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Troubled waters
Tripple track diplomacy in the Persian Gulf

April 12, 2000
The Iranian

In the past week Iran has stopped about a dozen ships allegedly carrying smuggled Iraqi oil. Meanwhile U.S. Secretary of State William Cohen has visited regional capitals, warning American allies of the continued threats posed by Iran, even though Washington is litself looking to improve ties with an increasingly democratic Iran. And finally, for the first time in 20 years, Iran's defense minister is planning to visit Saudi Arabia. The following essay was written for the International Commission for Security and Cooperation in West Asia (Comprising Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen) held in Istanbul, Turkey last month.


In collaboration with several other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in 1998, the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research initiated a project on Persian Gulf security that may be considered the first such initiative of peacebuilding in this volatile region.

As part of the Toda Institute Human Security and Global Governance (HUGG) research program, the project is named HUGG West Asia. The effort comes at a time when two bloody wars and a creeping third war in the 1980s and 1990s have exhausted the littoral states. Moreover, declining oil revenues have reduced the states' ability to continue the feverish arms races of the past.

In the face of declining welfare expenditures, population pressures and political demands for democratic participation are building up in the Gulf countries. A rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran is paving the way for a potential balance of power between the triumvirate of Iran, Iraq, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirate, and Oman.

The puzzle is whether these propitious circumstances can lead to the establishment of an indigenous security regime guaranteed by the great powers and how and when this may be achieved. This essay critically reviews the HUGG West Asia Project that aims at such an outcome through a triple track diplomatic effort.


The role of multiple-track diplomacy in peace negotiations has received increasing attention in the post-Cold War era . It is generally recognized that the role of civil society in international relations is on the rise. Market forces from the top and civil society forces from the bottom have undermined the authority of the territorial state in a post-Westphalian world order. The boundaries between domestic and foreign policy also are increasingly blurred.

While global market forces are imposing serious constraints on the power of the smaller and medium sized states, an international civil society is pressuring the states to observe the global norms in human rights and environmental protection. The role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in peacemaking and peacebuilding is of critical importance.

Given the enormous sensitivity of the states to "foreign" interference, this role would be more effective if mediated by independent agencies that enjoy the confidence of the contending governments. In contrast to dual track diplomacy that provides an NGO channel parallel to official diplomatic negotiations, triple track diplomacy attempts to build a bridge between NGOs and governments.

This case study of a triple track diplomatic initiative presents the problems and prospects of such an approach. In collaboration with several other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in 1998, the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research initiated a project on Persian Gulf security. As part of its Human Security and Global Governance (HUGG) research program, the project is named HUGG West Asia.

In its first phase, the project focuses on confidence building among the Gulf states by establishing an International Commission for Security and Cooperation in West Asia. The Commission consists of distinguished diplomats and scholars from the eight littoral states plus the five permanent member-states of the United Nations Security Council and a UN representative.

The project will act as a second track diplomatic bridge between peace scholars and governments by opening up channels of communication, massaging all submitted peace proposals to prepare them for the consideration of the relevant governments, and promoting a regional security regime for durable peace.

The Commission met in Istanbul on March 6-7, 1999, for the first time and unanimously recommended the establishment of a center for the promotion of regional cooperation and confidence building in security, political, economic, social, and cultural arenas.

The Commission also recommended that its next meeting should take place in one of the Gulf littoral states focusing on confidence building among the states. This essay reviews the evolving security regimes in the Gulf region, provides a background to the HUGG West Asia project, reports on the substance of the discussions at the Istanbul conference, and concludes with the prospects for the establishment of an indigenous security regime in the Gulf region.

The Evolving Gulf Security Regimes

During the 20th century, the Persian Gulf seems to have gone through at least three distinctly different security regimes, including Pax Britannica, Pax Saudi-Iranica, and Pax Americana (Mojtahed-Zadeh 1998) .

