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 explains how women in the Gulf states have harnessed political and socioeconomic changes over the last decade to alter their standing at home and abroad. It argues that Gulf women have benefited from investments made by Gulf governments in higher education since the 1970s, the war on terrorism, the ever higher costs of employing expatriate workers, and the inability of their male colleagues to fill either skilled or unskilled positions. It also argues that the position of women today is consistent with their position historically in Gulf society, and that questions of gender are not limited to women.
The compatibility between Islam and democracy has been a controversial topic. While empirical studies since 2000 confirm the prevailing notion that Muslim majority states offer fewer political rights than non-Muslim countries, the question as to why such a phenomenon exists remains unsatisfactorily answered. One key element is how the interpretation of Islam itself has been so effectively used by Arab regimes to indoctrinate subjects into believing that blind obedience to their absolute rule is a form of Islamic piety. This article will also argue that Islam, combined with the security forces and the poverty of the masses render the majority of Arabs politically quietist.
This article considers prospects for developing relations between Israel and the Persian Gulf monarchies: Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. A central feature of U.S. Middle East policy–and one doomed to fail–is an effort to urge Gulf countries to take steps toward peace or confidence-building measures with Israel. Israel has a strong interest to seek normal relations with these countries, as each state moving toward peace further tips the regional balance, making it harder for other countries and movements to attack Israel, obtain funds for arms and terrorism, or subvert the peace process. Israel can also make important (though more modest than many expect) commercial gains by trade with these wealthy countries, while there are certain products they could obtain that would benefit their economies. Yet all of these Gulf countries have very strong reasons that make them unlikely to move toward peace, normalization of relations, or confidence-building measures.
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the June 8-9, 2009 conference entitled “Israel and the Arab States: Parallel Interests, Relations, and Strategies,” jointly held in Jerusalem by the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. Members of the new Israeli government have entertained the notion of an Israeli-Arab realignment vis-a-vis Iran. This article argues that such hopes are bound to be disappointed. They rest on a Realist understanding of Middle East international politics that fails to take into account the role domestic considerations and identity politics play in foreign policy decisionmaking. While Riyadh is undisputedly concerned about Iranian power projection in the region, improved relations with a U.S. administration that is more open to its concerns and an increasingly diverse set of international security links mean that it does not feel the need to endanger domestic and regional legitimacy by openly engaging Israel without any perceived progress along the parameters outlined in the Abdallah initiative of 2002.
This article discusses the development of German-Kuwaiti relations from the late eighteenth century to the reunification of Germany.