In theMiddle East (ME) region, the state power is reliant on external and structuralsources of support (superpower military protection and often the export marketfor petrochemicals). This assertion is echoed in the international relationsscholarship on the Gulf by scholars such as Gregory Gause, who sees the role ofthe US, superpower dynamic as central to the prolonged existence of theresource-rich kingdoms1. Middle East has been meddlesomein political crisis from decades. The historic Palestinians-Israel problem, thepower tussle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the entirely destructive policy ofTurkey toward the threat posed by the Islamic State (also known as ISIS orISIL) United States’s invasion of Iraq (2003) in the name of weapons of massdestruction (WMDs)—although not proven on ground—led to a new wave of wars andfighting in the Middle East. The sectarian war, between Shiite-Sunni, and the swiftrise of radical and terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, and to a lesserextent in Yemen, political unsteadiness in Lebanon are some other developments,which have contributed to the historically disastrous suffering of the peopleof the region.
The ME is surrounded in a cycle of wars and is suffering fromlack of shared security. 2.2 GCC FissuresScholars,Ehteshami and Hinnebusch, Nonneman, Baabood and Youngs, amongst others,explores the specific challenges facing foreign policy articulation in the MEand GCC2. The current impassebetween Qatar and GCC members (mainly Saudi Arabia and UAE), which latter haveblockade sea routs and also air traffic. GCC members blame Qatar forinterfering in their internal matters, closing sea and land routes, cancelingflights, moving back diplomats, expelling Qatari citizens, labelling 59 Qataricitizens as terrorist supporters, prohibiting the screening of the al-JazeeraTV network, and even (in the case of the UAE) forbidding the expression ofsympathy toward Qatar. The disagreement is significantly more serious, thanprevious clashes, including in 2014, when Saudi Arabia and other countriesrecalled their envoys from Doha. A second source of tension is Doha’s cooperativestance toward Iran, which is seen by most of the other Sunni-majority countriesin the Gulf as a upward threat to their security or even survival. 2.
3 Saudi-Iran Sectarian Cold WarThe animositybetween Iran and Saudi Arabia is a persistent feature of ME geopolitics. Both thecountries hold regional standing; Iran has a large population and a longhistory of nationhood, while Saudi Arabia beside custodian of Islam’s holiestsites, holds significant oil reserves. The cold war between these two countrieshave kept an overall security environment for region and with its potential ofgetting spill over in the entire region. Both states do not falter to useproxies against each other to weaken influence of opponent, even blaming eachother of support of terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Before the 1979 Iranian revolution, relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia continued withoutmajor incident. After the Iranian uprising in 1979, religion would be atthe vanguard of Iran’s state identity. Ayatollah Khomeini claimed broad Islamicsupport for the revolution, and was quick to criticize the corruption of theWahhabi Saudi monarchy. Such incidents produced atmosphere of fear of uprisingsimilar to Iranian revolution in Saudi Arabia.
Also exercising domination overthe gulf region and as potential leading role of Muslim world fortified ongoing cold war between Iran and Saudi.2.4 GCC role in Saudi-Iran Cold WarKerr first floated the notion of an “Arab cold war” in his formativestudy of ideology in international politics, where he scanned the inter-Arabrivalry in the stormy 1950s and 1960s3. Hisanalysis of historical inter-Arab relations is helpful in understandingconversion to ‘Saudi-Iran cold war’ or ‘Arab and non-Arab cold war’ currentsituation. Two dimensions of the new cold war stand out; the rising importanceof Islamist non-state actors and the increased significance of the non-Arabstate of Iran. An obvious objection to the new Arab cold war framing is thatIran, a non-Arab state, is Hizballah’s primary patron.
At first glimpse, thisnon-Arab dimension highlights the variance between the 1950s and 1960s andtoday, as highlighted by, Morten Valbjørn and André Bank4, whenkey players in the inter-Arab rivalry are neither Arab nor post-Arab. ButIran’s attempts to gain power in the Arab world, may still fit into a new Arabcold war. In earlier times, Tehran followed an “Arab option,” where its foreignpolicy assumed a populist, pro-Arab and (most importantly) pro-Palestinianorientation5. Saudi Arabia as a major player in GCC exercisessignificant influence in defining GCC’s relations with Iran. As an arch rivalto counter Iranian sway in Persian Gulf Saudi uses GCC platform. The rivalrybetween Iran and the GCC is bitter and has aggravated the various conflictsraging across the ME. Relations between the two Persian Gulf power centers tooka turn for the worse after the Arab Spring, as power vacuums emerged throughoutthe region, and further worsened when the nuclear dialogues between Iran andthe six world powers (known as P5+1 deal) successfully concluded in 2015.
