The concept of khaleeji identity, also referred to sometimes as Gulf identity or identity of the Eastern Arabia, is characterized by its fluidity and is by no means a univocally recognized one.
Too often depicted as yet another arena in the proxy war between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, the Yemeni conflict has much more to do with a domestic struggle for power rather than sectarian – and supposedly archaic – rivalries. But with the opening of a new round of conflict after the 2011 Arab Spring, and even more after the 2015 Saudi-led intervention, the conflict underwent a dynamic of “sectarianisation”, or politicization of religious identities.
On 13 June, the Saudi-led coalition started airstrikes on Hodeida, the biggest urban centre of Yemen’s Western, Red Sea coast. A city of 600.000 inhabitants, Hodeida is controlled by the Iranian-backed Huthi insurgents since 2015.
Six years after the first free elections in Egypt’s post-Arab uprisings era, the Persian Gulf media’s attention to the country’s presidential election has considerably changed. Although the Gulf countries’ political support for Egypt remains unchanged – also expressed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s two-day visit to Cairo earlier this month in which he reaffirmed the highest level of bilateral cooperation – this election appears to be less important for Cairo’s Arab allies.
Over the last years the Gulf monarchies have emerged as assertive players both in the MENA region and in the global context. Relying on their huge energy reserves and financial assets, these states acquired increasing international leverage. On the one hand, the oil monarchies moved eastwards exploiting the opportunity provided by emerging Asian markets to diversify their energy relations and economic interests. On the other, in the wake of the Arab uprisings they adopted a more proactive approach that dramatically altered their influence in the region. Nonetheless, Gulf activism comes at a time when the monarchies are facing important internal and external challenges.
In this complex puzzle, the report aims to assess to what extent the rising Gulf monarchies are able to play as key actors both at the regional and the international levels. Are these monarchies adopting sustainable domestic policies in the long-term? How have they extended their influence in the MENA region? How are they reshaping their international relations? How do they act in the world energy market? What are the implications of the Gulf’s new assertiveness for the EU?
The emergence of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) monarchies as a major player in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is one of the most interesting outcomes of the Arab Spring. The Arab awakening and the deep regional transformations that it has engendered have pushed the Gulf monarchies to assume a more dynamic and assertive stance in the MENA region to protect their interests, preventing a wave of unrest that could have endangered their own stability and influence in regional and internal dynamics.