Iran and the Arabian Gulf: Complex Triple Crisis

Policy Analysis. Gulf Futures Center. London. UK, 2018

Posted: 1 Jul 2018

See all articles by Hichem Karoui

Hichem Karoui

Center for China & Globalization (CCG)

Date Written: November 28, 2017


Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo at the extraordinary session of the Arab League Council on November 19, 2017, condemned the Iranian interference in their affairs in the strongest terms, but they will not go to war with Iran. At least not “at this stage,” according to the Secretary-General of the Arab League. But what does "not at this stage" mean? It is an ambiguous sentence, as on the one hand, there is no absolute denial of the intention of war, which, on the other hand, is still if the Secretary-General deferred the decision on this issue to sometime in the future!

The present situation suggests that there is a complex, multidimensional and protracted crisis situation: First, a chronic crisis between Iran, and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries in general, has distanced the simple mistrust and reached the state of proxy wars in different countries, from Lebanon and Iraq to Syria and Yemen; Second, a reproducible crisis situation between Qatar and a number of other Gulf states and Egypt, evidenced in the boycott and the media and diplomatic war; Third, an emergency crisis between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri from Riyadh on November 5, and his volte-face (reversal policy) on the 22 November Independence Day in Beirut.

In the background of these three crises is the struggle for regional leadership between Saudi Arabia on the one hand and Iran on the other. For this reason, we said that it is a "complex crisis" in many ways. This may suggest that if the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Iran is resolved, there may not be more problems that are difficult to resolve. Which is still hard to prove.

The current paper will not deal with the fundamental issue of "disagreement" with Iran, whether to be soon resolved or not and how, but only focuses on deconstructing the present situation of no war and no peace. Still, the big question is: Are we on the verge of a new war? We try to give different and complementary answers, based on the analysis of the official political discourse in the Arab world. Not just the one that prevailed recently at the meeting of the Council of the League of Arab States on 19 November, or in the precedent period, but also in the past. Comparative analysis will give us the tools to understand what happened in Iran and the Arab world since 1979 at least that changed completely the rhetoric and the politics of the region, as it moved from modern concepts to Middle-aged sectarian-religious notions. This will help us understand why everything became under high-tension, societies and governments included.

We think that the Gulf region did not raise the right questions, which is a main reason for the current crisis. Therefore, in order to resolve the issues at hand, we need first to answer honestly the questions that have been dodged.

Suggested Citation

Karoui, Hichem, Iran and the Arabian Gulf: Complex Triple Crisis (November 28, 2017). Policy Analysis. Gulf Futures Center. London. UK, 2018, Available at SSRN:

Hichem Karoui (Contact Author)

Center for China & Globalization (CCG) ( email )



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