The Persian Gulf, Never-ending Oil and the On-Going Arab Springs

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While surfing the blogosphere over the past week I became aware of two related analytical threads that had yet to be connected in any meaningful way. On the one hand, esteemed political anaylsts at Foreign Policy like Marc Lynch and Christopher Davidson have presented arguments predicting the inevitable arrival of the Arab Spring revolutions to the Persian Gulf. On the other hand, writers at the Atlantic have been considering the potentially disastrous consequences of a world endlessly consuming fossil fuels as well as the price we have already paid for our oil addiction.

According to Lynch and Davidson, the Arab Springs in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya broke the psychological barriers (mainly) to public political expression amongst citizens of nearly all Arab countries, including the Gulf States. As Davidson puts it,

Detailed, substantiated criticism of governments has become commonplace, with exposés of ruling family corruption and public insults directed at hitherto unchallengeable elites being digested by millions each day. Such disparagement of rulers was almost unimaginable prior to 2011, but now it is almost fashionable for young Gulf nationals to question their autocrats.

This sustained criticism, the authors argue, is the beginning of the end for Gulf Monarchies that have up until this point been able to survive only by harnessing their massive oil wealth to buy off their populaces or using their well-equipped security apparatuses to suppress them. Yet, neither author addresses the important changes that are taking place in the world oil market that directly affect the sources of Gulf stability.

The prospect of endless global consumption of oil does not necessarily mean that the Gulf Monarchies will remain intact endlessly, but it does give them an important bargaining chip that will affect how they relate with their populations. At the same time, the continued extraction and use of hydrocarbons on the Arabian Peninsula will have environmental and health consequences that will add further complications to the political balance in the region.

What is needed now is a comprehensive analysis of the ways in which changing global oil production will affect the new political mobilization in the Gulf.

Please note that the views expressed in this post do not represent those of the National Defense University, Department of Defense, or United States Government.

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This entry was posted in Uncategorized by William Goodyear. Bookmark the permalink.

About William Goodyear

Will is the Gulf Research Associate and Special Researcher for the Director at the NESA Center. His research interests include Environmental and Natural Resource Security, International Aid and Development, Islamist Politics, and the Modern History of the Arab World.

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