Pax Britannica lasted from 1918, the conclusion of World War I, to 1971, which marked the withdrawal of British forces from the East of the Suez. The destruction of the Ottoman Empire and the transfer of Iraq, Trans-Jordan, and Palestine to Britain as League of Nations mandates, inaugurated this period. The Iranian Majlis turned down the proposed Anglo-Iranian Treaty of 1919. The treaty would have reduced Iran to the status of a protectorate like Egypt. Nevertheless, Britain exercised considerable influence in the political affairs of Iran.

The coup d'etat of 1921 by Colonel Reza Khan, masterminded by the British, brought Iran for the next 20 years under a pro-British dictatorship. Although much less independent, the Gulf Arab Emirates (Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and what now constitutes the United Arab Emirates (UAE)) were at the same time carved out of the nominally Ottoman territories by the British.

Like Iraq and Trans-Jordan, the borders of the Emirates were drawn up to pay political debts while ensuring a system of divide and rule. Many of the current border disputes in the region stem from such colonial schemes (e. g. disputes between Iraq and Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, Iran and UAE). The era of Pax Britannica came to an with the postwar dismemberment of the British Empire and the rise of nationalist regimes in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Palestine/Israel, and Egypt.

A new era emerged in 1971 when the British forces were withdrawn from the East of the Suez. Under the circumstances, Pax Americana could have effectively replaced Pax Britannica. However, the United States defeat in Vietnam had led to the emergence of the Nixon Doctrine calling for the establishment of proxy powers in various regions of the world to act on behalf of the United States interests.

In the Persian Gulf, the monarchist regimes of Saudi Arabia and Iran presented themselves as candidates for this role. The two regimes were thus bolstered by extensive U. S. political and military aid. The emergence of a Pax Saudi-Iranica had anticipated and unanticipated consequences. It led to Saudi-Iranian rapprochement on the Shi'a-Sunni conflicts, the Organization of Islamic Conference, but also to a new unity in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that quadrupled the price of oil in 1973.

Some boundary disputes were resolved, including the Iranian abandonment of sovereignty claims over Bahrain, an understanding between Iran and Sharjah on Abu Musa Island, and continental shelf agreements among the littoral states. In 1975, Iran and Iraq also reached an agreement in Algiers regarding their boundary dispute over Shatt-ul-Arab and the withdrawal of Iranian support for the Kurdish rebellion in Iraq.

As part of the new security regime, Iran also assisted the government of Oman to successfully defeat a Marxist rebellion in the Dhuffar Province. The Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran brought Pax Saudi-Iranica to an end.

With the tacit support of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, as well as Western powers, Iraq invaded Iran in 1980. A historical pattern was repeating itself. As in the case of modern revolutions in France, Russia, China, and Cuba, the new revolutionary regime in Iran presented an ideological threat to its neighboring conservative governments.

Although the rhetoric far outweighed the power of a newly established and disorganized government, it was considered opportune by Iraq and its Arab and Western allies to nip the revolution in the bud. However, as in other historical instances, the Iraqi invasion had a counter-intuitive effect. It unified a divided revolutionary regime against the enemy in a patriotic war that "imperialists and their lackeys had imposed on the country" (jang-i-tahmili).

The consequence was an eight-year tug of war in which both sides suffered incalculable material and human costs. Initially, Iraq had the upper hand, but as the Iranians better organized themselves, the tide turned against Iraq in roughly 1987. During a tanker war that threatened oil exports from the Gulf, Kuwait also requested the United States to protect its ships. These dual circumstances brought the United States with full force into the region.

A third period thus began under the aegis of Pax Americana. The approaching end of the Cold War had made it possible for the U. S. and Soviet Union to jointly pressure Iran and Iraq to accept a cease-fire in 1988 (Hume 1994). Under the threat of great power intervention, Ayatollah Khomeini had no choice but to drink the "poisonous cup."

