Security in the Persian Gulf:The Evolution of a Concept

M.H. Ansari, Indian Ambassador, Saudi Arabia


Since time immemorial, the Persian Gulf has been an artery of trade. Political control over this narrow stretch of the sea generally depended on the strength of one or more of the littoral states. This was the case during the ascendancy of the Safavid Empire in Persia. The decline of the Persian power after Nadir Shah and Karim Khan Zand created chaotic conditions in the second half of the 18th century. The situation was summed up succinctly by the viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, in his November 21, 1903, address at Sharjah to the chiefs of the Trucial Coast.

You know that a hundred years ago there was constant trouble and fighting in the Gulf, almost every man was a marauder or a pirate; kidnapping and slave-trading flourished; fighting and bloodshed went on without stint or respite; no ship could put out to sea without fear of attack; the pearl fishery was a scene of annual conflict; and security of trade or peace there was none. Then it was that the British Government intervened.....In 1920, the first general Treaty was signed between the British Government and the Chiefs; and of these or similar agreements there have been in all no fewer than eight. In 1839 the Maritime Truce was concluded, and was renewed from time to time until the year 1853 when it was succeeded by the Treaty of Perpetual Peace that has lasted ever since.

Curzon concluded by stressing that "the peace of these waters must be maintained; your independence will continue to be upheld; and the influence of the British Government must remain supreme".1 This Pax Britannica lasted till the British withdrawal from the Gulf on November 30, 1971.

In March 1957, on the first of his many visits to Saudi Arabia, the Shah of Iran proposed a defence pact between the two countries.2 The Saudis, however, saw in the proposal a device to ensnare them into the Baghdad Pact which was opposed vociferously by the Arab League. Subsequently, however, and following the September 1962 revolution in Yemen, the two monarchies undertook practical cooperation to assist the Yemeni royalists. The Saudis also took a benign view of the Iranian military assistance to the Sultan of Oman at the time of the Dhofar rebellion. The Six Day War of June 1967 resulted in the retreat of radical Arab nationalism and in December that year, King Faisal, during his visit to Tehran, proclaimed that "now is the time for more cooperation and coordination between the two countries".3 One result of this cooperation was the emergence of the Islamic Organisation. In the Gulf itself, however, Faisal remained chary of finalising any formal arrangements with Iran.

Developments on the global scene added a sense of urgency to these evolving perceptions. A Turkey-Iran-Pakistan joint communique in December 1967 affirmed that "the responsibility for the preservation of peace and stability in the Persian Gulf rested only with the littoral states".4 The British government announced in January 1968 that its paramountcy in the Persian Gulf would be concluded by the end of 1971. In a speech to the Majlis in October 1969, the Shah said: "It is logical that the protection of this region's security be undertaken by local powers." (He repeated this in an interview given to the Kayhan newspaper on January 29, 1972.) In January 1970, the United States pronounced the Nixon Doctrine: "The nations of each part of the world should assume the primary responsibility for their own well-being; and they themselves should determine the terms of that well-being".5 This, in regional terms, induced the enunciation of the policy that security in the Gulf would be best maintained on the basis of a Twin Pillar approach, namely, Iran and Saudi Arabia. In its post-mortem of these events "the Iran-Contra Report of 1988 summed up the position in these words: Under the Nixon Doctrine, the United States looked to regional powers, such as Iran, to serve as guardians of American interests in distant corners of the world".6 While doing so, the United States realised the dissimilarities and disparities between these two largest of the Gulf littoral states. A State Department report in 1973 even described them as the Odd Couple. A year or two later, another State Department report admitted that "the logic of Iran and Saudi Arabia cooperation is being undercut by psychological, nationalistic, and prestige factors which are likely to persist for a long time".7 These and another misgivings including some about the personality of the Shah of Iran did not, however, deter the advocacy of the new approach.

