Modern History of the Gulf
The Gulf consists of two large countries: Iran and Iraq, and the smaller gulf monarchs that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); they are Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, and Qatar. Venezuela is also part of the Gulf countries. Instability in the Gulf region became apparent in the last half of the century due to oil discovery. It is important to note that out of the countries mentioned, only Iran and Venezuela do not entirely depend on oil for their development.
Since the discovery of oil in the Gulf countries, there has been a shift in economic, political and social instability. As a result of the need to gain political control over the gulf region, Iraq and Iran were consistently fighting hence disrupting oil production and oil prices. The British and American forces intervened to ensure that the oil market became regulated, and that regimes in both countries would change.
The British had long maintained regional stability in the gulf. However, its withdrawal created uncertainty in the small gulf monarchs as their sovereignty was threatened. Geo-political interests were the root cause for the instability within the Gulf region. The larger Gulf countries sought geo-political regional power that threatened the stability of friendly governments within the region.
After the British left, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia regarded this as an opportunity to seek and obtain extended regional power. This marked a beginning point for the long perennial instability that is characteristic of the Gulf for the past half century. In addition, the three large Gulf countries conflicted against one another exacerbating the instability within the region.
Oil is a gold resource that plays a fundamental role in promoting economic growth and development of any country. The discovery of oil in the Gulf transformed the region from a poor state to a military one characterized by the invention of nuclear weapons. An increase in oil prices destabilized the balance between social groups hence, the power of ruling families became stronger as the shift was inclined towards materialism.
This resulted in a wide social gap between the economically empowered and the commoners (Shiite). As a result of the large gap between the ruling groups of people and the Shiite, there was some opposition that led to revolution in countries such as Iraq. Opposition groups such as the Kurdish created instability in Iraq as a result of their insurgence.
The American interest in the Gulf countries was to ensure that flow of oil was not altered, or its prices disrupted to the extent that there would be diseconomies of scale in the US. As a result, there has been continued political instability and insurgency as the Western governments seek to influence the governments of the Gulf countries to ensure there is political balance in the region. For example, America was involved in the 1952 Iranian coup that involved the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh’s government.
Iran and Iraq are considered to be the largest countries in the Gulf. However, due to their opposition against Washington, the Gulf became a perennial military ground in the universe. This was because the United States was bent on protecting the GCC from being overthrown by the hostile powers of Iran and Iraq.
As a result of the crisis and war over Kuwait by Iraq, for example, the United States intervened and indefinitely settled in the Gulf. This war had been instigated by Saddam Hussein, who posed a threat to the stability of the Gulf by attacking Kuwait. As a result of Iraq’s invasion in Kuwait, sharp divisions that were apparent within the Gulf region became reinforced as the US took its position in the GCC.
As time went by, the US military forces became stronger in such a way that religious militants in Saudi Arabia considered the presence of the Americans as a threat to their faith due to their unintended effects of stoking dissent. This resulted in instability in the country and there was bombing of the central mainstay of the US military personnel in Dhahran.
The savage insurgency by the American in their successful mission of overthrowing Saddam Hussein was the climax of the total breakdown of order in Iraq, which was what Machiavelli had warned about when he had said that nothing was as difficult to handle, doubtful of success, dangerous to manage as becoming a pioneer of new orders. This was evident when the US could not establish the democracy they had advocated for in the Middle East.
Iraq and Iran were opposed to the American objectives hence the dual containment associated with economic sanctions. These two countries had been in a tug of war as each tried to gain power over the Soviet Union. In an attempt to ensure that the GCC was protected, the US intervened and imposed its rule over the small gulf monarchs. The monarch system is presumed to impede democracy. This is because continuity of leadership is not sound since the acquisition of leadership is not based on competency.
Before the oil discovery, the social system was stable since the ruling families did not take over the people’s livelihoods. However, with the discovery of oil this balance was upset and the ruling families became more powerful. A characteristic of this kind of ruling system is the perennial palace coups (violent takeovers) that are employed when a family member intends to overthrow the ruling member.
Such take-overs are another reason for the war and crisis in the Gulf region for the last half of the century. The premonition that the House of Sa’ud would fall was first felt in the 1950s, and later resurfaced in the early 1960s. During this time, the country experienced external aggression as a result of radical Arab regimes and the incompetence of Sa’ud did not make the situation any better. This shows how the monarch system was ineffective in ensuring that political stability was maintained in the Gulf.
In the Gulf, there have been continued revolutions that have aimed at destroying a certain regime. In the 1991 revolution against the Baathist regime, there was absolute instability as the infrastructure in Iraq was totally destroyed. The formidable rival between the states like that between Bahrain and Dubai has also been an impediment to regional stability in the Gulf.
This was due to the Lebanese civil war that occurred in Bahrain thus eroding the financial and commercial centres while neighbouring states improved in terms of their infrastructure and legislative framework. In Bahrain, there has been evident economic diversification as the ruling families take control over the wealth in the country leaving the others to live in absolute poverty.
Poverty-related factors such as unemployment, is a reason for the continued unrest within the country. The perennial internal conflicts result in external tension between the six GCC states hence creating an atmosphere characterized by crisis.
The al-Qaeda is an Islamist group which is known to everyone because of its violent attacks. The al-Qaeda bombed and disrupted the peace and tranquillity in Saudi Arabia. This organization was born from the standoff between Saudi Arabian government and Islam oppositionists.
Insurgency, just like in many other Gulf countries was a reason why Saudi experienced internal political conflicts and instability. The Americans had overstayed their welcome by 2000 and this was beginning to irritate the people of Saudi hence the reason for establishing the al-Qaeda. This group consistently attacked the Western reinforcements across the country and repeatedly disrupted the peace and quiet.
Apparently, oil is the only resource that pillars the economy of most countries in the Gulf. However, the spiralling of oil prices destabilizes the economy creating mayhem. The concern of western states in the Persian Gulf is as a result of their vested interest in oil. The US imposed unpopular policies on the Arabian countries and supported the Israeli in their fight against these countries. As a result, the image of the US in these Arabian countries was tainted.
The US made the GCC their subject states that depended on the US for political and economic support in exchange for their endorsement and implementation of the Western policies. The internal dynamic in the Gulf region has, and continues to disrupt the stability of the region. Ranging from reform movements and terrorist campaigns to rivalry between democracy activists and rulers, these continue to create instability within the Gulf.
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