The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq on August 2, 1990 ensured that intervention. Thanks to his Arab and Western allies, by 1990 Saddam Hussein had acquired a new powerful war machine and tested armed forces (Tehranian 1999, 177-178). He therefore turned his attention to Iraq's old territorial ambition, Kuwait, which was now demanding repayments for its wartime loans. Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait in August 1990 by a blitzkrieg.

The United States response was a rapid deployment of forces to oppose the Iraqi invasion. It is not entirely certain if this turn of events was premeditated. On the one hand, the massive destruction of Saddam's war machine may be considered a calculated strategy by the United States to undo the Frankenstein monster that was created in the Iraqi war against Iran.

This interpretation is supported by U. S. Ambassador April Glaspie's assurances of neutrality between Iraq and Kuwait that must have encouraged Saddam gamble at an invasion of Kuwait. It is further supported by the subsequent U. S. refusal to allow Saddam a face-saving exit out of Kuwait. On the other hand, the U. S. responses to the events could be considered to have been spontaneous and without premeditation. At any rate, the events were unanticipated by Saddam.

Coming at the heel of the end of the Cold War and the disappearance of the Soviet Union as a superpower, Saddam was gambling on an easy victory. During the Iran-Iraq war, he had assumed a new stature as a Pan-Arab nationalist and was hoping to cash in on his prestige by championing the cause of a united Arab world against all enemies. But he had miscalculated a second time. From the globalist perspective of the United States and its allies, the emergence of a hostile regional superpower in the Persian Gulf would have proved disastrous for Western oil and strategic interests.

From a domestic perspective also, the Republican Party in power in Washington wished to exorcise the "Vietnam syndrome" in the United States that had deterred it from playing a more active global, military role. The invasion of Kuwait assumed a symbolic significance in the post-Cold War era. Should a potentate be allowed to seize regional power by virtue of a Western default?

President Bush quickly responded to that question by deploying the largest postwar military force into Saudi Arabia. Following fruitless peace negotiations in which the United States was unwilling to allow Saddam even a face-saving withdrawal, the United Nations forces with the tacit approval of all five Great Powers, and led by the United States, re-conquered Kuwait and restored its monarchy to power.

Iraq itself came under UN economic sanctions, and no-fly zones in the north and the south were established in order to protect the dissident Kurds and Shi'ites. Following Egyptian President Nasser's challenges of the 1950's and 60s, the colliding moral spaces of Western globalism and Pan-Arabism led in 1991 to a decisive defeat for the latter.

Although Pax Americana has been a fact of life in the Gulf during the 1990s, it has proved to be an unstable regional security regime. The failure of the U. S. policyof dual containment of Iran and Iraq calls for a new design. Since 1996 under the leadership of President Khatami, Iran has regained the respect of the international community for its restrained foreign policies. A

lthough Saddam Hussein is still in power and defiant in Iraq, France, Russia, and China have diverged from the United States and Britain in their recommendation for ending the isolation of the country. The time is thus ripe for inaugurating a new indigenous security regime under which Iran, Iraq, and GCC can settle their border disputes, guarantee non-interference in each other's internal affairs, and cooperate for a durable peace. The new regime, however, would be impossible without guarantees from the great powers.

Why HUGG West Asia?

The two Gulf wars (1980-1988 and 1990-1991) and the risks of an impending third one have created grave threats to international peace and security. As the source of some 60 percent of the world oil reserves and exports, the region has invited unprecedented numbers of foreign interventions and spiraling arms races that lead nowhere except to greater insecurity for the regional states and further threats to world peace. The human costs during the two decades of warfare (1980-1999) in the region have been staggering.

About one million people were killed and another one million were maimed in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988. The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq on August 2, 1990 and the subsequent high technology war against Iraq by the UN forces involved fewer casualties, but it nonetheless entailed disastrous results. The breakdown of the Iraqi physical and social infrastructure as well as the continuing economic sanctions against Iraq have resulted in the premature death of about half a million Iraqi children each year due to malnutrition and infectious diseases.

