Navigating Fragile Rapprochement: Challenges and Opportunities in the Gulf Region
Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a renowned Emirati researcher, recently emphasized the Gulf region’s transition from conflict to cooperation while highlighting the precariousness of the current rapprochement atmosphere. Abdulla was upbeat, but he also saw that a number of potential disruptors might easily ruin this fragile calm. Israel, the extremist elements in Iran, and Donald Trump’s likely election victory in 2024 are some of these spoilers. In order to protect their interests and maintain the current rapprochement, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran must navigate a number of hurdles and opportunities, which are explored in this article along with Abdulla’s worries.
Abdulla thinks that the rapprochement in the Gulf could be hampered by Donald Trump’s likely return to the White House. The quest for unconditional normalization between Arab governments and Israel and Trump’s preference for a Gulf-Israel alliance against Iran would increase tensions and undo the peacemaking progress that has been accomplished. Furthermore, since normalization with Saudi Arabia would lessen their influence, extremist factions in Iran, especially the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), would fight the move. A Gulf reconciliation would dramatically weaken the IRGC’s influence, which historically has benefited from exploiting regional tensions. Israel, which has always benefited from regional differences, is concerned about the changing regional dynamics as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey pursue tighter connections.
Although there has been a noticeable change, there is still little sense of genuine trust amongst the rivals in the region. Their interactions are nevertheless tainted by mistrust, and the fragile character of the reconciliation is caused by short-term interests rather than true trust. The parties concerned have come to terms with the need to accept one another and the futility of their proxy battles. This tenuous calm, however, can be easily destroyed by any perceived security concerns. This reality is well known to these prospective spoilers, who may be planning to take advantage of the circumstance.
Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran must cooperate to fortify the existing agreements and institutionalize their interactions if they are to safeguard themselves against any disruptions. The region does not have a security guarantee like the United nations did after World War II, unlike the European Union, or a regulatory framework for member nations. As a result, it is up to the regional nations and their leaders to maintain peace.
Building confidence and enhancing coordination can be facilitated by creating a permanent committee for ongoing discussion of security-related problems. For instance, regular meetings to discuss security issues between Iran and Oman serve as an example of how a positive relationship can be maintained. Establishing ground rules early on and obtaining commitment from all parties will direct the relationship and promote stability.
The Gulf states must abandon a zero-sum mentality and acknowledge that one country’s gain does not always translate to another’s loss in order to preserve the positive trend. Stability and mutual accommodation will be encouraged by accepting each other’s influence and coordinating policies. Despite ongoing difficulties, there is still hope for a lasting peace in the region if the current reconciliation can be strengthened and put into practical action.
The views of Abdulkhaleq Abdulla reveal the precarious nature of the Gulf region’s reconciliation. While there are potential game-changers like Israel, extremist Iranian forces, and a hypothetical Trump comeback, there is also a chance for the area to promote long-lasting peace. The fragile peace must be strengthened by creating a framework for cooperation, holding regular discussions, clarifying the terms of engagement, and changing mindsets away from a zero-sum perspective. The Gulf states face a difficult road ahead, but with strong leadership and public awareness, they can forge a path from conflict to collaboration and prevent a return to the unrest of the past.