The 41st Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit comes at a time of unprecedented regional challenges. The War in Yemen has descended into a bloody stalemate, with horrific humanitarian consequences. As Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs continue to develop, tensions between Tehran and some GCC members continue to escalate, and two GCC states have normalized relations with Israel, a previously unthinkable development. In the United States, President-elect Joe Biden’s liberal administration is set to enter the White House, whose softer line on Iran will gratify some in the region but displease others.
However, the GCC’s biggest challenge has been in resolving the rift among its members. Three and a half years have passed since the beginning of the Qatar diplomatic crisis. As the blockade has continued, Qatar has established other trade routes and defense agreements, hardening its political and economic separation from its neighbors. This has created new challenges for the GCC. Foreign powers have been invited into the Gulf, the mutual defense pact among the GCC states is weakening, and an unprecedented societal division among the Gulf countries has effectively been set in stone.
If a diplomatic settlement could be reached in the summit, what would it entail? How would it differ from the 2014 Riyadh Agreement that resolved the last crisis? On the other hand, if an agreement could not be reached, how would it affect the GCC? What role has America’s presidential transition played in this process? And, agreement or no agreement, how will the summit impact the ongoing crises in Iran and Yemen?
Featured speakers: Dr. Dania Thafer (moderator), Dr. Mohammed Alrumaihi, Dr. Courtney Freer, Dr. Kistian Coates Ulrichsen, and Dr. Abdulla Baabood
Dr. Dania Thafer (moderator)
Executive Director, Gulf International Forum
Dr. Dania Thafer is the Executive Director of Gulf International Forum. Her area of expertise is on the Gulf region’s geopolitics, US-Gulf relations, and the political economy of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. She is also a Professorial Lecturer at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University.
Dr. Thafer been widely published on matters concerning the Arab Gulf states including several articles and publications. She has co-authored two edited books “The Arms Trade, Military Services and the Security Market in the Gulf States: Trends and Implications” and “The Dilemma of Security and Defense in the Gulf Region”. Dr. Thafer is currently writing a book focused on the effect of state-business relations on economic reform in the GCC states. Previously, she worked at the National Defense University’s Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies.
Dr. Thafer has a master’s degree in Political Economy from New York University, and PhD specialized in the Political Economy and International Relations of the GCC states from American University in Washington, DC.
Dr. Mohamed Ghanem Alrumaihi
Professor of Political Sociology, Kuwait University
Professor Alrumaihi has written extensively on political sociology, social change in the Gulf region, and the cultural changing of Arab world. He has published more than twenty five books. He served as the Editor in Chief of Awan, a daily Kuwaiti newspaper. Before that Editor in chief of AlArabi Magazine. Served as the General Secretary of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL) of Kuwaiti Government 1998-2011, founder and editor in chief for daily and monthly publications, an Advisor on various Committees on Education, Information, Culture and politics, for the Kuwaiti government, and private institutions in the Gulf region, member of the board of (diplomatic institute – Kuwait foreign affairs Ministry), Doha institute for graduate studies, Babtain Cultural foundation.
Dr. Alrumaihi has served as a member of various Committees within the Kuwait Government, (1994 – 1997) member of the Advisory board for the Council of ministers headed by Kuwait Prime Minister, member of a number of working commissions on general education and higher education, member of the boards on information, culture policies and planning, member of the Gulf Studies Center Advisory Board at the American University of Kuwait and member of the Austrian College in Kuwait, as well serving in prize and publication committees of KFAS.
Dr. Courtney Freer
Assistant Professorial Research Fellow, the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics; Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Gulf International Forum
Dr. Courtney Freer is an Assistant Professorial Research Fellow at the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Her academic work focuses on the domestic politics of the Arab Gulf states, with a particular concentration on Islamism. She is the author of Rentier Islamism: The Influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gulf Monarchies (Oxford University Press, 2018). Courtney previously worked in research roles at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar (2010-2012) and the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council in Washington, DC (2009-2010).
Dr. Kristian Coates Ulrichsen
Baker Institute Fellow for the Middle East, Rice University; Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Gulf International Forum
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Ph.D., is a Baker Institute fellow for the Middle East. Working across the disciplines of political science, international relations and international political economy, his research examines the changing position of Persian Gulf states in the global order, as well as the emergence of longer-term, nonmilitary challenges to regional security. Previously, he worked as a senior Gulf analyst at the Gulf Center for Strategic Studies between 2006 and 2008 and as co-director of the Kuwait Program on Development, Governance and Globalization in the Gulf States at the London School of Economics (LSE) from 2008 until 2013.
Dr. Abdullah Baabood
Visiting Professor at Waseda University, Tokyo
Dr. Abdullah Baabood has taught at different universities and institutions throughout Europe. His teaching and research interests are focused on international relations and international political economy, especially as it relates to globalization and regionalism. His area of focus is on the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), including their economic, social, and political development, as well as their external relations. Previously Dr. Baabood was a visiting professor at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore. He also held the position of the Director of the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University and the Director of the Gulf Research Center at the University of Cambridge. Baabood has published widely and is frequently invited to speak at international conferences and seminars, and in the media. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 2004.