Under present circumstances, prospects for the normalization of relations among several of the contending states in this affair appear dim. Iran, Iraq, and the United States have severed their diplomatic relations. Similarly, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq continue to act as belligerents.

In the absence of diplomatic relations among the main parties to the regional disputes, prospects for peace are slim, unless international civil society assumes its responsibility by providing alternative channels of communication and negotiation. The role of NGOs in multiple-track diplomacy is thus indispensable.

Although governments are often protective of their "rights" to conduct foreign relations without interference from "meddlers," they would welcome the additional information and facilitation that may result from NGO involvement. For instance, the U. S. Department of State has often treated the role of such figures as Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson in supervising elections and releasing hostages with disdain. However, it also has had to acknowledge the positive contributions they have made in the process.

These include release of hostages, supervision of elections, and a general opening of channels of communication. To initiate a peacebuilding effort, the design and preparation for the Toda Institute's initiative for security and cooperation in the West Asian region took place largely in 1998. In this process, three major obstacles had to be overcome.

First, the conflict over the name of the project was resolved by changing it from HUGG Gulf to HUGG West Asia. The Arab participants would not take part in the project if the region was to be called by its historic name, the Persian Gulf. The Iranians would refuse participation if the project were to be called by the name the Arabs preferred, namely "the Arab Gulf." A compromise was reached by calling the project HUGG West Asia, a label that more accurately fits the region than its colonial label of "the Middle East." The latter is a strategic label devoid of any historical or cultural content.

Captain Alfred Mahan, Theodore Roosevelt's close friend and colleague in the U. S. Navy, coined the term "the Middle East" in the late 19th century (Mahan 1894). He argued that in order to have world domination, a state must have naval superiority through control of landmasses lying between the Near East and Far East, i. e. the Middle East. The control of this piece of real estate was therefore critical to Captain Mahan, who probably had no notion of its cultural and historical complexity.

A second obstacle to overcome was the traditional suspicions and conspiracy theories that characterize the colonial past of the region. Two bloody wars in the last two decades and a creeping third one have taken their toll on trust. We had a triple-T problem: Tehranian, Toda, and Tudeh. Initially some Arab colleagues suspected that the project was an Iranian government conspiracy because the director of the Toda Institute is Iranian-born.

Once they were dissuaded from this thought, an imaginative colleague in the region suggested that Toda corresponded to Tudeh, the name of the Iranian Communist Party. The project therefore must be a communist conspiracy! The Institute obviously had to explain that it had been named after Mr. Toda, the second President of Soka Gakkai, to honor his work for peace and global citizenship.

Finally, someone suggested that since the conference is being held in Istanbul, it must be a Turkish-American-Israeli conspiracy against the rest of West Asia. Reasons for the choice of Istanbul, however, were convincing enough to dispel that suspicion: to avoid partiality, the first conference would not be held at any of the littoral states. Thus, Istanbul was the nearest major city to the region that could be found. A third obstacle presented itself as the conference time approached.

The capture of Ocalan, the Kurdish nationalist leader, and his dispatch to Turkey to stand trial created some security fears. In the light of worldwide Kurdish demonstrations against Ocalan's capture, we considered a postponement of the conference. But assurances by the Turkish government of the security of the participants and the determination to press on kept us on target.

Despite these difficulties, there were many good omens as well. Because the project was an independent initiative supported by several peace and policy research institutes from outside the region, fears of partiality and manipulation were allayed.

The co-sponsoring organizations included the Toda Institute, Copenhagen Peace Research Institute, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, and the Center for Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies of Australian National University. The distinguished diplomats and scholars who accepted our invitation to join the International Commission also helped to diminish the anxiety about "conspiracies."

To further allay any fears or suspicions, a letter of request was sent to all of the foreign ministers of the eight littoral states and the five permanent state-members of the UN Security Council. It listed the purpose of the project, and requested them to nominate someone from their own country for Commission membership.

