The Arab Gulf states – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain – face many challenges alongside opportunities, requiring them to rethink previous positions. In recent years, the Gulf has become, relatively speaking, the most stable arena in the Arab sphere and the most influential one on the inter-Arab agenda, one reason being the weakening of the traditional political centers in that sphere. However, the Sunni Arab royal households in the Gulf face several complex challenges, including the need to reduce dependence on oil and rewrite the ruler-subject contract at a time of uncertainty over Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and the question over the future of the US presence in the Gulf.
The Arab Gulf states have some unusual characteristics. They are relatively sparsely populated and have small, untrained armies; at the same time, they possess great wealth. The threats they face and the way they choose to face them form the core of the research of this program. Their changing relations with Iran, with one another, and with the Arab sphere around them, as well as the impact on their stability, will be the focus of the discussion. The Gulf states and the Gulf arena in general are increasingly important influences vis-à-vis Israel’s national security, both because of their growing weight on the regional agenda (relative stability within a weakened Arab sphere) and because of the overlapping interests – first and foremost Iran.
At this time, one may enumerate at least five challenges to Israel stemming from the Arabian Peninsula:
- Regime stability: The Gulf is seeing the rise of young, assertive leaders currently establishing their positions and representing both various opportunities as well as some potential risks.
- “Low-keyed” nuclear proliferation: Some of the Gulf states are looking into the nuclear option for various goals, while eroding the taboo on uranium enrichment.
- Conventional arms race: Some of the states are arming themselves heavily and seek to add advanced systems to their arsenals so as to erode Israel’s qualitative military edge.
- Inter-Arab struggles: Existing tensions among states have intensified, calling the performance and even existence of the Gulf Cooperation Council in question.
- Global powers: Although the rulers understand that for now there is no substitute for reliance on the United States in terms of security, they would like to diversify their sources of support, and are therefore allowing other players a foothold in their economy as well as their security.
INSS Insight No. 1286, March 26, 2020
In "Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030: Reducing the Dependency on Oil," Shmuel Even and Yoel Guzansky look at Saudi Arabia's ambitious economic plan “Saudi Vision 2030.” The plan represents a set of laudable goals and measures that are economically essential and critical to the kingdom’s long term survival. Yet while it is premature to assess the plan’s prospects for success, the goal of substantially reducing the dependence on oil by 2020 is highly doubtful. The main challenges to the plan concern the need to open the closed and conservative Saudi economy, and adapt it to the rules of a modern economy.
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