For details of the address delivered by Sheikh Mohammad Bin Abdulrahman, Foreign Minister of Qatar, please click here.
To read coverage of the first day of the Forum, please click here.
To read coverage of the second day of the Forum, please click here.
The fourth instalment of the Annual Gulf Studies Forum, organised by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, and held at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, closedon Monday, December 4. The panels were divided into two parallel streams, one devoted to the challenges of Gulf integration and its future in the light of the current Gulf crisis, the other to the role of social media in the Gulf crisis and its impact on the Gulf media.
Trump Twitter Discourse and its Impact on the Gulf Crisis
Activities began with a keynote lecture by Alexander Stille, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, entitled "Trump's Tweets and the Gulf Crisis: between Rhetoric and Reality". He pointed out that anyone following the statements of President Donald Trump can see a number of contradictions between his pre-presidency and post-inauguration speeches. Stille discussed the controversy sparked by these tweets, which often prompt the US State Department to issue clarifications afterwards. He went on to review Trump's statements in the context of the Gulf crisis, which was inconsistent with the position of US institutions, especially the state and defense departments.
Social Media and the Gulf Crisis
The first panel devoted to media focused on "Social Media and the Gulf Crisis", with Banu Akdenizli presenting her paper, "Digital Diplomacy in the Gulf: How the Gulf Crisis Played Out in the Twittersphere?" In her research, Akdenizli followed Twitter accounts from Gulf countries using a program that gives precise details on the publication of a tweet and its responses. Akdenizli explained that she followed the tweets of foreign ministers in particular, and to understand how these ministers presented themselves to the outside world, which could provide insight into the development of the crisis.
Omair Anas, in his paper, "Public Sphere against Social Media Sphere: Gulf Region as a Case Study", reviewed the impact of social media in the countries of the Arab Spring and reviewed the role of social media in fuelling the Gulf crisis. Marc Owen Jones then presented his paper, "Social Media and Online Information Wars in the Gulf Crisis". He discussed the upsurge of twitter bots that increased re-Tweet rates for important people; for example, the tweet in which Donald Trump praised King Salman and his son for the campaign of arrests against important figures in Saudi Arabia. Jones pointed out that the bot accounts bore the names of well-known figures who were responsible for attacking Qatar, its Emir and its people, and used hostile hashtags, calling Qatar a Traitor, and accusing Iran and Qatar of being two sides of the same coin, among others.
Mohamed Elamin Musa presented his paper "The Gulf Crisis and the Dilemma of Media Objectivity" in the next session, arguing that the crisis in the Gulf posed a challenge and a turning point for the media in the blockading countries. Throughout the course of the crisis, the media in these countries were subjected to a severe embargo on freedom of expression, which threatened their existence as a media operating according to internationally recognized standards and ethics. The researcher pointed out in his study that the demand of the blockading countries to close Al Jazeera provides evidence of the strong impact of the professional media when it maintains a minimum standard of objectivity.
Challenges to Gulf Integration in Light of the Qatar Crisis
The first session in the International Relations track focused on the "Challenges to Gulf Integration in Light of the Qatar Crisis". Abdulwahab Al-Qassab presented his paper, "The Gulf Crisis: the Net Strategic Loss for the GCC States", in which he stressed that the current Gulf crisis has revealed the absence of a realistic and logical vision of the vital interests of the GCC countries. Al-Qassab explained that the current crisis in the Gulf requires a historic settlement between the various countries, which requires laying out all the outstanding tensions on the table and working to solve them from the perspective of mutual interests and gains. This is the only way to preserve the GCC as a regional system.
In a similar fashion, David Des Roches presented his paper "GCC Military Cooperation: A Promise Unfulfilled", in which he argued that the prospects for military integration between the GCC countries are ambiguous and unclear. Military experts for decades were expecting the GCC to transform into NATO-style military alliance, yet this goal remains far from the horizon today, despite hundreds of billions of dollars in arms purchases, and contracts for Western military training. Ahmet Üçagaç followed with his paper, "The Gulf Crisis: An Attempt to Alter the Regional Order?" in which he asserted that the GCC states have a huge amount of hydrocarbons in addition to huge financial strength, but fail to turn this into a strategic force that balances Iran or Iraq.
The Policies of the Gulf States towards the Crisis
Gulf State policy dominated the next session, which opened with Abdullah Baabood's presentation on "Oman's Position on the Gulf Crisis: Drivers and Challenges". He explained that the Sultanate of Oman benefited from the crisis on the economic level, increasing trade between Qatar and Oman, but Oman believes that regional prosperity requires stability in the Gulf region.
Dhafer Al Ajmi explained in his presentation of "Kuwaiti Mediation in the Gulf Crisis: Motives and Prospects", that the efforts of the State of Kuwait to resolve the crisis are a binding obligation. The hostility of the current regional environment, which cannot sustain any fragility in the Gulf security system. Umer Karim followed with his research on "Saudi-Qatar Relations and the 2017 Gulf Crisis." He concluded in his paper that there is a correlation between the Gulf crisis and the changes in Saudi Arabia and its internal power struggle. Andreas Krieg presented "The GCC Crisis: a Clash of Narratives", to conclude the session. He discussed the UAE, which has transformed itself into an economic power in the region, but turned into a security state at the same time, explaining that the UAE saw the Arab Spring as a threat that must be stopped. Saudi Arabia has also adopted this vision.
The final session of the forum was devoted to "The Gulf Crisis: State Building and the Dynamics of Competition". William Thompson presented "Gulf State Making: War, Economic Growth, and Political Leaders: Gulf Crisis as Case Study", concluding that the State of Qatar has achieved a remarkable improvement in state building, while Kuwait has declined in state-building progress. Unsurprisingly Iraq showed the lowest achievements in this capacity. Imad Mansour presented next on "Competition as a State-Building Activity in the GCC". He argued that the types of conflict resolution themselves between the Gulf States were an important process in state-building, stressing that "the tribal variable has a great analytical ability to understand the process of state-building in the Gulf."
Timothy Niblock concluded the forum with the final presentation, "Situating the Gulf in the Changing Dynamics of the Indian Ocean Region", in which he asserted that the Indian Ocean region represents a strategic interest to the Gulf and global powers. As much as 76 percent of Gulf Exports headed eastwards in 2016, with a large proportion relying on maritime routes cutting through the Indian Ocean. Accordingly, the Gulf States should be aware of the military and international changes in the Indian Ocean region.