Iran and the GCC Countries: between Confrontation and Dialogue

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2020-64-7-80-88
N. Kozhanov (,
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation

Abstract. The article examines the development of relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) and the member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Iran’s strained relations with the Arab monarchies of the Gulf are often perceived as their natural state. This implies that a hidden or overt conflict based on deep ideological, political and cultural contradictions is the backbone of the entire complex of relations between Iran and its neighbors in the Persian Gulf. However, in reality, the situation looks different. Thus, the current attempts of Riyadh to unite other GCC members against Tehran are only partially successful. While the UAE and Bahrain authorities actively support anti-Iranian steps and rhetoric of the Saudi leadership, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar show considerable interest in maintaining at least neutral good-neighborly relations with Tehran. At the same time, while Doha’s desire to develop a dialogue with Iran is largely forced and is due to the fact that without Iranian support, the country can be completely isolated, the interest of the Omani and Kuwaiti leaders in maintaining good relations with Tehran is defined by much deeper, historically determined motives. Moreover, over the past decades, periods of sharp cooling in relations between Iran and all the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf region have alternated with active mutual attempts to develop a model that could ensure sustainable cooperation between Iran and the GCC. Under these circumstances, it makes sense to talk about the existence of at least two conflicting trends in Iranian relations with the GCC countries. On the one hand, the understanding that maintaining a certain level of stability in the Persian Gulf requires establishing good-neighborly relations pushes the leadership of Iran and the GCC countries towards a constructive dialogue. On the other hand, the regional ambitions of Iran and Saudi Arabia inevitably lead to periodic clashes between the two countries in their struggle for influence in the Middle East, inevitably involving other GCC countries in this struggle. The American presence in the region, as well as internal contradictions between the GCC members are additional factors determining specifics of Iran’s relation with the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf.

Keywords: Iran, GCC, Iran-Saudi relations, Iran-Qatar relations, Iran-Emirate relations, Islamic Revolution, Persian Gulf


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For citation:
Kozhanov N. Iran and the GCC Countries: between Confrontation and Dialogue. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2020, vol. 64, no. 7, pp. 80-88.

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