The eighth session of the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies forum, organized by the Arab Center for research and Policy Studies, was launched and lasts for two days. This year, the forum will discuss the theme “Arab Gulf countries’ response to the covid-19 pandemic: “Policies and repercussions”, in the focus of internal issues, and discusses “Gulf reconciliation”: its prospects and implications for the Gulf countries’ regional and international relations”, with the participation of 30 scholars inside and outside the Arabian region, their research was distributed in 12 sessions, including a public lecture. The opening of the forum was attended by H. E. Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Hamad Al Thani, Minister of culture of Qatar, Hassan Rashid Al dirham, president of Qatar University, and a number of ambassadors and consuls of Arab and foreign countries in Qatar.

In his opening speech, Marwan Qabalan, a researcher at the Arab Center and chairman of the committee of the Gulf and Arab Island Studies forum, said that the forum, launched by the Arab Center in December 2014, is an academic platform specialized in the study of the affairs of the Arab Gulf region and its political, economic, social and cultural issues.  Since its launch, seven courses have been organized, covering social and economic reforms in the GCC States and the issues of education, economic diversification, the Qatar blockade crisis, social transformation, the problem of identity and values in the Gulf region, public policy-making, Gulf security, Gulf relations with the United States of America and Iran, and sovereign funds. Qabalan stressed that this forum continued without interruption, despite the difficult circumstances and the political and health crises that faced the region during the past few years. This did not affect the interest in it and the level of participation in its activities.

Background of the Gulf reconciliation and its potential challenges:

The first session at the center of international relations, under the chairmanship of Marwan Qabalan, discussed the backgrounds of Gulf reconciliation, and potential challenges. He presented a paper on the trends and tracks of Gulf reconciliation, regional meetings formed in the period of the Gulf crisis, and possible political, security and military challenges. He noted that such encounters could affect the security and stability of the Gulf region; What is needed is the activation of the role of the Gulf Cooperation Council in addressing these challenges.

In the same vein, Abdullah El Shaigi, Professor of International Relations at the University of Kuwait, presented a paper on the reasons for the incomplete reconciliation of the Gulf and its implications for the Arab Gulf countries. Emphasizing that Gulf reconciliation still faces several challenges that could have implications for Gulf joint action and Gulf security. The importance of these challenges is highlighted in light of the declining American presence in the Arab region, the lack of confidence in the United States to provide protection to the countries of the region, and the fear of repeating the experience of the former US President, Barack Obama (2009-2017), in dealing with Iran to prevent it from becoming a nuclear state.

Majid Al-Ansari, president of Qatar International Academy for security studies, presented a paper on regional challenges in the Middle East and their role in raising political and security concerns to a new level in the GCC relationship. He pointed out that the divergence of GCC states in dealing with regional issues over the past ten years had stimulated division and destabilized the relationship between them. The researcher also deconstructed how policymakers ‘ perception and understanding of the region was shaped, and the impact on their policy choices and preferences for Ally and enemy.

In the last paper, Abdullah Al-Ghailani, an Omani researcher in Strategic Affairs, gave a reading on the implications of the Gulf crisis not only at the level of internal political, economic and social fissures, but also at the regional security level of the Gulf Arab states؛ the crisis has contributed to the repositioning of the Gulf countries in relation to regional and international crises and relations. In this light, the researcher stressed the need to take advantage of the Gulf reconciliation, to emphasize the cohesion of the Gulf Arab states in their position on regional crises and to develop common perceptions of regional security, so as not to repeat the rift created by the blockade of Qatar.

Background of the Gulf reconciliation and its potential challenges:

At the second session of the same axis, chaired by Abdullah ba- abud, Mohammed Al Rumaihi, professor of political sociology at Kuwait University, presented a paper on the changing position of the Arab Gulf region in international politics, focusing on the priorities of major countries towards the countries of the region, especially political, security, military and economic and its impact on the formation of new regional and international alliances that emerged during the Gulf crisis. The researcher discussed the impact of this on Gulf reconciliation in light of the declining position of oil in relation to the international powers, the declining strategic position of the region after technical development, and the significant cost of military and security engagement in the region.

Dhafer Al-Ajmi, Executive Director of the Gulf Monitoring Group, discussed the diplomatic attempts that the Gulf region has witnessed to resolve its crises, noting that the diplomacy of “the kiss of al-Khashm” as a traditional diplomacy is well-known in the Gulf region, and if it contributes to finding temporary solutions to the crises of the Arab Gulf region, it bears Among its folds is a neglect to find radical and lasting solutions to crises. The researcher also stressed the need to activate joint collective action to resolve GCC crises, and interact with modern diplomatic means to achieve this.

In the latest paper, Khaled Al-Jaber, director of the Middle East and North Africa Center in Washington, stressed that the US position, which was a key factor in the outbreak and end of the Gulf crisis, has posed a series of questions about the extent of reliance on the United States to provide defense protection to the Gulf Arab states, especially as the strategic importance of the region declines, as a result of increased energy production and diversification in the global energy market. The researcher stressed that the emerging situation had deepened the impression of the Gulf States that their bet on the United States to protect their security was no longer feasible, that the American commitment to the region was experiencing a dramatic decline and that, for some States in the region, regional alliances and arrangements, such as the “Abrahamic Conventions,” were aimed at gradually offsetting the fallout from the Middle East.