The sharp increase in the price of oil following the events of 1973 effectively eliminated any financial constraints on Saudi Arabia's spending on defence and security. This, and the changing strategic environment, induced a far-reaching review of defence planning undertaken with the help of a three-month field survey by a team from the US Department of Defence. The team based its work on the premise that the kingdom would have to depend in some situations on friendly foreign powers to deter or overcome threats. From this followed the perception that Iran could be relied upon to deter an outright Iraqi invasion and if such as invasion nevertheless took place, Saudi Arabia should have the capacity to fight a delaying action until Iranian, and ultimately American forces came to the rescue. By the same logic, the perceived but unarticulated potential implications of an Iranian hegemony were also expected to be kept in check by the United States. On this basis, a ten-year force design programme was developed.8

Following Faisal's death, the Shah visited Riyadh in April 1975 and reiterated his proposal for a Gulf collective securiy pact. The Saudis in their response did not commit themselves but expressed a willingness to consider the matter. A few months later, at the time of an Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) foreign ministers' meeting in Jeddah on July 16, the Saudis spelt out to foreign ministers of other Gulf emirates a set of principles on which security cooperation in the Gulf could be furthered. These were: (a) the exclusion of the superpowers from the Gulf; (b) denial of foreign military bases to any of the superpowers; (c) military cooperation among Gulf countries to ensure freedom of navigation through the Straits of Hormuz; (d) peaceful resolution of regional disputes; and (e) the collective guarantee of the territorial integrity of all the countries of the sub-regions.9 The Shah agreed to these proposals but felt they fell short of his concept of collective security. Iraq, on the other hand, was of the view that the Saudi proposals went too far and their implementation would give to the Shah a dominant role in the affairs of the Gulf.

On November 25-26, 1976, the Government of Oman convened a conference in Muscat of all the littoral states of the Gulf. Working papers were presented by the participants on six themes: (a) limitation on the presence of foreign powers in the region; (b) a guarantee of the territorial integrity of the states of the region; (c) a non-aggression pact amongst the littoral states; (d) mutual assistance against subversion and cooperation in intelligence matters; (e) measures to ensure freedom of navigation; and (f) territorial division of the Gulf waters and the establishment of the limits of the continental shelf. The Saudis themselves refrained from presenting a working paper. The proposals in the working papers ranged from a comprehensive defence alliance (as suggested by Iran) to the denial of the need of any collective endeavour (as proposed by Iraq). Given the divergence of views, no agreement could be reached.10 The United States in the meantime undertook a review of the wider implications of the Nixon Doctrine and decided to take corrective action. By a Presidential Order (No. 18) in August 1977, the Rapid Deployment Force was created to deal with "global emergencies, particularly in the Persian Gulf region and in Korea".11

In January 1978, the Shah again visited Saudi Arabia and reverted to the theme of Gulf security. Saudi Arabia once more signalled its receptivity to the idea but drew attention to the need to accommodate Iraq. Subsequent to this, talks were held between Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia in May and June that year. The revolution in Iran (February 1979) put an end to these endeavours; it "disturbed the strategic balance in the region".12

The Government of Oman was the first amongst the littoral states to articulate the immediate strategic implications of the Iranian Revolution. It accordingly proposed a two-point plan for the defence of the Straits of Hormuz involving, firstly, the creation of a $100 million fund for the purchase of minesweepers, patrol boats and the installation of shore-based radars and, secondly for the provision of a multinational naval force, consisting of ships from the US, UK and FRG, to be located outside the Persian Gulf proper.13 Iraq's opposition to the plan ensured its early abandonment. It was in any case overtaken, a couple of months later, by the pronouncement of the Carter Doctrine on January 23, 1980:

Let our position be absolutely clear: any attempt by an outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force....

Finally, we are prepared to work with other countries in the region to share a cooperative framework that respects differing values and political beliefs, yet which enhances the independence, security and prosperity of all.14

As Carter's National Security Adviser Brzezinski put it later, "The idea was not a formal alliance but a less defined but nevertheless crucial amalgam of security cooperation arrangements with various regional nations."15 The twin imperatives for the new approach clearly were the Iranian Revolution and the Soviet entry into Afghanistan, apart from a general perception that a considerably enhanced Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean had developed; these, together, suggested the imminence of dramatic developments injurious to the Western supremacy in the region.

