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About this book

This book provides an overview of the origins, repercussions and projected future of the ongoing Gulf crisis, as well as an analysis of the major issues and debates relating to it. The Gulf region witnessed an extraordinary rift when, on 5 June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut all diplomatic ties and imposed a siege on the State of Qatar following the hacking of the Qatar News Agency website. This book approaches the Gulf crisis from an interdisciplinary perspective by bringing together a group of top scholars from a wide range of disciplines and areas of expertise to engage in a nuanced debate on the current crisis. With the pressing role of media in general and social media in particular, new political realities have been created in the region. The book addresses the role that cyber and information security play on politics, as well as the shift of alliances in the region as a result of the crisis. It scrutinizes the role of media and information technology in creating political cultures as well as conflicts. The book also explores the long-term economic implications of the siege imposed on Qatar and identifies how the country's economy is adjusting to the impact of the siege. Thus, the book considers the extent of social and economic changes that the crisis has brought to the region. This book invites in-depth understanding of the regional crisis and its implications on nation building and the reconfiguration of political and economic alliances across the region. It will appeal to a broad interdisciplinary readership in the area of Gulf studies.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. The 2017 Gulf Crisis: An Introduction

On 5 June 2017, three member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain—as well as Egypt, issued a coordinated statement severing all relations with Qatar. This “Quartet” closed their airspaces to the Qatar national airline (Qatar Airways), as well as banning Qatari vessels and vehicles from their territorial waters and lands. The boycott soon became a “Qatar blockade,” as the Quartet closed off access to Qatar, with an embargo on air, sea, and land traffic to and from the peninsula.
Mahjoob Zweiri, Md Mizanur Rahman, Arwa Kamal

Gulf Security


Chapter 2. Underlined Vulnerabilities of the Gulf Region: A New Understanding

The rift between the Gulf States that opened in 2017 has served to intensify centuries-old debates and tensions in the Middle East. The Gulf crisis has also engendered significant diplomatic tensions between GCC countries, resulting in economic sanctions, the closure of intraregional borders, and even the unleashing of new political struggles upon the region. Since the very beginning of the dispute, studies have seen the Gulf crisis as emerging out of the Arab Spring, and in particular the disagreements between GCC countries on the future of these Arab revolts.
Mahjoob Zweiri, Betul Dogan-Akkas

Chapter 3. Qatar–Turkey Rapprochement: Challenging the Regional Status Quo in the Gulf Security Sub-complex

With the election of the Justice and Development Party (JDP hereafter) and Qatar’s leadership change in 1995, there is no doubt that interactions between Turkey and Qatar have gained pace. The Turkey–Qatar alliance reached a new high after the Arab Spring, with these two countries emerging as two pro-revolutionary states that are disturbing the status quo in the Middle East.
Mustafa Cüneyt Özşahin

Chapter 4. Qatar Crisis: GCC States’ Perception of Regional Powers

In life, generally, we as social actors tend to interpret people’s behavior not only by how they act towards us but also towards themselves. The situation is similar in the field of foreign policymaking. This is because social interaction, like foreign policy, involves both strategic interaction as well as symbolic interaction
Noof Rashid ALDosari

Chapter 5. Transformations of the Gulf Security Landscape After the Gulf Crisis: A Geopolitical Approach

The security of the Gulf is not limited to the region surrounding by this all-important body of water itself, but is in fact an integral component of international security, due to many factors and characteristics that compel the international community to pay special attention to this area. The most important of these characteristics are its natural energy resources, and its strategic and central location, being surrounded by marine corridors that are essential to the entire world. As such, the Gulf Crisis is resonating throughout the international community, having become a global concern during its very first phase, soon after the imposition of the blockade, when there was a real possibility of military escalation. Paying particular attention to Gulf security, this paper examines the shifts in the Gulf security scene following the 2017 crisis, looking primarily at three waves of transformation: Transformation in the range of security: from regional security to national security. Transformation in security standards: from the customary standard to legal standards. Transformation in the balance of security: from the state of dominance to competition.
Nayef bin Nahar Al-Shamari, Hamad Al-Mohannadi

Chapter 6. The Cyber Operation Against Qatar News Agency

The Qatar crisis was catalyzed by what appeared to be a novel use of cyber tools: the planting of a fake story about the Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim Al-Thani on the website of Qatar News Agency (QNA) in May 2017, portraying him as expressing support for Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.
James Shires

