Occasional Papers

The Center for International and Regional Studies publishes original research on a broad range of issues, including international relations, political science, economics, and Islamic studies, among others. Papers dealing with issues of relevance to the Persian Gulf and the Middle East region are preferred. We invite manuscript submissions for the CIRS Occasional Paper series throughout the year. CIRS Occasional Papers are registered under ISSN 2072-5957.


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CIRS Occasional Papers

Implications of the 2011-13 Syrian Uprising for the Middle Eastern  Regional Security Complex

To cite this publication: Fred H. Lawson, "Implications of the 2011-13 Syrian Uprising for the Middle Eastern Regional Security Complex," CIRS Occasional Paper no. 14 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2014).

By the autumn of 2013, the Middle Eastern regional security complex (RSC) had taken on a new configuration, which was substantially different from—and much more explosive than—the one that existed prior to the large-scale popular uprisings that broke out across the Arab world in the winter of 2010-11. Foreign policies adopted between 2000 and 2010 by the Ba‘thi regime in Damascus, the leaderships of Hizbullah and HAMAS, and the Israeli government to parry overlapping internal and external threats created an unprecedented patchwork of strategic rivalries and alignments. Large-scale popular unrest in Iraq and Egypt in early 2011, along with the outbreak of full-scale civil war in Syria later that same year, generated an even more intricate web of interstate security dynamics. The reconfigured RSC that emerged out of the “Winter of Arab Discontent” is only beginning to be explicated, and can best be addressed by tracing the connection between domestic political conflicts and shifts in external belligerence and alignment across the region.

Occasional Paper

To cite this publication: Manochehr Dorraj, "Iran's Northern Exposure: Foreign Policy Challenges in Eurasia," CIRS Occasional Paper no. 13 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2013).

This paper analyzes Iran’s evolving interest and geopolitical challenges to its foreign policy in Central Eurasia. Historically, Iran, Turkey, and Russia have wielded the greatest influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. Therefore, it is not surprising that these three countries reemerged as principal actors in the region during the first decade of the post-Soviet era. Since the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, Iran performed a balancing act. That is, it aspired to develop closer relations with a region with which it shared significant historical and cultural ties. At the same time, Russia regards Central Eurasia as its sphere of influence and would like to keep the “intruders” at bay. Hence, the United States’ expanding presence in the region has added a new twist to Iran’s geopolitical calculations in how to define its policy toward the region. Turkish-Iranian cooperation and competition in the region is yet another piece in the strategic triangle that molds Iranian regional political posture. The looming impact of these three countries aside, as an emerging regional power with its own political agenda, perception, and calculus of its interests, Iran uses identity politics and shared cultural and religious values, where appropriate, to forge closer relations with Central Eurasian countries. Beyond this motif in Iran’s foreign policy, this paper concentrates on political, economic, and strategic variables affecting Iran’s foreign policy decisions in Central Eurasia. Islamic factors are treated as variables within the broader context of sociocultural factors that have played a role in shaping Iran’s foreign policy in the region.

Occasional Paper

To cite this publication: Michael Driessen, "Religious Democracy and Civilizational Politics: Comparing Political Islam and Political Catholicism," CIRS Occasional Paper no. 12 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2013).

Much of the recent literature on the evolution of political Islam in the Middle East and North Africa has debated the extent to which Islamist political parties have become “secularized” in their political goals and rhetoric. In these studies, a comparison between the political secularization of Islamism and Christian Democracy is often alluded to, but rarely explored in depth. The two political religious movements share much in common with regards to their historical encounter with political liberalism and their intuitions about an ideal religious society. An uncritical comparison, however, obscures significant differences in the relationship of either movement to democratic institutions, traditional sources of religious authority, and the religious citizens of their nations. This paper qualifies the historical, institutional, and theological similarities of political Islam and political Catholicism. In doing so, it emphasizes the importance of the legacies of Catholic Christendom and Muslim Dar al-Islam as transnational, pre-Westphalian religious political orders and the idea of religious authority found in either. After articulating these bases of comparison, the paper considers how these religious legacies remain present in the transition to Christian or Muslim Democracies by exploring the rhetoric of Catholic civilization or Muslim civilization found in Pope Pius XII and Rachid Ghannouchi’s discourses on democracy.

Occasional Paper

To cite this publication: Mari Luomi, "Qatar’s Natural Sustainability: Plans, Perceptions, and Pitfalls," CIRS Occasional Paper no. 11 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2012).

This paper analyzes Qatar’s present and future challenges relating to natural resources and environmental sustainability through the concept of “natural sustainability,” which is defined as the use of natural resources in a way that ensures prosperity for humans and the environment, presently and in the future. By doing so, it proposes an alternative standpoint on sustainable development. The paper asks three broad questions: How is the relationship between development, economy, and the environment understood by different actors in Qatar? What implications do these different views have for planning and definition of desired outcomes in the areas of natural resource use and environmental sustainability? What can a more environment-centered focus contribute toward solving the existing unsustainabilities of development in Qatar and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)? By refocusing attention from the economy and growth to the environment and its limits; and from technology and efficiency to institutions, people, and resourcefulness, Qatar and the GCC states might be able to avoid an impending collapse stemming from their fast exacerbating natural unsustainability.

Occasional Paper

To cite this publication: Fred H. Lawson, "Transformations of Regional Economic Governance in the Gulf Cooperation Council," CIRS Occasional Paper no. 10 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2012).