Iraq's attack on Iran on September 22, 1980, created a new and dangerous situation. In its initial reactions the United States said the invasion "threatened Gulf security" and the national integrity of Iran.16 The Arab states of the Gulf, on the other hand, viewed the new regime in Tehran (being a mix of assertive nationalism and radical Shia Islam) as hostile and, therefore, lent moral and material support to Iraq. The US, in turn, promised assistance to its non-belligerent friends in the region; AWACS were thus offered to Saudi Arabia, the naval build-up in the region was enhanced to 37 ships, and the newly installed Reagan Administration confirmed the Carter Doctrine.17 The evolving threat perception of the Gulf states also led them to create in May 1981 the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It soon developed a focus on the internal security of the member states; the debate on external security, however, brought forth differing perceptions with Kuwait advocating a joint military command, Oman a joint Gulf force to defend the Straits of Hormuz, and Saudi Arabia seeking a consensus on an increasing measure of self-reliance.18 Then, in February 1982, the formation of a US-Saudi military committee for defence planning was announced though it was subsequently clarified that it would confine itself to defence purchase.19 Earlier, and after the discovery in Bahrain of an Iranian-backed conspiracy in December 1981, Saudi Arabia signed separate mutual-security pacts with Bahrain and Qatar.20 In March 1982, the Pentagon spelt out in a secret circular the core American objective in the area: "Whatever the circumstances, we should be prepared to introduce American forces into the region should it appear (that our) security of access to the Persian Gulf oil is threatened".21 By January 1983, and following Iranian military successes, a change in the US policy of maintaining a balance between Iran and Iraq was noticeable. This resulted, eventually, in the restoration of diplomatic ties with Baghdad in November 1984.

In Iran, the initial stages of the war were dominated by the ideology and rhetoric of the revolution. The new regime neglected the armed forces and was suspicious of them. Large scale desertions were reported in the wake of purges, dismissals and executions. The officer corps was particularly affected with 30-50 per cent of the officers between the ranks of majors and colonels being removed. In this backdrop, the first impact of the war, and of Iraq's territorial gains, had a traumatic effect but even then "the war became an extension of the domestic power rivalry to which the arming, structure and conduct of the military were subordinated".22 This fight "to protect Islam" eventually gave way to more coventional war aims and tactics. The progress of the war, the Iraqi attacks on Iranian oil exports facilities, and the tanker war led to the apprehension that if Iran's oil exports were disrupted as a result of these attacks, Iran might retaliate by the disruption of traffic through the Straits of Hormuz. "We will block the Straits of Hormuz when we cannot export oil", said Rafasanjani on October 14, 1983, adding carefuly that "even if they (the Iraqis) hit half of our oil, it will not be in our interest to block the Straits of Hormuz." A few months later, in May 1984, he said, "We would close the Straits of Hormuz if the Persian Gulf became unusable for us. And if the Persian Gulf became unusable for us, we will make the Persian Gulf unusable for others"23. Despite the rhetoric, the statements were carefully naunced; Iran in practice impeccably observed the freedom of navigation through the Straits of Hormuz. An important element of Gulf security was thus tested under adverse conditions.

Even before the end of the war, the Iranian policy objectives in the Gulf had come to focus on three inter-related concerns: (a) the need to contain Iraq; (b) the need to remove foreign military influences in the region; and (c) the need to re-establish Iran's long-term objectives in the Persian Gulf24 whose basic premise, since the early Seventies, was the perception that the security of the Gulf must be the responsibility of only the Gulf states (in a variety of possible formal or informal combinations for the purpose) and that if this is not achievable for whatever reasons, Iran must be prepared to rely on its own strength to maintain the security25. The latter, under the adversarial relationships that developed in the war years more or less with all the other littoral states, produced an unintended result--a de facto alliance of regional and extra-regional states against Iran. The US decision to become directly involved in the Gulf, and to prevent an Iranian victory in the war, resulted in an expansion of the naval presence in the Gulf and a redefinition of the overall objective. These were spelt out by Reagan in May 1987:

The use of the vital sea lanes of the Persian Gulf will not be dictated by the Iranians. These lanes will not be allowed to come under the control of the Soviet Union. The Persian Gulf will remain open for navigation by the nations of the world.26

In this pronouncement, Iraq's role in disrupting shipping in the Gulf was conveniently ignored. So was a Soviet proposal, made by Gorbachev a few months later on July 21, 1987, on the avoidance of unilateral action and pursuit instead of a joint US-Soviet effort; this was refined further by the Soviet leader on August 10:

The permanent members of the Security Council could become guarantors of regional security. They could, for their part, assume on obligation not to use force or the threat of force, and to renounce a demonstrative military presence. This is because such a practice is one factor in fanning regional conflicts27

Thus, almost two decades after the end of British Paramountcy, an American primacy in the affairs of the Persian Gulf was effectively in place; the enunciation of the formal US position, however, remained carefully naunced, as in the UN General Assembly speech of George Bush in September 1990, wherein he stressed that "it is for the states of the Gulf themselves to build a new arrangement for stability" which, along with security, remained a key US objective in the Gulf.