Chapter 7. Trans-Gulf Resonances: The Central Role of Egypt in the Saudi Dispute Over Qatar

This chapter studies current relations between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, in order to show the importance of Cairo for Riyadh’s economic and strategic plans in the Red Sea. These plans are presented as an extension of the conflict dynamics in the Gulf region, and as a strategy to curb Iranian influence therein.
Moisés Garduño García

Threat Perception


Chapter 8. Evolving Threat Perceptions and Changing Regional Dynamics in a “Post-GCC” Era

Rather than isolating Qatar regionally and internationally, the crisis that began with the blockade of Qatar by four regional states in June 2017 has widened existing cracks in the Gulf into a chasm and has generated unintended consequences that risk inflicting generational damage on its political and social fabric.
Kristian Ulrichsen

Chapter 9. Popular Sentiments and Elite Threat Perception in the Gulf: Iran in the Public Discourse in Saudi Arabia

In spite of the many anti-Shia and anti-Iran expressions, propagated mainly by the religious elite, which have permeated popular public discourse since the foundation of Saudi Arabia, and despite the revolution in Iran in 1979, diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran were improving until the first decade of the new millennium. Although this statement might sound counter-intuitive and contrary to public perception, it indeed corresponds with the regional and domestic political scenes.
Éva Ádám

Chapter 10. The GCC, Iraq, and Iran: Perception of Threats Before and After the Crisis

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have long perceived Iran and Iraq as major threats to their stability and security. Especially in the late 1970s, but also since the 1990s, the behavior of these two countries has led to a breach of trust which caused concern across the region and compelled the Gulf States to deepen an existing alliance with the United States (an extra-regional power) in order to obtain protection. Iraq was the primary aggressor in two regional wars: it began by attacking Iran in 1980, and then invaded Kuwait in 1990. However, Iraq came to be regarded as a primary source of danger only belatedly, since the region had hitherto been preoccupied with the threat posed by the revolutionary Iranian state.
Shaikha Majed Al-Moslemani

Developing Strategic Relations and Shifting Political Alliances


Chapter 11. The Qatar–Iran–Turkey Nexus: Shifts in Political Alliances and Economic Diversification in the Gulf Crisis

This chapter shows that Qatar’s enhanced trilateral relations with Iran and Turkey has been both a cause and result of the blockade. Iran’s government exhibited its geopolitical pragmatism in exploiting a regional rift within the GCC to strengthen its position vis-à-vis a regional competitor, Saudi Arabia, and shored up geopolitical support for its government in the face of increased tensions with the United States and a tightening sanctions regime. Turkey took advantage of the blockade to solidify its self-representation as an honest broker in the Middle East. Thus, the emergence of stronger trilateral relations between Qatar, Turkey, and Iran indicates an unexpected result of the Saudi-led blockade.
Robert J. Riggs

Chapter 12. Look Middle, Look East! The Future of GCC Strategic Partnerships

The individual members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have long-term bilateral strategic relations with the superpowers: US, China, Russia, and the EU. Yet these superpowers are currently spending much of their political and financial resources addressing their own domestic and internal dilemmas, leaving fewer of these resources for the GCC. As such, and particularly during the Gulf Crisis, GCC members should foster relations with other stable states in order to ensure continuity in areas such as diplomacy, trade, and even security. I suggest that the relations should be established at the regional organization-to-state level and formalized into long-term strategic partnerships. The GCC is advised to (1) look to middle powers and (2) look east. Specifically, the middle-power countries of South Korea, India, and Japan are all potentially strong allies in the long-term strategic plans of GCC members. By developing strategic partnerships with these three countries, I contend (1) both bilateral and multilateral political, economic, and even security relations may develop; (2) there are shared stakes among GCC members and these middle powers to maintain and increase stability and peace in the GCC region; and (3) the long-term partnerships will provide key allies for tough future GCC negotiations with superpowers.
Shareefa Al-Adwani

Chapter 13. The Malaysia–Qatar Relationship: The Perspective from Malaysia—An Emerging Middle Power

The premise of this study is that Malaysia is an emerging middle power. Malaysia’s relationship with Qatar, therefore, should be understood through the lens of the foreign policy behavior of an emerging middle power within an international environment which is undergoing rapid changes, as well as a domestic context in Malaysia which has also seen major shifts to its political order following the General Election (GE-14) held in May 2018. The GE-14 results ended the 61-year coalition rule of political parties known as the Barisan Nasional (the National Front, BN), in favor of another coalition of political parties popularly known as Pakatan Harapan (the Coalition of Hope, PH).
Ishtiaq Hossain, Syaza Farhana Mohamad Shukri