The letter emphasized that the Commission members should have the confidence of their own governments and civil societies without necessarily representing them. The objective was clearly to have a non-governmental commission whose members were participating in the security dialogue in their personal capacity rather than as officials of their governments. One foreign minister, that of Britain, responded negatively to our request.

Russia, Iran, and Oman nominated representatives, while the remaining foreign ministers left our request unanswered. Informal contacts with non-responding government officials, however, indicated a bemused interest in the project. Selection of other representatives thus had to employ the project's informal academic and governmental channels to identify those who might qualify as eminent citizens of their own countries, enjoying equal respect from their governments and civil societies.

The first meeting of the International Commission for Security and Cooperation in West Asia took place successfully on March 6-7, 1999, in Istanbul, Turkey. The fact that representatives of countries with broken diplomatic relations could meet in an atmosphere of friendship and cooperation helped build confidence among them as a prelude to serious discussions. This was a proof of Woody Allan's assertion that "ninety percent of life is just being there!"

Professor Saleh Alkhatlan, the Commission member from Saudi Arabia, has best expressed the positive feelings and the results that came out of the Istanbul conference: "I send you my deepest thanks for two days of fruitful and informative discussion. I really enjoyed our meetings and strongly believe that the conference was a big success. As it was discussed in the meetings, misperception is a major obstacle to security and cooperation in the region, so please see if Toda's experience in enhancing communications and global understanding may help in overcoming such cognitive problems.

You will be happy to know that today I am sending an email to our colleagues from the Iranian Institute of Political and International Studies (IPIS) to say hello and thank them for frank and sincere discussions. To my knowledge this is the first e-mail contact between Riyadh and Tehran and it would have not been, it were not for Toda (not Tudeh). May Allah help us in achieving our objectives and see the Gulf stable and its peoples happy and prosperous. Thanks again and keep up the good work."

On a sad note, however, Tehran Times of March 6, 1999 (Internet version), reported on the conference under the headline: "Institute close to CIA hosts conference on Persian Gulf security in Turkey." The report stated that "the conference has been organized by Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research, which is headed by an Iranian Majid Tehranian, who has close links with the CIA This is the first time Iran is involved in negotiations with the US focusing on the Persian Gulf security."

We immediately wrote to the editors to deplore their irresponsible and false reports while denying the allegations of any CIA connection and emphasizing the NGO nature of the project. However, the incident showed once again that the lot of peacemakers is not easy at all. The project was being abused as a pawn in the power struggles between the conservatives and the liberals in Tehran.

As the mouthpiece of the conservatives, Tehran Times was thus trying to discredit the peacemaking initiatives of President Mohammad Khatami's government towards the Arab states and the West. Regardless of the hurdles, what are the objectives and methods of the project?

As a triple-track diplomatic initiative, the project consists of the government first track and an International Commission acting as a second track while a third track of peace scholars feed it with proposals to promote a regional non-aggression pact, an arms control agreement, and a regional cooperation organization.

Mr. Yasushi Akashi, former UN Under-Secretary-General and current Director of the Hiroshima Peace Institute, initially accepted to chair the Commission until a permanent chair was elected. However, due to his decision to run for the Governor of Tokyo at about the time of the Istanbul conference, he had to withdraw. Mr.

Vladimir Petrovsky, Director-General and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, also had to decline participation while assuring us of his continued support for the project. The Istanbul Conference Invitees to the Istanbul Conference consisted of representatives from the eight littoral states, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary-General's office, and a number of observers.

Despite considerable efforts, no representatives from Kuwait and Bahrain attended the conference. Due to circumstances beyond their control, the UN and UAE representatives also excused themselves with assurances of continued support of the project and promises to attend future meetings. The conference agenda called for a preliminary discussion on various models of regional security and cooperation to be followed by explorations of the possibilities for a regional non-aggression pact, an arms control treaty, and a regional organization for security and cooperation. At the conclusion of the conference, we reached a unanimous agreement on the future of the Commission with a press release that called for the establishment of a regional research center for security and cooperation in the Gulf.