GCC states’ relation with Iran has also two-sided factors as well.In recent months, there have been signs of progress toward reconciliationbetween Iran and the GCC. In January Kuwaiti foreign minister, Sabah Khalid Al Sabah,completed a landmark visit to Tehran, where, he reportedly delivered a messageto Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani in relation to the “basis of negotiation”between Iran and the GCC states. Rouhani responded by visiting Kuwait and Omanin February and sending a letter to Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmad Al Sabah inMarch 20176.2.5 GCC and World PoliticsGCCcountries reside on one of most big reserves of petrochemicals and as a leadingoil exporter GCC occupies a prominent position in world politics. Stronghistorical, political and wealthy natural resources signifies its role ininternational affairs.
World super powers have historically shown interest inGCC states. Perhaps one of the most remarkable features of the internationalrelations (IR) of the Persian Gulf is its security.7 For a number of reasons, extendingfrom the nature of governmental rule within each of the countries of the regionto the ways in which their international connections have evolved historically,much of the international-politics of the Persian Gulf, has focused on securityissues in one way or the other. The region has confronted, and remains to face,numerous security challenges, and there have been a number of endeavors, thusfar not all that successful, to oven joint security arrangements. Notsurprisingly, much of the efforts and associations of actors in the PersianGulf, whether from within or outside of the region (US and European Union), hashappened either directly or at least with an eye toward security issues.Threats, or at least perceptions of threats, have prowled in the shallow watersand the sandy shorelines of the Persian Gulf as far back as the early days ofthe British Empire, and those engaged in the region’s international politicshave been unable to escape the various concerns to which they have given intensification.This is not to suggest, of course, that all of the Persian Gulf’s internationalpolitics can be reduced to the security issues, but rather to say that securityissues have never been far from consideration insofar, as regional politics areconcerned.2.
6 ME, Iran-Saudi Crises and Pakistan’s RoleBeingclose ally to GCC (Saudi particularly) and sharing 909 km border with Iran,Pakistan bears consequences of any such tension between these two powers, inform of sectarian violence throughout country. The Middle East has been in a unrestever since the US-led forces invaded Iraq in March 2003. Things worsenedfurther in the wake of the “Arab Spring.” Both of these developments were hopedto guide in an era of democratic openness in the ME8. The fallout of the crisisin the ME has created several policy challenge for Pakistan Vis-à-Vis itsrelations with the ME; growing threat of sectarianism, violent extremism andterror, domestic divergence and threats to its economic development.
Tacklingthese challenges demands the country revisits it’s foreign as well as domesticpolicies9.SaudiArabia and Iran engaged in the serious situation was witnessed in Yemenconflict, where opposing groups support was no more concealed by both states.In Yemen a large chunk of the country, including the capital, has been overrunby Houthis, a group belonging to Zaidi sect of Shia Muslims and believed tohave been supported by Iran. Yemen is not the sole bone of dispute of this ColdWar, the two sides supporting opposing political as well as armed groups inLebanon, Bahrain, Iraq and Syria as well, which generates an overall securityoriented environment in ME and particularly for GCC10.
Alarmed at developingIranian influence in an Arab states, GCC (minus Oman) led by Saudi Arabia,launched a military operation ‘Decisive Storm’ on March 26, 2015, against theHouthis in Yemen. In addition to fiveGCC states the operation was joined by some other neighboring states i.e.Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Morocco. GCC-UAE and Saudi Arabia in particular—requestedPakistan to join this coalition by contributing in military domain. Pakistan’sinternal situation and its relations with Iran (next door neighbor) could havecause serious blow back by agreeing to the request. Iran was extremely opposed toPakistan’s military involvement in the Yemen conflict, and had already conveyedit to Pakistan. Pakistan with a major portion of population belonging to Shiasect, can easily sprawled the already impulsive internal situation complexsectarian viciousness in worst case a civil war within her borders.
During thevisit to Pakistan in April 2015, Iran’s Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif, urgedPakistan to discard Saudi wish for military help11.Gettinginvolved in Yemen could have aggravated sectarian tensions within Pakistan, asthe Yemen conflict was being viewed also as a sectarian war, between SunniArabs and Shia Iran. And, last but not least, such a decision might havecreated further operational challenges for Pakistani military, which wasalready too overextended with its counter- terrorism efforts against thePakistani Taliban and tensions with India.1 F. Gregory Gause III, ‘TheInternational Politics of the Gulf’, in Fawcett, International Relations of theMiddle East, pp.
272–89.2 See Anoushiravan Ehteshami and RaymondHinnebusch, ‘Foreign Policy in the Middle East: Complex Realism’, in LouiseFawcett (ed.), International Relations of the Middle East, 3rd ed.
(Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 225–44.3 Malcolm Kerr, The Arab Cold War,1958–1964: A Study of Ideology in Politics (London: Oxford University Press,1965)4Valbjørn, M., & Bank, A. (2007).
Signs of a New Arab Cold War.http://www.imi-online.de/download/valbjorn-bank242.pdf.
5 Trita Parsi, “Israel and the Origins ofIran’s Arab Option: Dissection of a Strategy Misunderstood,” Middle EastJournal 60/3 (2006).6 (Mousavian, 2017)7 (Wright, et al., 2009)8 (Mumtaz, 2016)9 Ibid 10 (Vall, 2017)11 (AlJazeera, 2015)