Approaching the millennium, we are seeing a growing number of books and essays that seek to identify and analyze conditions that will likely shape the course of history in the Middle East during the next century. The authors of the twelve essays collected in this volume agree that military threats will likely remain at the heart of regional security concerns in the Persian Gulf, at least in the short term. However, they believe that in the longer run "both military capabilities and intentions are likely to change significantly in response to changing conditions in those political, social and economic factors that play an important role in the Gulf region" (p. 1). In assessing the prospects for Gulf security in the next century, therefore, the book focuses less on specific external military threats than it does on the broader issues of geopolitics and on such aspects as economic development, social change, demographics and health concerns.
Following an Introduction by the two editors that summarizes the essays, the book is divided into four sections. Part One deals with the regional threats to security from Iran and Iraq, written by Jerrold D. Green and Phebe Marr respectively. Both authors assert that the present military and economic weaknesses of these two countries make neither now capable of mounting a serious conventional military threat to its Gulf neighbors. As Green points out, however, there can be no Gulf security without the collective agreement and involvement of Iran, Iraq, and the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. Green and Marr agree that to get out of their political isolation Iran and Iraq will first have to abandon assertions to hegemonic roles within the Gulf and renounce behavior, such as their efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction, which remain an international as well as regional concern. In the case of Iraq, the replacement of the Saddam Hussein regime, if this can be done without the collapse of the central government and disintegration of the state, may be essential to reaching an accommodation with the GCC and the United States.
Part Two consists of three essays that discuss the Great Powers' interests in the Gulf. Joseph Moynihan notes that, while today's prominent U.S. political-military involvement in the Gulf has strong bipartisan support in Congress, continued American public acceptance of that region as a "vital" U.S. interest- i.e., worth risking American lives to preserve access to its oil resources could lessen if there were a long-term change in the world energy picture. Interestingly, he suggests that corporate investments in joint offset programs with the GCC states might come to replace oil as a strong reason for continued U.S. interest in the security and economic health of these countries. U.S. domestic support for a forward military policy in the Gulf might also decline if growing opposition within the GCC states to the high-profile U.S. military presence leads to further attacks of terrorism against American targets or to demands by those governments that U.S. forces move back "over the horizon."
Rosemary Hollis sees the West Europeans as generally supportive of the U.S. security posture in the region while competing strongly with the United States for oil and markets. Some European states with commercial aspirations in Iran and Iraq also seek to soften the more uncompromising U.S. efforts to maintain the international isolation of those two states. Robert V. Barylski stresses that post-Soviet Russian priorities are to retain Moscow's primacy of influence in the newly independent Caucasian and Central Asian states and to collect debts owed the USSR by former clients like Iraq. Russia is concerned that insecurity in the Gulf could spread to the Caspian region, but its primary security interest will be in nearby Iraq, Iran and Turkey rather than in the GCC states. Given that the focus of this book is on the next century, this section on the Great Powers would have been more complete if it had included an essay on how the interests of East Asian states, notably China and Japan, might affect Gulf security as suppliers of arms (e.g., Chinese missiles to Iran), as important markets for Gulf oil, and as present or potential permanent members of the U.N. Security Council charged with international peace-keeping and crisis management.
Part Three deals with the Islamic revolutionary threat, Gulf boundary disputes, and the likely impact on the Gulf states of an Arab-Israeli peace settlement. David E. Long does not now see militant revolutionary Islamism as a major threat to the Gulf states' security but warns that this is "potentially one of the greatest threats to political stability in the Gulf in the twenty-first century" (p. 122). Long considers Iranian support for Shii minority dissidence in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to be less an immediate threat than the clash of traditional Islamic values with Western secular influences, the growing underclass of youth marginalized politically and economically, and the high-profile presence of American military forces in the region. Richard Schofield reviews the history of regional border settlements, noting that except for the Bahrain-Qatar dispute, most border questions between GCC states have been resolved through bilateral negotiation over the last several years. Resolutions of outstanding border issues with non-GCC neighbors (Saudi-Yemen, UAE-Iran, Kuwait-Iraq) may be more elusive. A particular problem for the next century will be how to deal with Iraq's demand for better access to the Gulf and the Shatt al-Arab, an issue that contributed to the Gulf conflicts of 1980-89 and 1990-91.