Here are the main themes that were discussed at the conference:

1. Procedural Matters. Conference participants agreed first and foremost that the Chatham House confidentiality rules must apply to discussions, i.e. conference reports must refrain from any direction attribution of comments. This rule provided a secure atmosphere for open and frank discussions. The participants also agreed that Yemen should be added to the Commission. Yemen is expected to join GCC and its participation is vital to a viable security regime in the region. Moreover, most participants expressed a skepticism. Participants also expressed a preference for soft rather than hard agenda items, as well as concrete rather than vague measures. They added that the language and framing of problems must be free of stereotypes and threats. The Commission should work first on confidence building measures and common grounds such as the Gulf price of oil.

2. Models of Regional Cooperation. There are currently two good models for regional security regimes established by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in which arms control, transparency, and preventive diplomacy have been combined to provide enduring regional peace. Past security organizations in West Asia have been often prompted from the outside, e.g. the Baghdad Pact followed by the Central Treaty Organization. The Commission could learn from such examples. To succeed, however, the new regional organization must be initiated from within the region itself. Furthermore, participants felt the support and guarantees of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council were vital to regional security in the Gulf.

The experiences of other regional groupings are not, however, direclty transferable to the Gulf. Despite this warning, there are three basic requirements for any successful regional formation: consensus, inclusiveness, and functionalism. Consensus building means regular visits by government officials to develop a common view on regional problems and possible solutions. Inclusiveness means to include all states of a given region regardless of their ideological or political orientations.

Functionalism suggests that it is easier to achieve agreement on functional cooperation such as regional transportation and telecommunication, than sensitive political and economic issues. It takes a long time before the potential member-states of a regional organization can gain sufficient confidence and trust in each other to commit to long-term, cooperative relations. In the case of the Gulf states, the following confidence building measures will help:

- Agreement on frontiers by peaceful negotiation for any needed adjustments
- Prior notification of military exercises
- Reciprocal observation of military exercises
- Reciprocal inspection of military facilities
- Transparency in arms production and imports
- Replacement of US with UN forces in the Gulf
- Great power guarantees of regional security through United Nations Security Council
- Preventive diplomacy through regular exchange of views on outstanding problems
- Regional games in popular sports such as soccer
- Regional exchange of performing artists
- Regional research and training center for security and cooperation
- Regional educational exchange programs
- Studies of security perceptions of the Gulf states
- Studies of mutual misperceptions and stereotypes in order to remove them
- Delinkage of Gulf issues from the Arab-Israeli disputes
- Focus on process rather than outcome
- Cultural exchange among non-governmental organizations
- Regional exchange among journalists
- Encouragement of European Union to get more involved in the Gulf security issues
- Starting perhaps with a single step such as the formation of a regional center for security studies

3. Major Security Concerns. It is important to recognize the legitimate security concerns of the Gulf states before responding to them in a new regional security regime. While the Gulf region as a whole shares some common security concerns, each state in the region also has its own unique preoccupations. However, it can be safely said that stability in the flows and price of oil, non-interference in their internal affairs, and long-term economic development, are the common concerns of all of the Gulf petroleum exporting states.

At the crossroads of East and West, Iran is bordering 12 different sovereign states, all of which are characterized by internal and external insecurity. Iran's security anxieties are thus real. Witness the Iraqi invasion of 1980 and the skirmishes with Afghanistan in 1998.

As the largest of the Gulf states in population, Iran views its role as the balancer of power. Although successive Iranian governments have consistently denied any hegemonic intentions, they are often accused of such designs. To assume domination, however, Iran faces competition with the outside powers.

Under Pax Saudi-Iranica, for a short period, Iran assumed a proxy role for the United States. After the Iranian revolution, however, the United States has tried to isolate Iran. The two Gulf wars and increasing political maturity have led the Iranian regime to make greater efforts toward confidence building with the Gulf states, except Iraq. Ever since the Iran-Iraq war, relations between the two countries have been tense.