The end of the war with Iraq gave Iran the opportunity to develop a new, more pragmatic, Gulf policy. This, as articulated by the Rafsanjani Administration, hoped to achieve three objectives: (i) to contain Iraq; (ii) to improve relations with the GCC states and initiate in particular a dialogue with Saudi Arabia; and (iii) to increase Iran's influence on the region's oil policy by pushing for lower production levels and higher prices.28 This new approach was pronounced piecemeal in official statements and in a series of seminars organised by the Institute of Political and International Studies of the Iranian Foreign Ministry. The Iraqi aggression on Kuwait, and Iran's constructive neutrality in the events that followed, readily helped achieve the first objective; the other two, however, confronted formidable hurdles in the early Nineties.

A week after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the Iranian foreign minister visited Qatar and announced after a meeting with the emir that "all of us should attempt to forge a new understanding based upon regional cooperation". Senior Qatari officials responded by stressing the need for cooperation between Iran and the southern littoral states of the Gulf and for Iran's integration into any securiy arrangement in the Persian Gulf.29 A few months later, on January 21, 1991, Velayati reiterated the classic Iranian position: "We claim that the Persian Gulf belongs to the littoral states". He called for the withdrawal of the Iraqi forces from Kuwait and the exit of foreign troops form the Persian Gulf; he put forth the view that regional security and the safeguarding of the strategic waterway would be attained only through the cooperation of the regional states.30 An Iranian diplomat amplified this suggestion by asserting that (i) Iran's geographical, human and social edge makes it a pillar of regional stability and security and a strong candidate for regional leadership; (ii) regional security must be established independent of foreign forces; (iii) the Gulf Sheikhdoms are innately unstable and uncertain; and (iv) in this context Iran's "mutual problems with Saudi Arabia must be resolved quickly".31 Such suggestions, on the eve of the Kuwait War, were unlikely to be accorded serious consideration by states within the region or beyond.

The US vision of the post-Kuwait War landscape in the Gulf was expressed on March 6, 1991, by George Bush in an address to a joint session of Congress: "Our vital national interests depend on a stable and secured Gulf". The challenge, he said, was to "work together to create shared security arrangements in the region". This would not involve the stationing of American ground forces in the Arabian Peninsula but would necessitate US participation in joint exercises by air and ground forces and the continuance of a US naval presence in the region. The same day (but a few hours earlier), the foreign ministers of Syria, Egypt and the GCC states met in Damascus and issued the first draft of the Damascus Declaration "to build a new Arab order to bolster joint Arab action". In relation to the Gulf, the Declaration envisaged the stationing of an Egyptian-Syrian force (of 65,000 men and 650 tanks) "on the soils of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states of the Gulf region and in compliance with the will of the relevant governments in order to provide for the defence of their territories as a nucleus for an Arab peace-keeping force" in the Gulf; the unstated expectation was that in return, the GCC states would extend financial assistance, make investments in Syria and Egypt and award contracts to their companies. The plan thus envisaged a three-tier security framework of the GCC, Arab and Western defence shields for the Gulf. Second thoughts and misgivings about the stationing of the Egyptian-Syrian troops, however, soon followed and the final draft of the Declaration, made public on July 16, made no mention of the nucleus of an Arab peace-keeping force, leaving the matter instead to the decision of individual GCC states. Their decisions followed in quick succession; defence agreements, however, were made with Western powers, not with Arab states. Kuwait signed long-term agreements with the US, UK and France. Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Oman also entered into formal or informal arrangements with some of the Western powers; the exception to this trend was Saudi Arabia which for reasons of domestic and regional policies "held back from defining the exact parameters of its military ties to the West" and focussed instead on signing substantial defence contracts.32 The Damascus Declaration thus remained no more than a transitory political alliance; its inoperability ruled out the Arab option for Gulf security.

Yet another proposal for joint defence emanated from within the GCC as early as 1986 in the shape of a brigade size rapid deployment force of troops drawn from all GCC states and headquartered in Saudi Arabia.33 In the aftermath of the Kuwait War, Oman proposed that its strength be raised to 100,000 men under a joint command and with the inclusion of contingents from Egypt and Syria.This suggestion too did not get off the ground on account of deeply entrenched reservations of the member states.34 Technical level meetings in pursuit of it, however, continued to be held on an annual basis at the level of chiefs of staff.

