International Affairs
4 May 2018 , Volume 94, Number 3

Authors

Cinzia Bianco and Gareth Stansfield

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If shared security perceptions were the foundation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), 2011 might be analysed as the watershed year in which the GCC began to fragment from within. Both the 2014 and 2017 intra-GCC crises were manifestations of conflicting security perceptions, formed across the GCC countries in and since 2011. Through an in-depth analysis of the events and of the subsequent reaction of the GCC governments in terms of discourse and foreign policy, we distinguish three different categories of conceptualization. First, the governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates perceived domestic protests as an ‘intermestic’ threat—triggered by the intersection of the international and domestic levels. Second, the leaders of Oman and Kuwait conceptualized protests in their countries as manageable domestic insecurity, rather than as fully-fledged externally orchestrated events—arguably because they did not perceive a direct danger to their stability and legitimacy. Finally, it can be argued that the government of Qatar did not see any real danger in the protests but instead viewed them as an opportunity to expand Doha’s regional influence, arguably at Riyadh’s expense. Unpacking the fundamental factors shaping such perceptions is the key to finding the appropriate framework for analysing GCC security in the future.

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