Security in the Arab-Persian Gulf

Today, Russia is the only country capable of holding talks with all Gulf capitals, and hosting their representatives. This is something those capitals must consider and benefit from, by working with Russia to launch a practical course of action to create the “Gulf Security and Cooperation Organization”, to guarantee the security and cooperation in the gulf countries and among their peoples, writes Amal Abou Zeid, advisor to the President Lebanon; Member of the Lebanese Parliament, Free Patriotic Movement (2016–2018), and participant of the Ninth Middle East Conference of the Valdai Duscission Club

There are few regions on Earth, unanimously, considered and realized by the population of the planet as a strategic area. The Gulf is one of those regions, if not the oldest and most prominent. Since ancient history, a strategic area witnessed wars and empires, as well as the passage of peoples, armies and forces moving in the different directions of the earth. In the medieval history, it became a zone of conflict of religions, sects, nationalities, ethnicities and groups. Moreover, new conflicts arose in its modern and contemporary history: conflicts of wealth and natural resources in its land, sea, underground and undersea.

Some of the self-evident examples and mere truths are to be pointed at. First, imagine the water surface of the Gulf! Around 250 thousand square kilometers only. A population expected to reach almost 300 million in few years, and eight shore , countries with a combined surface under 4.5 million square kilometers. Second, this narrow region is home to less than 5% of world’s population and consists of less than 1% of its surface. This particular spot contains 60% of the oil reserves and 40% of the gas reserves in the world. Currently, in this limited and defined area, 30% of the world oil and 12% of its gas are produced. And third, imagine for example a country like Japan, the third economy on earth, relying on the Gulf for 80% of its energy sources imports.

The Gulf region witnessed in less than a quarter century three wars, which have been more than bilateral, and almost more than regional. I am speaking about the Iraq-Iran war between 1980 and 1988, the first and second Gulf wars in 1990 and 2003, the recent and current wars in some nearby countries, such as Yemen, as well as the cold wars between the two banks.

On the shores of the Gulf, there are twelve international military bases where armies, planes, and ships are sent thousands of kilometers away, to a gulf where the maximum width of the water surface does not exceed 370 kilometers.

Sergey Lavrov’s Greeting to the Organisers and Participants Of The Ninth Valdai Club Middle East Conference
Sergey Lavrov
The best way to prevent escalation is to work proactively to prevent the emergence of new conflicts. In this regard, Russia advocates the formation of an integrated collective security mechanism and cooperation in the Persian Gulf region. Our proposals are summarised in the corresponding Concept.

Why all this mobilization then? From a geostrategic perspective, we are not only before a large quantity of water. These waters in particular raise three matters:

1)  They are border waters, 

2)  They allow commercial exchange within the gulf countries as well as with the world, 

3)  And finally they are rich in resources with a total output surpassing 2 trillion US Dollars annually.

These three matters can equally be reasons for wars or pillars for stability. 

When approached negatively, matters related to borders, commercial exchange and resources could destroy the region and its surrounding. In fact, border disputes encompass the entire region: the three islands dispute between Iran and the UAE; the Iraqi-Iranian borders at Shatt Al Arab (Arvand Rud), in addition to the border dispute in the Iraqi Governorate Maysan; the Saudi-Emirati border dispute over Al Udayd region and Shaybah oil field; the Saudi-Kuwaiti dispute over Um Al Maradim and Qurah islands; the Qatari-Bahraini dispute over Hawar islands… 

All these disputes, without any exception, are linked to the factor of natural resources. Yet, they are often accompanied by the overlapping national identities in each State or within the different Gulf States. As a result of those two dimensions,

the resources of the region on one hand and pluralism conflicts on the other, made the ancient, medieval and current worlds somehow live on both banks of the Gulf, whether for military bases, economic interests, or accounts of control, influence, expansion and domination.

Amid this scene, it is essential to ask how can we transfer this region from its tragedy of being cursed with resources and their consequent wars, to the grace of prosperity, sustainable development, stability and peace, all results of the same resources.

This transition requires the establishment of regional and extra-regional relations founded on equitable distribution of rights, and definite security of countries and peoples.

Such healthy, normal and peaceful relations entail several actions, among which: respecting states sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, as well as settling border disputes through dialogue; reducing military tensions, in particular, downsizing, the international military presence in the region until its cancellation; prohibiting all types of non-traditional weapons and committing truly and decisively to the use of technology for peaceful purposes and for the well-being of peoples; defusing internal crisis through increased respect for the freedom of people and basic, individual and public rights, through encouraging the culture of dialogue, and tolerance, internally and among the states and peoples; abandoning the policies of axis and the fatal extremism of identities, convincing the regional and extra-regional stakeholders to drop all accounts of dominance, monopoly and control of resources or people, at the risk of bloodshed across the globe. 

Such goals, to be accomplished, require a range of methods and tools: Political, Diplomatic, Journalistic, Cultural, and Educational, as well as Communication with the people and the public opinion.

Unfortunately, after decades, or even centuries of conflicts, it is certain that a similar plan cannot come through automatically, nor overnight, because of a direct dialogue between two or more Gulf States and other foreign countries. We learn from history that such a big and vital plan calls for an institutional governing framework. That framework needs an active mediator, or a semi-founder, who is honest and capable of assuming the role.

Why the Gulf Is Reluctant to Accept Russia’s Concept of Regional Security
Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Al-Faraj
The visit of the Russian president to the Kingdom is of great importance and is part of Russia's efforts to strengthen its role in the Middle East and in the world. Since 2015, the Middle East has become a testing ground for a multipolar world order for great powers, including Russia.

In this context, we immediately remember the important plan submitted few months ago by Russia regarding the region and this cause in particular. It is the plan laid out in “Russia’s security concept for the Gulf area”, announced by Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Mikhail Bogdanov on July 23, 2019.

The plan essentially stipulates the importance of creating the “Gulf Security and Cooperation Organization” that would include in addition to the Gulf countries the United States of America, China, India, the European Union, Russia and other stakeholders as observers or associated members. This international institution would take several necessary measures and steps to resolve the crisis and achieve the solutions we look for.

This concept urges all parties to adhere to the international law, UN Charter and UN Security Council resolutions. Also, parties involved should follow a step-by-step approach in building confidence and comprehension among themselves, aimed at establishing common grounds for solving disputed issues.

However, in all objectivity, establishing such an effective institution requires an essential founding role: that of an indispensable mediator. Under the current circumstances, and in our opinion, Russia seems to be the only international stakeholder able to assume this role.

This is an objective and factual assessment, rather than a political or ideology based discourse. Things said, Russia is the only great country that has learned the lessons, from Afghanistan to Venezuela. It is also the only great country, currently seeking initiatives for peace, conflict solutions and exchange of rights amid all the aggravations in the region. Form Syria, to Yemen, Libya to Iraq, and Iran to the Middle East. 

Today, Russia is the only country capable of holding talks with all Gulf capitals, and hosting their representatives. This is something those capitals must consider and benefit from, by working with Russia to launch a practical course of action to create the “Gulf Security and Cooperation Organization”, to guarantee the security and cooperation in the gulf countries and among their peoples, towards prosperity, development and peace, instead of continuous wars, destruction, chaos and tragedies. 

The best reflection of this region’s crisis is the struggle in naming it. Is it the Persian Gulf, or the Arab Gulf? Let the cooperation begin with the name: Arab-Persian Gulf, the Gulf securing the well-being for its peoples, surroundings and the world.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.