The allied victory over Iraq in the Kuwait War reinforced considerably, in terms of both physical presence and political influence, the position of the United States in the region; by the same token and despite the acknowledged "good behaviour", the isolation of Iran became as comprehensive in peace time as it had been during the war years, perhaps even worse. The post-Cold War and post-Kuwait War euphoria of the New World Order propelled the Americans to pronounce in May 1993 the policy of Dual Containment to "counter both the Iraqi and Iranian regimes" simultaneously since in the new circumstances, "we will not need to depend on one to counter the other". 35 The obvious aim of this was to make the United States the dominant power in the Gulf (to the exclusion of all others) and required it to play a much larger, unilateral role than at any time in the past. It also bore "a striking similarity to the Saudi ideal: the exclusion of the two major Gulf powers and concentration on the centrality of the Kingdom in regional affairs".36 This approach required for its success "active coordination and consultations with friendly countries". Subsequent developments were to show that the latter assumption was simplistic and that America's allies in the region and beyond had stragetic perceptions relating to Iran which were not always in consonance with those of the sole superpower.

This US pressure to isolate Iran was compounded by Iran's own serious error of judgement in relation to the Abu Musa issue and the resultant steps taken by the GCC, at the urging of the United Arab Emirates, to develop a hardline position. This found expression in the GCC Summit documents of December 1993 and in a statement by its secretary general in October 1994 wherein he said that the foundations for the establishent of good relations with Iran "are non-existent" because of the issue of the islands. 37 A proposal by Foreign Minister Velayati in the Conference on Disarmament in September 1994 to review "the distorted and muddled" conceptual framework after two devastating wars, focus on defensive capabilities and opt for the concept of defensive security whose first step would be "the establishment of a forum where threat perceptions and security concerns may be aired openly and ways to improve confidence examined" along with the abandonment of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), reduction of expenditure on conventional weapons and transparency in regard to them; and the devising of security arrangements in the Persian Gulf through regional cooperation, thus, fell on deaf ears. 38 It was clear at that stage that whereas Iran had concluded that there can be no regional security without its own participation and that of all other littoral states, the Saudi (and the GCC) view was that there can be none without outside involvement.39 While this impasse continued, the Iranians, pursuant to a longer term strategy, appeared to make a dent on Saudi perceptions. The process became noticeable in mid-1997 and gathered momentum with Crown Prince Abdullah's visit to Tehran in December 1997, the visit of Rafsanjani to Saudi Arabia in February 1998 and eventually of President Khatami in May 1999. This development, notwithstanding some misgivings in the smaller GCC states, does suggest the possible emergence of a more benign security environment in the Gulf for the first time in two decades.40

The place of Iraq in any regional security arrangement has been and will remain a matter of critical significance. Iraq's membership of the Baghdad Pact (before the revolution)and a close relationship subsequently with the Soviet Union (even before the Friendship Treaty of 1972) was evidence enough of its relevance in global power equations; within the region, Iraq did not toe the Western line in the wake of the British withdrawal from the Gulf, remained outside the Twin-Pillar arrangement of the Seventies and advocated instead a limit to the presence of superpowers in the region and the exploration of a regional security alternative. "In February 1980, Saddam Hussein announced an eight-point Pan-Arab Declaration proposing the rejection of foreign forces or bases anywhere in the Arab world, but linking this with an agreement on the renunciation of force in disputes among Arab countries and with their neighbours".41 Once the war with Iran was in progress, Iraq had little difficulty in projecting itself as the protector of the status quo in the Gulf and obtaining in return generous assistance from the Arab states of the Gulf as well as the favourable tilt in US policy. The end of the war, however, produced a new set of regional equations, each with its own dynamics. On the one hand, some GCC states like the UAE, Quatar and Kuwait took early steps to normalise relations with Iran; on the other, the formation of the Arab Cooperation Council (ACC)—Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and the Yemen Arab Republic) in February 1989, was seen in some quarters as surrounding the Gulf Arabs with "more populous, heavily armed, economic basket cases".42 The use of the ACC by Iraq in February 1990 to demand the withdrawal of US naval forces from the Gulf (and the withdrawal of Gulf investments from the US market) seemed to confirm the suspicions. In March 1989, the Saudi Arabia took the precautionary step of signing a non-aggression pact with Iraq and agreed to turn the billions of dollars given as loans to Iraq in the 1980-88 period into grants.43 Iraq's problms and perceptions, however, could not seemingly be assuaged by conciliatory gestures and the events unleashed on August 2, 1990, dammed Iraq irrevocably in regional perceptions. This isolation of a significant power in the Gulf region thus rendered improbable the emergence in the foreseeable future of an all-embracing security agreement.

