Political Dynamics and Security in the Arabian Peninsula through the 1990s

by Joseph A. Kechichian

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This report argues that the Persian Gulf war rapidly accelerated an ongoing polarization of the Arab world. The result has been an Arab community split into two distinct camps: aspiring non-autocratic states arrayed against more countries that embrace traditional political values and processes. From the tangled skein that characterizes Mideast politics, four major threads can be identified: (1) the re-establishment of the authority of Baathist Iraq and its rebuilding of ties to the Arab world; (2) the political and military awakening of Saudi Arabia; (3) the intractable internal dilemmas of the Gulf shaykhdoms; and (4) the continuing challenge to the ruling establishments to introduce true political reform. Political and military relations between the United States and the Gulf Cooperation Council will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. But growing internal dissatisfaction in the Gulf states may spark anti-American sentiments, and these issues need to be better understood.

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