Iraqi Shi’i leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s July 2017 visit to Saudi Arabia is evidence of a paradigmatic shift in Saudi policy. Aware that the Shi’a comprise the majority in Iraq, the kingdom appears to be abandoning its previous sectarian stance and is reaching out to the Shi’a population there. The Saudis have thus made use of […]
Click here for PDF This article focuses on relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and branches of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arabic-speaking Middle East. The introduction looks at the historical and ideological background to relations between the Brotherhood and Iran. The article then focuses on two examples – relations between Teheran and the […]
Click here for PDF The decline of America’s influence in the Arab World has coincided with the rise of Iran’s and the collapse of Middle East’s old order. The result is a power vacuum manifesting itself in a series of regional proxy wars such as those in Syria and Yemen. Not only is a battle […]
The Gulf states’ policy towards Iran’s nuclear ambitions has combined elements of appeasement with a fundamental reliance on the United States as a defending and deterring force. Most Gulf states lack strategic depth, have small populations, and small, untrained armies. Moreover, their significant oil and natural gas reserves have made them the potential target for aggression and dependent on outside forces for defense. Despite the great wealth and inherent weakness of the Gulf states, they have remained largely on the sidelines in the international effort to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Iran’s determination to continue with its nuclear program has made it difficult for them openly to present a united front and thereby function as a counterforce to Iran’s might.
Since the end of the Cold War, a new strategic landscape has appeared in the Middle East. No longer dominated by a U.S.-Soviet rivalry, this new landscape is dominated by U.S.-Iranian confrontation. In this struggle, the United States’ most important Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, plays a key role. As the Obama administration policies allow Iran to run out the clock on getting a nuclear weapon, it would appear from its recent policy moves that it believes Riyadh is primarily concerned with the Arab-Israeli conflict. While this is a concern in Saudi Arabia, it is far and away not the primary one. Indeed, there is no doubt that in its foreign policy Riyadh is much more worried about Iran’s rise as a key regional actor.
This article argues that Turkey’s improved relations with the Gulf states in recent years reflect Ankara’s refusal to allow Washington to use its territory to invade Iraq in 2003, Turkey’s promotion of regional trade, and the decline of traditional Cold War security alliances in the Middle East. Ankara and Gulf states have increasingly seen each as viable alternatives to their traditional strategic partners–the European Union for Turkey and the United States for Gulf governments. Nonetheless, one should not overstate the importance of this alliance: Turkey and the Gulf disagree about Iran’s nuclear program and other regional issues.