The way to a new Gulf security order starts with dialogue and trust-building

Speakers in the first session: (from left to right) Fatiha Dazi-Heni, Muhammad Al-Musfir, Mahjoob Zweiri, Hassan Al-Derham, Arafat Shoukri, Mohammed Mukhtar Al Khalil, Majid Al-Ansari, and Shafeeq Ghabra. [Al Jazeera]

“Toward a New Gulf Security Regime: Abandoning Zero-Sum Approaches” was brought to a close on Monday, 22 January 2020, in Doha after its participants shed light on internal and external, regional and international, variables that have materialised, necessitating a new Gulf security regime that includes states that have interests in this vital part of the world.

Panellists concluded by emphasising the importance of defining concepts, especially the concepts of ‘the Gulf’, friends and enemies, and security, including communal, food, water, cyber, political, economic and military security.

The panellists confirmed the necessity of democratic transition in Arab Gulf states and the importance of that in solidifying the internal front and rendering it more capable of facing external threats. They also questioned the United States’ declared commitment to the protection of Gulf security, noting its negative reaction to the recent targeting of Saudi oil facilities.

In addition, the participants stressed the importance of strategic dialogue between Arab Gulf states and Iran, aloof from the campaigns demonising this neighbouring country whose presence was imposed by geography and with whom mutual interests necessitate cooperation.

Moreover, in their conclusion, the speakers recommended allocating a large portion of the budgets spent on arms to their local manufacture as well as development projects needed in Gulf countries.

The conference took place at Qatar University on the 19th and 20th of January 2020 and was attended by researchers and experts from the Arab Gulf, Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the United States. The president of the university, Hassan al-Derham, commenced the conference with an opening speech in which he asserted the importance of research cooperation between the Gulf Studies Center and Al Jazeera Centre for Studies in developing visions, analysing opinions and enriching discussion. Afterwards, Mahjoob Zweiri, Director of the Gulf Studies Center, also made opening remarks in which he underlined the necessity of looking into the dilemma of Gulf security from a more extensive perspective that includes political, social, economic, food and cyber security.

On his part, Mohammed Mukhtar Al Khalil, Director of Al Jazeera Centre for Studies said that “this conference was prepared for months ago; and the killing of Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds force, and the resulting security tensions in the Gulf region proved that the selection of this theme was fitting. The search for new approaches to Gulf security is necessary and urgent.”

At the end of the conference’s seven sessions, the participants reached a number of convictions, including: the difficulty of forming a new Gulf security regime without defining the Gulf and agreeing on a number of values shared by all parties, thus determining who is an enemy and who is a friend. This requires a decrease in conflicts and steps towards building trust between Gulf states on one hand, and between them and Iran on another. It also requires strategic dialogue between Arab states located along the Gulf and Iran that takes in account the interests of all parties including Turkey, Russia, China and United States; putting a stop to the destabilization of the states’ security through intervention in their domestic affairs and attempts to change their regimes; ending the blockade imposed on Qatar; changing policies that aim to abort democratic transition in Arab countries; cautiousness about normalization with Israel; and awareness of Israel’s aims to play a leading role in the region.

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