International Relations in the Middle East (Final Post)

Over the last two weeks, I have researched three different problems in the Middle East, namely the diplomatic crisis in Qatar, the civil war in Yemen, and the Saudi-Iranian rivalry. In Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and some of its Gulf allies, have started an embargo which seeks to influence Qatar’s policies going forward. So far, the embargo has been ineffective and Saudi Arabia has been forced to lower its demands. The civil war in Yemen is a remnant of the Arab spring. The Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, are fighting against the Saudi backed government. The conflict has led to large amounts of civilian casualties. Finally, the Saudi-Iranian rivalry has been a destabilizing force in the region since the Iranian revolution. The conflict has also been partially defined along Sunni-Shiite lines. Next, I examined these problems through International Relations theories.

The three theories I chose to focus on were Realism, Liberalism and Constructivism. Realism focuses on Relative power between states. In the anarchic realist world, states seek to increase their own power, or weaken others, to survive and thus focus on security nearly exclusively. Next, in Liberalism, international relations are not considered zero-sum. Instead countries are interdependent which leads to a reduction of conflict because of tangential costs involved. States can also have non-security related goals, which was important in my analysis. Finally, Constructivism focuses on ideas and norms as the limiting factors in international relations. In Constructivism, states follow norms and even the most powerful states will still consider perception when making decisions. Each of these theories provided insights that informed my solutions.

For the Qatar diplomatic crisis, I recommend that the United States continues to promote a diplomatic solution that addresses the more security based demands while pushing for cooperation on those issues. My solution is based on more of the realist models mixed with liberal ideas about cooperation and the importance of ideas from Constructivism. For the United States, it is important to remain true to its commitment to combat extremism while not supporting suppression of political opposition. It also needs to realize that the security concerns are real for both Saudi Arabia and the United States itself. As such the United States should put pressure on both sides to agree to the demands revolving around extremism. The United States should also fight to ensure that the groups included are in fact extremist groups instead of simply political opposition. Overall this solution will allow the United States to stand for its principals, while promoting its interests.

In Yemen, the US needs to balance security and human rights in its strategy. Here, I have taken parts of the approach from all three theories. Saudi Arabia will most likely not stop its involvement in the war because this is a security concern for the Saudis. The US would also not like to see a hostile state next to one of its most powerful allies in the Middle East. On the other hand, the United States values human rights. To that end, the US could make its weapons shipments to Saudi Arabia contingent on improvements in conditions for civilians. Here the United States can use interdependence to achieve its humanitarian goals while managing to maintain its security objectives.

Finally, in the Saudi-Iranian rivalry, The United States has an interest in keeping the middle East a stable place to avoid extremism cropping up in the region. As such the largest goal in the region is the stability of both large powers. The United States should accomplish this stability by promoting closer relations between the two countries. Some precedent exists for this cooperation. In 2016 both countries cooperated on a peaceful transition of power in Lebanon as well as lowering oil prices in OPEC (Associated Press 2016). Iran’s foreign minister also spoke about potential for increased cooperation when announcing the lower oil prices. Once the US has facilitated the thawing of relations, it should put pressure on both countries, by threatening to stop arms shipments to the Saudis and sanctions on Iran, to stop promoting extremism to wage proxy war (Oakford et al. 2016). Overall, the United States can facilitate closer relations between the two countries to achieve more stability in the region.

Oakford, S., Ambrosino, B., Shafer, J., & Chrisman-Campbell, K. (2016, July 30). As the Saudis Covered Up Abuses in Yemen, America Stood By. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/07/saudi-arabia-yemen-russia-syria-foreign-policy-united-nations-blackmail-214124

Press, A. (2016, December 05). Iran says it wants more cooperation with Saudi Arabia to solve regional crises. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/iran-wants-more-cooperation-with-saudi-arabia-to-solve-regional-crises-2016-12

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