Drawing on dependency theory, Glenn E. Robinson predicts that Israel, with its high technology industries and access to Western markets, will combine with the capital and energy resources of the Gulf states to form what he ironically terms a "Greater Middle East Co-prosperity Sphere" in which Arab states like Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians will play the role of compradors while the remaining Arab states benefit only marginally from the new regional economic system. He questions the assumption that an Arab-Israeli settlement will lead to general regional prosperity and security, contending instead that in the near term it is more likely to lead to greater instability and violence. Unfortunately, Robinson's essay does not address the question whether such an Israeli-GCC economic association might also include a political-military component, with Israel acting explicitly or implicitly to help deter external aggression against the Gulf Arab states by Iraq or Iran.
The four remaining essays discuss economic strategies; social transformation; population growth and labor; and health, education and gender aspects of security. Charles Doran argues the case for the GCC states adopting a strategy of regional integration to benefit the economies of scale. He also calls for easing government controls on private enterprise and for developing complementary export-oriented industrial bases. He does not, however, suggest how this might be done by states which have essentially only hydrocarbon resources as their industrial base. Drawing on her research into political dynamics in Kuwait and Qatar, Jill Crystal warns that Gulf security is threatened when social groups attempt to engage in foreign policy themselves and/or put pressure on the regime or other social groups in ways that may encourage interference by foreign actors. She nevertheless considers that regional political security is less often threatened by political opposition groups within the Gulf states than it is by overreaction of the authorities to "predictable, limited and essentially non-threatening pressure for public participation" (p. 219).
Michael Bonine analyzes demographic factors influencing the very rapid population growth in the GCC states, estimating that at present rates it could reach at least 100 million by mid-century vs. about 17.5 million in 1995. However, with expatriate workers composing almost three-quarters of the work force, their labor is indispensable to GCC prosperity. He and Saudi sociologist Mai Yamani, in a separate essay, discuss the problems created by the absence of national population policies, the mismatch between qualifications and jobs available for GCC nationals, the absence of a strong work ethic among Gulf Arabs now accustomed to extensive welfare-state benefits, and the need to bring more women into the labor force.
These essays were commissioned by the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, an Abu Dhabi-based independent research institution that seeks to serve as a focal point for scholarship on issues pertinent to the Gulf. Probably for this reason, the essays have been written primarily with a Gulf Arab reader in mind. Most authors, in fact, offer specific prescriptions for Gulf state strategies and policies to deal with the real or potential threats to security discussed. Among these recommendations are the need to foster Gulf-wide regional groupings which involve Iraq and Iran in discussions on security, border and economic integration matters; more reliance on the private sector in making economic decisions; greater transparency and accountability in government and avoidance of flagrant displays of avarice and favoritism by ruling elites; strengthening traditional and/or creating new institutions for public participation, especially in considering new or controversial directions in foreign and economic policy or addressing real grievances; government encouragement of family planning; a greater political and economic role for women; and redirecting educational programs to emphasize and teach marketable skills.
Americans who have followed Gulf affairs closely over the past decade will find most of the material in these essays familiar. There are few novel or unusual insights although some eyebrows will no doubt be raised at Moynihan's suggestion that American private investment in GCC offset programs might one day give the United States a stake in the region's security comparable to that now created by our need for Gulf oil.
U.S. policy makers will note that an important theme in several essays is the need for a new Gulf regional system that embraces Iran and Iraq. This of course runs counter to the Clinton administration's "dual containment" policy of seeking to keep these countries politically and economically isolated. But Iran has embarked on a charm offensive hoping to better relations with the Saudis and other suspicious neighbors. The reluctance of most Gulf Arab states publicly to endorse our recent threat to bomb Iraq indicates growing sentiment at the popular level among our Desert Storm allies that our Iraq policy is seriously flawed. Except in Kuwait, Gulf governments reportedly feel under domestic pressure to make political and humanitarian gestures toward Baghdad while distancing themselves from what they fear is a destabilizing U.S. policy in the region. A Gulf Arab view of this development was expressed by Saudi lawyer and economist Aziz Abu Hamad in an Op-ed in The Washington Post, March 20, 1998.
While recognizing that the high-profile U.S. military presence in the Gulf has been essential to containing threats by Iran or Iraq, several writers underscore the role these forces play in attracting and mobilizing Islamist and nationalist opposition to the governments of the Gulf host states. In the long term, their presence could become a destabilizing element. Exceptional U.S. sensitivity will be demanded to balance the continued requirement for U.S. forces in the Gulf to deter aggression and enforce the U.N. sanctions on Iraq with the need to avoid exacerbating tensions within the region or making more difficult the eventual rapprochement between the GCC states and their larger Gulf neighbors that is essential to future long-term regional stability.