By the end of 1998, none of the options considered for regional security in the post-1979 period had resulted in acceptable and enduring arrangements. The reasons for this lay in (a) the failure to develop a realistic picture of regional dynamics, taking note of the power equations between the big and the small regional powers, between them and the external powers, and the respective roles of each in regional and global organisations; (b) insufficient allowance being made for the structural features of the Persian Gulf region, the nature of its polarity and of its internal fault lines, and their impact on the development of a security community; and (c) the absence of an unambiguous definition of the objectives sought to be achieved in such a security community. The multi-dimensionality of the security concerns of the states of the region could not but produce a wide range of security interests to be catered to, covering domestic and external concerns, and requiring as a result varying strategies. These interests, in their totality, would cover the regimes' security, non-interference and border inviolability, non-aggression and territorial integrity, peaceful settlement of disputes and freedom of navigation through the Persian Gulf (including the Straits of Hormuz). The challenge would seem to lie in developing a (minimum) common threat perception, in maintaining it over time, in developing the mechanism for minimising risks to common security and in maximising the benefits of cooperation.

Security in national, regional or global terms is also a matter of wider perceptions. Walter Lippman in 1943 defined it in terms of protecting a country's core values. Two decades later, Arnold Wolfers considered it "the ability of a nation to deter an attack or defeat it". In the Seventies, the concept was expanded to include the security of resources and international economics. In recent years, it has been broadened to cover environmental and demographic issues.44 Each one of these considerations comes into play in the context of Gulf security. Further complications arise on account of the energy calculus, the converging and diverging interest of the energy producers, and the resultant interest of the outside world in the security of supplies and in the security and stability of the region covering both the waterway and the hinterland.45 Given the ground realities, and the backdrop of earlier (unsuccessful) efforts, any new endeavour would need to steer clear of simplistic or hegemonic arrangements. A viable framework would perhaps be multi-layered and would of necessity cover all the littoral states including "rogues" and outcasts. It would require to be conceived in terms of the legitimate interests of each of the littoral states; for this purpose, security perceptions would need to be articulated, confidence building measures put in place and commitments made for the peaceful settlement of disputes and for the territorial integrity of states. At some stage in the exercise, the freedom of navigation through the Straits of Hormuz could be the subject of a regional or international convention; the latter given the convergence of interest in energy exports, may not be difficult to achieve. Some other elements in the structuring of a possible arragement could be elicited from the Saudi principles of July 1975 and juxtaposed with Velayati's 1994 proposal in the Conference on Disarmament and with the more recent Saudi-Iranian exploratory suggestions for regional security. An endeavour such as this would take time and would be contingent on further evolution of common perceptions. Once such a "new arrangement for stability" (in the words of George Bush) is in place, the United States may see its vital national interest in the area better served by a receding presence. Pending it, however, the littoral states of the Persian Gulf would continue to rely on a flexible and reactive mix of self-reliance, regional balancing and extra-regional connections. Each of these has its own constraints; demographic, social and political considerations hamper self-reliance in the GCC states, endeavours at regional balancing would inevitably confront the problem of Iraq, and extra-regional i.e. Western connections could have political implications for the regime's security.

In geographical and strategic terms, the Persian Gulf is India's extended neighbourhood, the source of the bulk of the country's energy supplies, accounts for an overall trade of about US $10 billion, including a fast increasing export market of over $2.5 billion, and provides employment opportunities to some 3 million Indians whose annual remittances are in the vicinity of $6 billion. There is no perceived clash of interests with any of the countries of the Gulf; on the contrary, a long history of association has produced affinities which can be built upon given the growing interest of the Gulf states in India's energy market. The obverse of this is the awareness that "considerations of economic and energy security shall be high on India's agenda of 1999" and beyond.46 Peace and stability in the Persian Gulf, therefore, are of abiding interest to India; the resultant need to observe and absorb developments in the area never greater.