Foreign Policy Dynamics in a Post-GCC Era


Chapter 14. Competing Radicalisms: A Comparison of Saudi and Iranian Foreign Policies After 2015

On 5 June 2017, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt initiated a blockade on the state of Qatar. While many justifications were offered for the blockade, the blockading countries, led by Saudi Arabia, focused on Qatar’s relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran
Mahjoob Zweiri, Majed Al-Ansari

Chapter 15. The Gulf Crisis: Turkey’s Soft Power in the Gulf

Power in world politics is one of the oldest themes in international relations, and is usually defined with reference to states’ military and economic capabilities. Hard power instruments have been widely used by states as a means of coercion, forcing other states to adopt positions that are more favorable to the coercing power. Yet in recent years other forms of power have gained currency in the arena of international relations. The term “soft power,” introduced by Joseph Nye, has come to forefront as a means to understand the changing nature of power. This chapter examines the record of Turkey’s soft power policies and impacts within the six Gulf Cooperation Council member states (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman) since the 1980s, through the means of analytical, normative, ideological, and empirical measures. The chapter also studies the reflections of Turkish soft power in the six aforementioned countries through reviewing public opinion surveys. Filling a significant gap in the literature, this research thus offers an analysis of the public attitude surveys concerning Turkey, and studies the underlying factors driving such attitudes, in order to draw a broad and comprehensive picture of the soft power policies of this non-Arab regional state.
Nesibe Hicret Battaloğlu

Chapter 16. Iran’s Pragmatic Foreign Policy in Response to Regional Crises: The Case of the Blockade Against Qatar

Iran has time and again adapted its foreign policy in response to regional crises and sought to take advantage of disorder to advance its national interests. Looking at Iran’s response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, its maneuvering with regards to Iraq after 2003, and its support for the 2011 uprisings in Bahrain, we can see that the Islamic Republic of Iran has had a varying and often unpredictable reaction to regional upheavals. The blockade that was imposed on Qatar in June 2017 was the latest region-wide crisis to expose the disunity within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and this prompted a pragmatic shift in Iran’s foreign policy.This chapter analyzes Iran’s foreign policy decision-making process with respect to the Persian Gulf region by looking at the level of pragmatism in its approach towards regional crises. The blockade is used as a case study to examine Iran’s policy shift towards Qatar, moving from rivalry to a practical and mutually beneficial relationship. With the objective of assessing the nature and durability of this revived relationship and its impact on regional politics, this chapter also delves into the State of Qatar’s post-conflict regional approach to enhancing its relations with Iran in order to guarantee the food security of its population, ensure an air-route for its leading international airline, and secure further regional diplomatic support for the country.
Mehran Haghirian

Qatar’s Economic Strategies in the Face of the Blockade


Chapter 17. The Gulf Blockade: A Fifth Qatari Economic Stage is Imminent

Certain challenges may unexpectedly play a significant role in saving countries from economic catastrophes, rather than aggravating them. This chapter briefly explores some of the crucial economic challenges that have contributed to the development of Qatar’s economy, particularly in the aftermath of the Gulf Crisis and blockade, and the emergence of a new era in the developmental history of Qatar’s economy—a fifth economic phase.
Moustafa Amin Mohammed Ali

Chapter 18. To What Extent Has the Sovereign Wealth Fund Assisted Qatar’s Security and Foreign Policy in Resisting the Blockade?

The blockade of Qatar by its neighbors since June 2017 has divided the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), with Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman on one side, and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates on the other.
Fahad Al-Marri

Chapter 19. The Role of Qatar Airways in the Economic Development of Qatar: Before and During the Gulf Crisis

The aviation sector started to shape the evolution of the Arab Gulf States in the beginning of the twentieth century, when the British Empire and other major powers (Italy, United States) recognized the strategic position of the region in their communications spheres (Williams 1957; Peterson 2000). The Gulf’s location  is a pivotal point on the global aviation map, while its natural resources provide the necessary means to support the growth of air transportation. It is not a coincidence that oil was first discovered in 1931 in Bahrain, and one year later the same Gulf state had established the first Arabian international airport (Haji 2016).
Catalina Petcu
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