The Arab Spring and the Saudi-Led Counterrevolution
The author contends that the Arab Spring has provided an opening for the Gulf Cooperation Council as a group and for Saudi Arabia as a long-time aspiring leader of the Arab world to try to expand their regional influence and global profile. An already weakened Arab state system, he argues, has been once again weakened by the sweeping wave of rebellion.With its final chapter yet to be written, the Arab Spring of 2011 is likely to go down in history as a season of profound political changes that swept across the domestic politics of the Arab world. Even at this preliminary stage, that much is clear. What remains unclear, however, is how political change sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa is likely to alter the international relations of the Arab world in general and, in particular, the larger regional position and specific policy preferences of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Important considerations include the GCC's posture and profile vis-à-vis the Arab Spring, its collective reaction to the region-wide movements for political change, and its delicate relationship with its two troubled neighbors to the north, namely Iran and Iraq.While the Arab Spring is unlikely to result in meaningful changes in Iran and Iraq's relationships with the GCC, it has fostered two discernible trends in the larger Arab world. First, Saudi Arabia has sought to reassert its position of prominence and leadership within the GCC. In fact, the kingdom has positioned itself as the chief architect of a counterrevolution to contain, and perhaps to even reverse, the Arab Spring as much as possible. Second, and an outgrowth of the first development, is the GCC's attempt to solidify its identity and mandate through the inclusion of additional Sunni monarchies—Morocco and Jordan—as a counterbalance, if not a substitute, to the Arab League.
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