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The Emerging Interventionists of the GCC

Dr Karen Young

LSE Middle East Centre Paper Series / 02


There is a shift occurring within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in which new regional leaders are emerging, buoyed by a decade of unprecedented wealth generation from the 2000s commodities boom and increased foreign investment. Specifically, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have emerged as activist states in their interest and willingness to intervene both militarily and
financially in the politics of neighbouring Arab states. Contrary to their collective and individual foreign policies of the last 40 years, the GCC states have intervened in each other’s domestic politics and in the domestic politics and revolutions of the wider Middle East and North Africa region. While Saudi Arabia enjoyed a period of dominance among its Gulf Arab neighbours for many years, even occasionally threatening the borders of Qatar and the UAE, the prevailing policy of Gulf states has been non-interference and support for Arab leaders, as a principle of religion and politics. In essence, the evolving nature of interventionism in the GCC is moving away from Saudi dominance towards the emergence of new actors willing to engage in the region and on the international stage. We can trace this policy shift through the simultaneous yet separate evolution of domestic, regional and international political economy. This paper argues that shifts in leadership at the national levels have coincided with larger trends in the regional and international economy which have enabled different, yet both assertive, interventionist foreign policies to emerge from Qatar and the UAE. The result is a moment of financial and military interventionism unprecedented in Arab Gulf politics.

About the Author

Dr Karen E. Young is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Department of International Studies at the American University of Sharjah (AUS). She holds a PhD in Political Science from the City University of New York, an MA in Political Science from Columbia University, an MA in International Economic Relations from the Universidad Andina Simon Bolivar (Quito), and a BA in Anthropology from Wellesley College. Dr Young’s major research interests are based in international relations, comparative politics and political economy. She is currently working on a book on the political economy of the UAE. She has worked as a researcher at the Ford Foundation, and taught at Queens College in New York. She has also worked in university administration at New York University in the College of Arts and Science and at the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. Dr Young has won two Fulbright awards, to Ecuador and Bulgaria, and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Woodrow Wilson International Center, and the International Research and Exchange Board.

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