1. J.G. Lorimer, Gazeteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman and Central Arabia, Vol.1, PartII (Calcutta, 1915), pp. 28-39.

2. Saeed M. Badeeb,Saudi-Iranian Relations 1932-1982 (London: Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies, 1993) pp. 54 and 145, n. 35: "Britain viewed the Shah's idea of a Saudi-Iranian defence pact as a threat to the British-protected Sheikhdoms in the Gulf. Therefore, the British favoured a Saudi-Iranian-Iraqi defence pact against Communism, since they knew that Saudi Arabia would not join the Baghdad Pact". Also p. 49 for the Saudi offer of a non-aggression pact in 1929.

3. Ibid., p.60

4. Michael A. Palmer, Guardians of the Gulf. A History of America's Expanding Role in the Persian Gulf, 1833-1992 (New York: The Free Press, 1992) p. 88.

5. Ibid., p. 87. For the pronouncement of the Shah of Iran, see R.K. Ramazani, The Persian Gulf: Iran's Role (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia,1972) pp. 94 and 142. For a Saudi assessment of the Shah's intentions, see Badeeb, n. 2, p. 126: "Contrary to many beliefs, the Shah had never considered controlling the Gulf although he certainly planned to project military power through various bases he had built...Acting as the Gulf's 'policeman' was a well-known strategy of Shah Mohammad Raza Pahlavi".

6. The Iran Contra Affair--Report of the Congressional Investigating Committee, abridged edition (New York: Times Books, 1988) p. 139.

7. Palmer, n. 4, p. 90.

8. Nadar Safran, Saudi Arabia: The Ceaseless Quest for Security (Harvard University Press 1985) p. 207.

9. David Holden and Richard Johns, The House of Saud (London: Pan Books, 1981) p. 425. Also Safran, Ibid., p. 267.

10. Holden and Johns, Ibid., p. 426; Safran, n. 8, p. 269.

11. Palmer, n. 4, p. 101.

12. Shaul Bakhash, The Reign of the Ayatollahs: Iran and the Islamic Revolution (New York: Basic Books 1984) p. 4.

13. Shahran Chubin, Security in the Persian Gulf 4: The Role of Outside Powers (UK: The International Institute of Strategic Studies, 1982) p. 154.

14. Palmer, n. 4, p. 106.

15. H. Richard Sindelar III and J.E. Peterson eds., Crosscurrents in the Gulf (London: Routledge, 1988) p. 6.

16. Dilip Hero, The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict (London: Grafton Books, 1989) p. 72.

17. Ibid., p. 75.

18. Ibid., p. 75.

19. Safran, n. 8, p. 381.

20. Ibid., pp. 379-380.

21. Hero, n. 16, p. 78.

22. Shahran Chubin and Charles Tripp, Iran and Iraq at War (London: I.B. Tauris, 1989) p. 37.

23. R.K. Ramazani, Revolutionary Iran--Challenge and Response in the Middle East (The John Hopkins University Press, 1986) pp. 15-16.

24. Keith McLachlan, "Security and Instability in the Persian Gulf Region", The Iranian Journal of International Affairs, vol. III (1), Spring 1991, p. 30.

25. Ramazani, n. 5, pp. 90-91.

26. Chubin and Tripp, n. 22, p. 214.

27. Ibid., pp. 235-236 and p. 289, n. 143.

28. Mohsin M. Milani, "Iran's Gulf Policy: From Idealism and Confrontation to Pragmatism and Moderation" in Jamal S. Suwaidi ed., Iran and the Gulf--A Search for Stability (Abu Dhabi: The Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, 1996) pp. 90-92.

29. Hossein Seifzadeh, "The Persian Gulf Security Alliance: Prospects for the Future", The Iranian Journal of International Affairs, vol. III (1), Spring 1991, p. 96.

30. See text of Velayati's speech in Ibid., pp. 4-5.

31. Ambassador Hossein Ardebilli in Ibid., pp. 93-95.

32. A detailed analysis of the Damascus Declaration and its aftermath is given in Rosemary Hollis, "Whatever Happened to our Damascus Declaration: Evolving Security Structures in the Gulf" in M. Jane Davis ed., Politics and International Relations in the Middle East (Aldershot, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., 1995), pp. 37-60. Also Peter W. Wilson and Douglas F. Graham, Saudi Arabia: The Coming Storm (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1994) pp. 131-132 and pp. 164-165. Some details of the bilateral agreements are given in Feisal Al Mazidi, The Future of the Gulf (London: I.B. Tauris, 1993) pp. 73-75.

