The Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat) recently published volume 10 of its refereed, semi-annual eponymous journal ‘Derasat’, containing analyses highlighting the most important Gulf-related, regional, and global issues.
In his foreword for this volume, titled “Will we witness a new war in the Gulf?”, Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Chairman of the Board of Trustees and the journal’s Chief Editor, wrote the following:
In a flaming summer, the Middle East witnessed the impact of a new crisis with the most recent escalation in the Arabian Gulf area, reaching a peak with the terrorist attacks on civilian oil tankers near the al-Fujairah Port and the Sea of Oman, and evidence revealed later implicating Iran as the culprit. This is reminiscent of the 1980s ‘Tanker War’ during the Iran-Iraq War, where Iran targeted GCC oil tankers. The situation further developed with the use of guided missiles or explosive drones to attack two Aramco oil facilities. Investigations are ongoing to pinpoint the source of these attacks, and Saudi Arabia allowed the stationing of US forces in case of any escalation.
The tug-of-war continued, with Iran shooting down a US reconnaissance drone, and the Trump administration imposing new sanctions on Iran’s leadership. The multi-scenario crisis between Washington and Tehran swayed between military escalation and a call to negotiate, and between both options, there was a long series of threatening statements, besides a mutual show of power.
Each party certainly has its specific calculations in this crisis. Iran is feeling the brunt of the US sanctions, the collapse of the nuclear deal, mounting domestic problems, frustration due to the Arab Coalition’s efforts in Yemen, and the loss of full influence on Syria with the rise of Russia’s role and Israel’s rejection of Iranian presence.
We can say that Iran – after the entire four decades of revolution – is not a normal state, and its expansion to control the region is failing against the current reconstruction of the new Middle East. The most the theocratic regime can do is capitalize on external crises that it creates and gets involved in, to distract the Iranian people away from their demands for freedom and decent living.
Meanwhile in the US, the Trump administration seeks to correct the grave mistakes of the Obama administration in the Iranian file. The problem does not lay only in nuclear weapons, but also in Tehran’s hostile behavior towards its neighbors, harboring terrorism, and continuous threats to obstruct international maritime routes.
A principal inquiry remains: is the region on the brink of war? The answer is yes, but it will unlikely witness a war that is rejected by all parts unless a crucial development occurs. At present, Iran turned to threats to fulfill strategic objectives, hoping that escalation would reflect on re-negotiation without substantial concessions. The US, on the other hand, will see presidential elections next year, with no room for risk in facing the American voter with significant human and financial losses. The US is also aware that the crisis with Iran has a whole other dimension related to authority and influence, amid competition from other great powers, and the US administration is ‘projecting power without involvement’.
The Arabian Gulf region – overlooking the most important corridors of international commerce – is of geostrategic importance, for global energy supplies as well as maritime activity. Furthermore, moderate Gulf states are the most trusted and effective partners in achieving regional and global peace.
Based on the aforementioned, attacking oil tankers and facilities demand strict international postures against Iranian threats to safeguard world security, forming a ‘coalition’ to ensure the safety of marine corridors and energy transport, and providing a secure and stable environment amid regional risks and challenges. These efforts must be based on the fundamentals of respecting sovereignty, without interfering in the domestic affairs of states.
Even though moderate Gulf states are not part of the current tensions, they remain cornerstones for security and stability, and they will defend their security and sovereignty quite seriously against any threat, based on international laws and norms.
It remains mandatory and urgent that these states take more precautionary measures and procedures to efficiently and effectively deal with all possible scenarios of this crisis.
This edition includes various topics:
In the Studies section, Dr. Ashraf Kishk – Director of Strategic and International Studies and Journal Editor – presents a study on the Middle East Strategic Alliance ‘MESA’, based on US goals for this alliance as a proposed collective mechanism to achieve security and stability in the Middle East. He follows the origins, content, and objectives of this concept, its impact on Middle East stability, and state positions towards it. He also explores suggested work mechanisms for this alliance to succeed and the challenges it faces.
In the same section, Dr. Omar Al-Ubaydli – Derasat Director of Studies and Research – provides a study on Value Added Tax; one of the most controversial issues in the GCC. VAT is considered among the most important financial mechanisms for government revenues, and three Gulf states – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain – have implemented the tax. This study aims to identify Gulf economic reality in the pre-VAT era, analyzing the VAT tax and how it was devised in the twentieth century, as well as reasons, patterns, and impacts of implementing it by Gulf states.
This issue contains a dossier titled ‘Regional Security Developments and their Impacts on Power Balance’ that examines the most important developments in regional security and their interactions in a global setting, and their impacts on the more-important current regional security equation. Three essential developments are studied in focus. First is a study on ‘US foreign policy and the extent to which it complies with NATO policies towards the Middle East’. The study offers a new important perception of this topic by Dr. Kevin Koehler, comparative political scientist at the Institute of Political Science, Leiden University, Holland. Second is a study titled the ‘US Military Presence in Iraq: Implications and Connotations for Regional Security’. This part follows the evolution of US-Iraq relations since 2003, the controversy surrounding American presence in Iraq, regional dynamics that strategically necessitated that presence for both parties. This part is presented by Dr. Ali Edeen Hilal, Professor of Political Science at Cairo University. Third is a study titled ‘Russia-Iran Relations and their Impacts on Regional Security’. It presents a perception of ‘necessity’ in the Russia – Iran rapprochement due to the Syrian crisis. This does not necessarily mean that the crisis is the main definer of both parties’ relations, as they share mutual interests in other domains. The study provides Gulf states with options to deal with that rapprochement, prepared by Dr. Nadia Saadeddin, a political researcher from Jordan. The contents of all three contributed studies combine to form a complete picture of the latest regional security developments, and their timely and long term impacts on the whole regional security apparatus.
The regional section includes a study titled ‘Terrorist Jihadi Groups and Regional Security in the Arab World: The Current Reality and Future Outlooks’. It aims to answer several queries: which vital indicators decide the future of terrorist groupings in the Arab World?; what possible significant paths are available for these groups to evolve in the short- and medium-terms?; how the Arab region’s security will be affected by the future developments of terrorist groups?; and what are the most important requirements and conditions to develop effective strategies to counter terrorist groups? This study is presented by Professor Hasanain Tawfeeq Ibrahim, Political Scientist and Lecturer at Cairo University and Zayed University.
This issue also includes a review of the latest books and strategic reports covering Gulf issues, with an overview of the most significant events organized by Derasat.
The Derasat journal is a semi-annual refereed journal, specialized in publishing studies and analyses in political, international, economic, security, and energy issues, as well as studies in strategic issues in their broader context, focusing on Gulf and Arab affairs.