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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: June 2014

7 - Conclusions: war and alliance in the Persian Gulf


In this brief conclusion, I will highlight three important themes that emerge from the preceding chapters and then speculate on the future of the international relations of the Persian Gulf region based upon those themes.

War and alliance in the Gulf: transnational identities

One cannot understand the international politics of the Persian Gulf without appreciating the importance of transnational identities in the calculations of state leaders. The centrality of those identities – Arab, Kurdish, Muslim, Sunni, Shi'i, tribal – is a constant across the more than three and a half decades of events discussed in this book. Those identities are power resources in the hands of ambitious leaders. The Ba'thist regime in Iraq tried to use Arab nationalism to appeal to Arabs in Iran and the Gulf monarchies at various times in the 1970s and 1980s, and hoped that Arab nationalism would rally support for its invasion of Kuwait among Kuwaitis themselves and in the broader Arab world. The Islamic revolutionary government of Iran likewise used general appeals to Muslim identity and specific ties to Shi'i Muslims in Iraq, the Gulf monarchies and Lebanon to pressure other governments and expand Iranian influence. Iranian and Iraqi governments at various times have supported Kurdish groups on the other side of the border as leverage against the other's government. Even the United States has played at this game, if irregularly and idiosyncratically.