Each regime provides a base of operation for opposition groups to the other regime. War reparations, return of Iraqi jets that are claimed by Iran as part of war reparations, exchange of war prisoners, and ideological differences are the main issues at stake. However, both states wish for the United States to leave the Persian Gulf. Both desire higher prices for oil. And both consider themselves vanguards of the revolutionary movements in the region.

Iraq claims leadership of the secular nationalists and republicans while Iran champions the cause of the Islamic revolution. Iraq's internal divisions (60 percent Shi'a, 20 percent Sunni, and 20 percent Kurdish) have shaped its security perceptions. With its historical memories of grandeur as the center of the Abbasid Dynasty during the 9-13th centuries, Iraq has in modern times competed with Egypt and Syria for leadership in the Arab world. Following 1968, under the Ba'athist regime, this competition reached its peak during the Iraqi invasions of Iran and Kuwait. During the first Gulf war, Iraq enjoyed the support of Arab countries except Libya and Syria.

In the second Gulf War, however, it was isolated except for Jordanian and Palestinian support. Having been subjected to nearly a decade of economic sanctions, the Iraqi regime suffers from intense insecurity. It views itself as the victim of Western imperialism, conservative Arab perfidy, and Iranian hostility. Dominated by Sunni Arab leadership, the Ba'athist regime's suspicion of its own Shi'a and Kurdish population adds to this sense of insecurity.

The GCC consists of six countries that vary in size and attitudes. Saudi Arabia has successfully served as the GCC leader shaping its policies in the Gulf. As a group, the GCC considers itself a balancing power vis-à-vis the two Gulf big boys, namely Iran and Iraq. As relatively rich but less populated countries, the GCC governments also look for protection from the United States against possible threats from Iran and Iraq. However, feelings about the presence of the U. S. forces are mixed. Too close an identification with the U. S. opens the GCC regimes to accusations of complicity with un-Islamic and imperialist powers.

Although the recent rapprochement with Iran is not universal among the GCC members, Saudi Arabia has led the way. The United Arab Emirates continues to have a serious conflict with Iran on the issue of sovereignty over the three Gulf islands (Abu Musa, Greater and Smaller Tombs). Bahrain has accused the Iranian regime of subversive activities within its borders.

Oman and Qatar seem to enjoy the best relations with Iran. Expanding commercial relations between Iran and the southern Gulf states, however, are paving the way for greater common and enduring interests. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are currently at odds over the GCC opening to Iran. Symbolic issues such as the name of "the Gulf" and practical issues such as the control of the three Gulf islands continue to divide the two sides of the Gulf.


This brief account of an effort at peacebuilding in a war-torn region of the world has reviewed the historical evolution of security regimes in the Persian Gulf. It has argued that the current situation is both untenable and conducive to a new, indigenous security regime for long-term regional security and cooperation. The essay has provided the background to the HUGG West Asia Project, an NGO initiative aiming at the establishment of such a regime.

In reporting the deliberations of the first meeting of the International Commission for Security and Cooperation in West Asia, held in Istanbul on March 6-7, 1999, the essay has also outlined the main obstacles to establishing regional cooperation for security as well as the opportunities that present circumstances can afford in that direction.

What lies ahead? As soon as the Gulf states adopt the Commission's recommendation for the establishment of a regional center for security and cooperation, the task of the HUGG West Asia Project may be considered completed. However, until such a time, much needs to be done.

Regular meetings of the Commission are planned for the next few years. In preparation for these meetings, research projects are under way exploring the security perceptions of Iran, Iraq, and GCC and how a common ground can be developed among them.

Other issues for research and policy development include arms control, border disputes, trade and development problems, oil production controls and prices, scientific, technological, and cultural cooperation, the role of great powers, the European Union, and the United Nations, the structure and program of a regional research center, and the formation of a regional organization.

* References and Expert Advisers

Majid Tehranian is professor of international communication at the University of Hawaii and director of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research.

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