The Agenda

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi on the Arab Gulf States as a Geopolitical Tinderbox

Earlier this month, Jeffrey Goldberg wrote a sobering column about America’s geopolitical entanglements in the Middle East:

Even if the U.S. soon manages to produce all the fossil fuel energy it needs for itself, the world economy would be devastated if South Korea, Japan, and China were suddenly cut off from Mideast oil. So the U.S. will need to continue safeguarding the security of the Persian Gulf, barring one unlikely development: “The only thing that could change this would be burden-sharing with China with respect to keeping open the Strait of Hormuz,” says Andrew Exum, a Middle East expert at the Center for a New American Security. “When you see Chinese ships protecting trade routes through the Strait, maybe we can stop worrying as much.”

Furthermore, Americans are deeply interested in the security of Israel and that is unlikely to change. So Americans would do well to read Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi’s short piece on events that could transform the Arab Gulf states. The following scenarios are a few of the scenarios he envisions:

(1) What if Bahrain or Kuwait face palace coups? What kind of regime would take their place? And in a related vein, what if one or more of the eight Arab monarchies is overthrown and replaced by a republic?

(2) What if one of the affluent Gulf states faces an expatriate uprising, in which South Asian migrant workers riot or strike on a mass scale?

(3) What if Saudi Arabia or Bahrain see the rise of armed opposition movements?

(4) What if Qatar embraces robust democratic reforms?

(5) And perhaps most pressingly, what if an Israeli strike on Iran results in a series of Iranian attacks on the Arab Gulf states?

Given these possibilities, there is a strong case that foreign policy should play a more prominent role in the U.S. presidential race.


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