation of its sovereignty posed a severe crisis for the other gulf states. As the crisis developed a coalition with other Arabs and the west formed to redress this aggression, but ostensibly this was a broad invitation to the United States under a UN guise to intervene against Iraq. Ultimately the Emir of Kuwait was restored, but at a considerable financial cost, but the Iraqi leadership was still intact and perceived as a definite security threat. Since the Gulf crisis, the Gulf states are faced with an increasingly hostile environment. The Iranian occupation of three islands including Abu Musa, owned by the UAE has not been solved, President Rafsanjani warning the GCC that it will have to "cross a sea of blood" to reclaim them 7 As it could be suggested that there is little political will amongst GCC members to attempt to reverse the Iranian occupation, the GCC council in 1992 declared its intention to support the Muslims in Bosnia, and the no-fly zone over Southern Iraq - both low cost political decisions.
In November 1993 the GCC agreed to develop the Saudi Arabian based Peninsular Shield Force, as a means of strengthening security co-operation, however it was insisted that its command should be in Saudi Arabia, but that the position would rotate, staving off fears of Saudi hegemony 8 At the 14th GCC Summit in Riyadh in late December the agenda was concerned primarily with the continually low price of oil, and joint security measures, although the Peninsular Shield Force was not finalised. For the Gulf states, their foreign policy options today appear as constrained as ever. Saudi Arabia is a de facto force in the institutions such as OAPEC, and the GCC, and as such is allowed to set the agenda, as it could be suggested the sheikhdoms interests over oil coincide with those of Saudi Arabia's generally, and moves to ally with Iran or Iraq are fraught with suicidal political risks. However, Saudi Arabia itself does not present itself as a stable regional ally, its prolific expenditure on armaments has endangered its delicate system of patronage, whereby the Al-Saud family pays the clans in order to ensure loyalty. Recently the Wahhabis sect, traditionally a stalwart supporter of the royal family have become more radical 9 this lead to the formation of a consultative council to avoid any further unrest 10 A reaction to this can be seen as the gulf states purchased western armaments from the West Europeans and America since 1991, in contradiction to the GCC's intention to maintain commonality of procurement, the IISS noting that "If anything, states appear to have based their procurement plans on buying friendship rather than on the most suitable weapons system." 11 In conclusion the foreign policy problem of the gulf states can be shown in an analogy to a triangular frame used to set-up a billiards game. The balls inside represent the sheikhdoms, and the sides of the frame represent Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia constraining them. The main option exercised historically by the emirates has been simply to act three dimensionally, embracing relations with the Europeans or the USA. FOOTNOTES (1) Economist, The Economist Atlas (Economist Books 1991) p. 256. (2) (31.12.90) Oil and Gas Journal. (3) Amin S H (1984) Political and Strategic Issues in the Gulf (Royston Ltd. 1984) p. 35. (4) Heikal M (1992) Illusions of Triumph (Harper Collins 1992) Ch. 5. (5) ibid. p. 103. (6) ibid. p. 218. (7) News Digest (January 1993) Keesings Record of World Events p. 39293. (8) News Digest (November 1993) Keesings Record of World Events p. 39761. (9) The Guardian (16.05.93) "Saudi Royals act to quell first open opposition". (10) The Guardian (23.08.93) "Saudi Shura gets cautious welcome". (11) International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 1993-1994 (Brassey's 1993) p. 110. BIBLIOGRAPHY Amin S H, Political and Strategic Issues in the Gulf (Royston 1984). Andersen, Seibert, Wagner, Politics and Change in the Middle East, 3rd Edition (Prentice Hall 1990). Calvert P, The Foreign Policy of New States (Wheatsheaf Books 1986). Economist, The Economist Atlas (Economist Books 1991). Heikal M, Illusions of Triumph (Harper Collins 1992). Hiro D, The Longest War (Paladin 1990) Ch. 6. IISS, The Military Balance 1993-1994 (Brassey's 1993). Martin L G, The Unstable Gulf (Lexington Books 1984) Ch. 3. Keesings Record of World Events. The Guardian.