Most studies of regionalism in the Middle East fail to distinguish among divergent types of regional formations, and make little effort to chart the developmental trajectory that regionalist projects display over time. This paper lays out a typology that can be used to elucidate crucial differences across regional formations in the contemporary Arab world, and also to highlight significant changes in the kind and level of governance that take place in any particular regionalist experiment. The utility of the framework is demonstrated through an analysis of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). This regional formation has undergone two major transformations since it took shape in 1981, and at the present time exhibits a substantially different form of economic regionalism from the one it boasted three decades ago. Four alternative explanations for shifts from one form of GCC regionalism to another are outlined as an invitation to further investigation.

Occasional Paper

To cite this publication: Kasim Randeree, "Workforce Nationalization in the Gulf Cooperation Council States," CIRS Occasional Paper no. 9 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2012).

In recent decades, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have become reliant on migrant workers to the extent that foreign inhabitants constitute nearly one-third of the total GCC population. Qatar and the UAE are at the extremity of the situation, where indigenous citizens constitute only one-quarter and one-fifth of their national populations, respectively. Consequently, workforce nationalization—the concept of reducing expatriate employment by bringing more citizens into the workplace—has become the human resource management strategy of all GCC countries. In this first attempt to review all six GCC nations, this paper takes an exploratory-cum-constructivist approach and argues that closer cooperation and unified policy structures on nationalization are needed across all GCC countries. Education, training, the transfer of knowledge from expatriate to citizen, better approaches to encouraging citizens into the private sector, and the greater inclusion of women are all significant issues that need to be tackled in order to fulfill the desired goal of nationalizing the labor force across all GCC states. A clear and unified policy in terms of structural reform across GCC countries needs to be collectively defined, although methods of implementation would need to be more tailored and distinctive from one country to another.

Occasional Paper

To cite this publication: Zahra Babar, "Free Mobility within the Gulf Cooperation Council," CIRS Occasional Paper no. 8 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2011).

Stipulations within the formal protocols of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) established free movement of nationals as an essential component of the region’s movement towards full economic integration. This paper analyzes the protocols within the broader construct that stresses human emancipation and freedom of mobility as fundamental human rights. Throughout the GCC, states face the peculiar dilemma of supporting full freedom of mobility for citizens while also severely limiting and curtailing the mobility of the dominant, non-national population. This paper questions how normative debates on the freedom of movement apply to the Gulf region and examines the policy and practice of strictly managing the movement of international migrants while at the same time freeing up movement for citizenry. This paper proposes that in the GCC, the regional political economy and the processes of regionalization and globalization have combined to tighten controls over mobility and migration.

Occasional Paper

To cite this publication: Matthew Gray, "A Theory of 'Late Rentierism' in the Arab States of the Gulf," CIRS Occasional Paper no. 7 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2011).

Rentier state theory (RST), which seeks to explain the impacts of external payments—or rents—on state-society relations and governance, has been in wide usage for over two decades, and is still routinely cited by scholars writing on the Gulf or other parts of the world. Its tenets are widely—if by no means unanimously— accepted, and retain a strong validity at the broader level. However, RST has not adapted enough to explain the dramatic changes in the political economies of the Gulf in the past two decades or so, including the responses of Dubai, Bahrain, and more recently Qatar and Abu Dhabi, to globalization, new technologies, freer trade and investments, social changes, and development imperatives. It is argued here that a new phase of RST—“late rentierism”—should be applied to the wealthy Arab Gulf states. The case for late rentierism is made with an emphasis on the shortcomings or oversimplifications of other rentier approaches. This study also describes and explains late rentierism through a discussion and elucidation of its major features and characteristics, including how these vary, or not, from those of other rentier explanations.

Occasional Paper

To cite this publication: Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, "The GCC States and the Shifting Balance of Global Power," CIRS Occasional Paper no. 6 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2010).

This paper maps the changing engagement strategies of the six member-states of the Gulf Cooperation Council in the global order. It examines how and why the Gulf states have emerged as visible and powerful global actors in recent years and contextualizes these strategies within the shifting balance of global power. This approach ascribes agency to policymakers in the Gulf states, and shifts the focus of scholarly attention toward the motivations and objectives that guide their engagement and interaction with the international system. The paper also considers the broader implications for the future of global and regional politics in light of the emergence of new international linkages and blocs, and the reformulation of frameworks of global governance in both its normative and structural dimensions.

Occasional Paper

To cite this publication: Alan S. Weber, "Web-Based Learning in Qatar and the GCC States," CIRS Occasional Paper no. 5 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2010).

This contribution surveys the historical development and current state of e-learning in Qatar and the GCC states, including the educational, political, social, and financial factors that led to the adoption and development of current systems and initiatives. Although significant challenges have arisen in the use of e-learning technologies, such as general computer literacy, interoperability and cross-platform issues associated with the flood of learning objects on the market, the lack of Arabic language learning objects, and Internet bandwidth and reliability, e-learning is poised to usher in considerable educational changes in the learning populations of the Gulf region. In the face of declining hydrocarbon reserves in some Gulf nations, this paper analyzes the ways in which e-learning initiatives have been designed to help create the post-oil knowledge economies, which Gulf rulers hope will propel GCC countries into the top tier of technologically advanced societies in the world.