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The Relation Between Iran and the GCC Countries Essay

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Updated: Aug 1st, 2020

The Formation of the GCC

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a political and economic pact that brings together six of the Middle East counties including Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. The GCC was founded in May 1981 in Riyadh Saudi Arabia. In the UAE, an emir heads the seven-member states with the federal monarchy heading the UAE nation. Constitutional monarchy is found in other nations like Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain. Oman and Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, are fully absolute monarchies. GCC has repeatedly revised a proposal to transform the confederation into a Gulf Union to expand its political, economic, and military power. According to Shanahan (par. 3), scholars view such a move as being central to counterbalancing the Iranian superfluous influence in the region. While Iran seems to pose a major challenge to the union, some member states do not favor the idea of forming the Gulf Union to check the influence of Iran.

The GCC-Iran Divide

Since its formation, the Gulf Cooperation Council has historically sought to portray itself to the rest of the world as a Middle East unifying entity. Much of this unifying impact was realized mainly during the periods the Middle East nations experience heightened regional instability, which emanated from the Arab uprisings in 2011 and Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Nevertheless, below the surface of events, the council of these monarchies has been divided internally by historic curiosities realized over time through leadership changes and various regional alignments.

Even in their rivalries within the union, the GCC countries have always been motivated to stay united to front a formidable shield against Iran. With the coming to power of President Rouhani, the most noteworthy contemporary source of antagonism amongst the GCC member states. As Shanahan (par. 4) opines, the new regime under Rouhani has redefined Iran’s role in the greater Middle East affairs leading to a completely evolving economic and geopolitical order in the region. Moreover, with Iran’s new foreign policy appeal, there have been strategic shifts in the regional power balance, which has been enticing the GCC member states to reach out to Iran as independent entities.

Perspectives from Iran

The pledge by Hassan Rouhani to grow the economy to change the lives of the ordinary Iranian citizens resulted in his election – he had based his campaigns on the reformist agenda. To achieve much of his presidential campaign pledges, he has embarked on a program to end Iran’s regional and international isolation, which has characterized the republic over the years. So far, Rouhani has made it clear that his leadership is not hinged on the philosophies of his predecessor (Iran’s Foreign Minister Hopes to Add UAE to Gulf Roadshow par. 5). However to make tangible advances Rouhani must pursue cordial foreign ties with the US and Europe and reach out to the suspicious GCC neighbors of Iran. Notably, Rouhani’s rare ability to front his ideals and make significant foreign policy changes in the country has been overwhelming. Nevertheless, Rouhani’s familiarity with the regime change, his less confrontational approach to leadership, as well as his vastness on global activities is clear indicators that he would ultimately be successful where the nation’s past struggles and attempts to normalize its foreign dealings with the global community had failed.

Foreign Policy under Rouhani

The current president of Iran is no doubt a regime insider whose policies augurs well with the aspirations of the Iranian people. As Cafiero and Wagner (par. 3) note, having served the previous regimes on various outstanding positions, Rouhani is viewed as more collegial and experienced. In his first year in office, Rouhani worked tirelessly to improve Iran’s image in the international community circles. These efforts have portrayed him and his regime as having the willingness to open up to the countries in the region and the rest of the world. Under Rouhani’s watch, Iran’s foreign policy appeal has significantly snowballed to redefine the country on the global map. As Kishk (par. 2) notes, the president believes that the key to unlocking Iran’s potentials is by building its economic capacity. Whereas his predecessor, Ahmadinejad presided over a regime that pegged its economy on domestic policy, Rouhani has revitalized Iran’s influence to embrace both the regional and global marketplaces. These efforts are increasingly appealing to the GCC Union, which currently views Iran as an ideal partner in economic advancement.

The Nuclear Issue

To reorient the Iranian foreign policy, Rouhani has opted to address some off the key touchy issues that have eluded the past regime for long. Among the issues that Rouhani is currently committed to address is the Iranian nuclear program, which has put the country at logger’s head with the US, Europe, and the expansive Middle East region. According to Windecker and Sendrowicz (par. 5), Rouhani comprehends the consequences of the nuclear program, hence the desire to get long-term solutions to the issue to end Iran’s several years of international and regional seclusion. Rouhani’s government believes Iran’s adversaries have wrongly used the nuclear dispute to make the international community view the country as a threat to world peace and tranquility. With the pointers that Iran is edging towards dropping its nuclear program, the GCC sees the efforts as a concrete expression to extend the meaningful relationship to Iran. With Iran relaxing its earlier stand on the nuclear program, GCC would be confident to end Iran’s continued isolation in the region.

Change of Perception of the GCC

The relations and perceptions with Iran generally vary amongst the GCC nations. Oman, for example, has had good diplomatic ties with Iran and has been acting as an intercessor between Tehran and Washington. Though Saudi Arabia is still finding it hard to trust and work with Iran, it is expected that they will give in to Iran’s appealing foreign policy under President Rouhani. However, for the majority of the GCC countries, the culmination of Ahmadinejad’s regime marked a new beginning to forge renewed diplomatic ties with Iran. According to Mubarak (par. 7), the appeal of president Rouhani’s foreign policies has encouraged many of the GCC nations to reopen their embassies in Iran to enhance relations. The incumbent Iranian president has also reaffirmed his gesture to end years of conflict and suspicion between Iran and GCC for a good neighborhood.


Under the watch of president Rouhani, Iran is increasingly emerging as influential, thereby ending its many years of regional and international isolation. With barely two years in office, pointers are rife that Rouhani can shift the Iranian foreign policy to make the nation more appealing in the estimation of the international community politics. With strained relationships with the GCC nations and the rest of the world coming to a dhow, Iran is eventually headed for greater economic and political progress.

Works Cited

Cafiero, Giorgio, and Daniel Wagner. Iran Exposes the Myth of GCC Unity. N.p., 2015. Web.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hopes to Add UAE to Gulf Roadshow. The National World, 2013. Web.

Kishk, Ashraf. In Wake of the Iranian Presidential Elections Results and Nuclear Agreement Gulf-Iranian Relations: Facts & Future Perspectives. Strategic Studies, 2014. Web.

Mubarak, Saeed. Oman, Iranian Rapprochement and a GCC Union. N.p., 2014. Web.

Shanahan, Rodger. Iranian Foreign Policy under Rouhani. Lowy Institute for International Policy, 2015. Web.

Windecker, Gidon and Peter Sendrowicz. Cooperation among Antagonists: The Complex Relationship between the Gulf States and Iran. N.p., 2015. Web.

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