Ahmet YILDIZ (Turkey)
12 August 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing recession are transforming the global security landscape, the Gulf region finds itself in a particularly vulnerable situation. The region’s volatile security environment was already of significant concern to the Allies and the international community years before the pandemic. The relative decline of the strategic importance of the Gulf energy resources heightened the sense of uncertainty and reinvigorated searches for new security schemes by regional actors. The process coincided with the period of upheavals and internal conflicts in the broader Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where several Gulf countries have considerable stakes, most notably in Yemen, Syria and Libya.
The Gulf region continues to be divided along several fault lines, the most prominent being the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, both vying for regional pre-eminence. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which unites the Arab Gulf countries except Iraq, remains severely incapacitated by the ongoing rift between Qatar and three other GCC members. The crumbling of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPoA) as well as the escalation of tensions between Iran and the United States added further complexity to the regional security situation. The devastating COVID-19 pandemic threatens to upset the fragile balances of power in the region. However, the pandemic might also offer opportunities to break the existing stalemates and launch new diplomatic and cooperative initiatives. The Euro-Atlantic community should play its role in helping to exploit these opportunities and to mitigate the potential negative fallout.