33. Khalid Bin Sultan, Desert Warrior: A Personal View of the Gulf War by the Joint Forces Commander (Indian edition by New Delhi: Lancers Publishers, 1997) pp. 248-249.

34. Ibid., p. 474. General Khalid's judgement on the Peninsular Shield Force is to be noted: "In my personal view, the answer cannot lie in a Force like Peninsular Shield, shaped as much by political as by military considerations. Nor does the answer lie in a large GCC standing army, such as the suggestion for a 100,000 man force" (p. 475). Also Wilson and Graham, n. 32, p. 164: "By December 1991, the proposal for the Peninsular Shield Force was killed, following Saudi pressure". Also see Al Mazidi, n. 32, pp. 70-72.

35. Anthony Lake, "Confronting the Backlash States", in Foreign Affairs 73(2) March/April 1994, pp. 45-55, and F. Gregory Gause III, "The Illogic of Dual Containment" pp. 56-66. Assistant Secretary Robert H. Pellietreau's articulation of the policy before the House Committee on International Affairs in September 1996 went along the same lines: "Our Persian Gulf policy consists of two elements, of which countering Iraq and Iranian hegemonic aspirations is only one. The second is to sustain close political, economic and security relations with the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council", cited in Anders Jerichow, The Saudi File (New York: St. Martin's Press 1998, pp. 294-296). Martin Indyk, the author of the concept, said in a Congressional testimony on June 8, 1999--perhaps with some hindsight--that dual containment "never prescribed identical policies towards Iraq and Iran, nor was dual containment designed to be static or inflexible overtime...Nor was dual containment meant to impose a kind of Pax Americana over the region in which we would try to exclude Iran and Iraq--both large and important regional players--permanently from making positive and constructive contribution to the economic policies and security of the region, should they change their hostile ways". Also see Richard K. Herrmann and R. William Ayres, "The New Geo-Politics of the Gulf: Forces for Change and Stability" in Gary G. Sick and Lawrence G. Potter eds., The Persian Gulf At The Millennium (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997) p. 38: "Dual containment was launched with the explicit purpose of bringing down the regime in Baghdad and changing the behaviour of the government in Tehran".

36. Shahram Chubin and Charles Tripp, "Iran-Saudi Arabia Relations and Regional Order", Adelphi Paper 304, (London: Oxford University Press, 1996) p. 21.

37. Ibid., p. 31. For another, very authoritative view of this development, see Richard N. Schonfield in Sick and Potter eds., n. 35, p. 155: "There can be little doubt, however, that the federal government in Abu Dhabi has effectively used Iran's regional and international isolation during recent years to internationalise the island dispute and win support for its own territorial claims". Schonfield quotes with approval, on p. 153, the observation of the crown prince of Dubai in February 1995 that recent tensions over the islands had been "fabricated".

38. Text of Velayati's speech of September 1, 1994 in CD/PV 690, pp. 8-14.

39. Chubin and Tripp, n. 36, p. 28.

40. Rafsanjani, in an interview to the Arab News on February 22, 1998, said his "visit will be the beginning of a new chapter to expand and strengthen cooperation". Al Hayat reported on May 11, 1999, Crown Prince Abdullah's remark that "Iran is a dear and friendly country"; immediately after Khatami's visit, Asharq Al Awsat said in an analytical survey on May 22 that one of the important decisions taken during the visit "related to the necessity of exploring some common mechanisms for the guarantee of regional security in the future, keeping away from dependence on foreign forces".

41. Chubin, n. 13, pp. 93-94.

42. Palmer, n. 4, p. 155.

43. Wilson and Graham, n. 32, p. 108. Also Adel Dawish and Gregory Alexander, Unholy Babylon: The Secret History of Saddam's War (New York: St. Martin's Press 1991) pp. 236 and 247.

44. Jessica Tuchman Mathews, "Redefining Security, Foreign Affairs 68(2) Spring 1989, pp. 162-77.

45. In this context, the observation of a Saudi scholar is to be noted: "Gulf regional security was an external issue long before it was an issue among the Gulf states themselves". Badeeb n. 2, p. 123.

46. Press conference of External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, December 24, 1998.