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BIPR | The Gulf Monarchies after the Arab Spring. Threats and Security
The Gulf Monarchies after the Arab Spring. Threats and Security

March 7, 2024 - 15:30

Cinzia Bianco, European Council on Foreign Relations; Gulf State Analytics

Event Recap

On March 7, 2024, BIPR hosted a session featuring Cinzia Bianco, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a senior analyst at Gulf State Analytics. During the talk, Bianco elaborated on the findings of her latest book, "The Gulf Monarchies after the Arab Spring: Threats and Security." The book focuses on Bianco's in-depth research on the transformation of threat perceptions in the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf region following the Arab Spring in 2011.

Bianco's research approach to studying threat perceptions in the Gulf monarchies is a unique blend of traditional academic theories and political psychology, putting the monarch as a crucial individual decision-maker in the focus of attention. This innovative methodology allowed her to conduct a nuanced analysis of the perceptions in the six Gulf monarchies Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman since the Arab Spring in 2011.

Bianco emphasized the importance of distinguishing between existential threats and risks. When analyzing threats, the scope of their potential harm must be clearly defined, such as political, societal, or environmental. Bianco believes that only threats with a political dimension should be considered as such, which imply a clear impact on territorial integrity and the independence of decision-making and institutions. Furthermore, she distinguished between domestic and international threats. Given the interconnectedness of the Gulf monarchies, with ideas and even social groups crossing borders, a purely domestic analysis would be inadequate. She therefore proposed an "intermestic" approach, highlighting the complexities of the geopolitical landscape in which these countries operate.

Taking the Arab Spring of 2011 as a watershed moment, increased securitization in the region became objectively visible in GCC policymaking. Its governments formally identified the main threats in the Riyad Agreements for the first time in 2013–14. This analysis made evident the diverging threat perceptions and prompted Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain to cut ties with Qatar, citing its ties to Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Despite frequent conversations with local officials, Bianco considers the identification priority threats of each GCC state to be one of the most difficult aspects of her research. It is crucial to understand priority threats and key vulnerabilities that influence their policy decisions. In Saudi Arabia, for example, she considered tribalism to be the primary threat, enhancing the country's lack of national identity and the urgent need for national unity.

During the Q&A session, Bianco illuminated the commonalities and differences in threat perceptions across the six states. She noted that, while all states initially viewed the Arab Spring as a concern, this perception changed over time due to varying domestic issues. She also drew attention to the discrepancies between threat reality and threat perception, using the example of the evolving US-Saudi relationship and its impact on regional security. Cinzia Bianco's research offers a fresh perspective and valuable insights into the complex security landscape of the Gulf region, shedding light on the evolving threat perceptions in the Gulf Monarchies post-Arab Spring.

The Gulf Monarchies after the Arab Spring. Threats and Security

hosted by Professor Sanam Vakil

Cinzia Bianco
European Council on Foreign Relations; Gulf State Analytics

Cinzia Bianco is a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, where she is working on political, security and economic developments in the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf region and relations with Europe. She is also a senior analyst at Gulf State Analytics.

Previously, Bianco was a research fellow for the European Commission's project on EU-GCC relations ‘Sharaka' between 2013 and 2014. Bianco holds an MA degree in Middle East and Mediterranean Studies from King's College London and a PhD in Middle East Politics from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, where she worked on threat perceptions in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) after the 2011 Arab uprisings.

She is the author of The Gulf Monarchies after the Arab Spring: Threats and Security" (Manchester University Press, 2024)
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