Gulf reconciliation and relations with Iran

At the last session of the same axis, under the chairmanship of Abdullah El Ghilani, Mohamed Al-Masfar, professor at the University of Qatar, focused on the repercussions of Gulf reconciliation in the relationship with Iran under the new Iranian administration headed by Ibrahim Ra`esi. Iran faced two crises in its foreign relations: The first concerns tensions and crises in relations with regional neighbors and the second relates to its international relations with the United States, which may tend to improve its relations at the regional level as a starting point for foreign policy. Resolving issues with neighboring countries and regional rivals strengthens Iran’s position in dealing with Western countries, and the regional gateway is the ideal window to address external differences, namely the hope of increasing Iran’s sources of power against major powers.

In the same context, Mahjoub Al-Zweiri, Director of the Center for Gulf Studies at Qatar University, focused in his paper on evaluating the Iranian position and its interactions with the Al-Ula Agreement, noting that the agreement came at an important regional transitional moment that may carry an improvement in the form and nature of Gulf-Iranian relations. As a new US administration headed by Joe Biden began, Iran was preparing for new presidential elections. Regional interactions not far from Iran have continued, such as the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban movement taking over the country, the US repositioning in Iraq, and the Saudi-Iranian dialogue.

In the last paper, Robert Mason, a non-resident fellow at the Gulf Arab States Institute in Washington, considered that the possibility of achieving de-escalation in the Gulf under the Gulf Reconciliation Agreement, amid ongoing Gulf rivalries, regional unrest, deep-seated hatred between the United States and Iran and fluctuations in American diplomacy, seemed to be minimal. This was despite meetings between the United Arab Emirates and Iran, followed by meetings with officials from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and Iran, and meetings between Saudi Arabia and Iran, to reduce escalation inside and outside the Gulf region.


Impact of the simultaneous outbreak of COVID-19 and the collapse in oil prices:

The first session, chaired by Al-Jawhara Yousef al-Obaidan, discussed the policies of the Gulf Arab states in dealing with the covid-19 outbreak, in which NAIF Nazzal Al-Shammari, professor of economics at Kuwait University, presented a paper on the negative effects of the pandemic on the economies of the GCC countries in light of the double blow they suffered as a result of the pandemic outbreak. The researcher pointed to the varying amount of financial support for GCC countries to reactivate economic sectors, after the negative effects of the pandemic have receded.

Ahmed Aref, a public policy researcher at the Doha International Family Institute, monitored the different policy responses in two parts of the Arab world, the Arab Mashreq and the Arabian Gulf. Where the responses varied greatly; It has emerged in the Arab Mashreq giving the economic response to support large companies and business owners, while not pumping the same resources to small and medium industries.  The wealthy Arab Gulf countries, on the other hand, focused on inclusiveness in their economic response so that small and medium industries would not be excluded. Despite this, the researcher believes that the Gulf countries have taken a package of economic austerity measures that undermined, to some extent, the philosophy of social justice in response patterns.

In the last paper, Tarek Ben Hassan, Professor of Policy, Planning and Development at the University of Qatar, discussed how the pandemic and low oil prices forced Governments in the Gulf region to intensify economic diversification efforts to shift towards a knowledge economy. The researcher stressed that the pandemic and the decline in oil prices demonstrated the ability of the entire GCC States to move to a knowledge-based economy, given their digital resilience, which was the result of their political stability, significant financial capacity and stable credit rating. The researcher also discussed efforts made by the GCC States over the last 10 years to improve the status of ICT, education, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Kuwait’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

The second session, chaired by Yacoub Al–Kandari, addressed Kuwait’s response to the covid-19 pandemic, in which Fahad Yousef al-Fadala, a consultant at the Arab Planning Institute in Kuwait, presented a paper in which he said that Kuwait had implemented a flexible public policy to contain the pandemic, in which many effective operational measures were taken to mitigate the severity of the pandemic fallout. This is done through cooperation, coordination and harmony between government efforts and societal initiatives of the active forces in society. The researcher believed that the political discourses of the higher decision-making circles contributed to alleviating the severity of the crisis.

As for Malak Al-Rasheed, a professor of social work at Kuwait University, she asserted that the Kuwaiti government faced several challenges while fighting the outbreak of Covid-19, including the problems of dealing with expatriate workers. The researcher has shown this by measuring the level of satisfaction with the state’s procedures in dealing with the issues of expatriate workers during the pandemic, and the level of confidence of employees in the government’s procedures in dealing with the issues of expatriate workers, and dealing with media campaigns that spread through social media or news channels.

Gulf countries ‘ response to covid-19

The end of the first day witnesses a public lecture, chaired by Khaled Rashed Al-Khatar, delivered by B. Guy Peters, entitled “The response of the GCC States to the covid-19 pandemic: actions and lessons learned. ” Discussed how the GCC States responded to the pandemic, noting the similarities and differences between them. He also compared their response to that of other States of the world, both in the Middle East and North Africa region and in other parts of the world. The researcher pointed out that although the Gulf countries have managed to achieve high levels of vaccine distribution and investment, many questions remain about other aspects of pandemic management that are important to improve, in the event of new outbreaks or other epidemics, especially economic diversification and planning of public health programs.