The fourth annual Gulf Studies Forum was held on 24 December 2017 in Doha. The yearly gathering hosted by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, was devoted to the theme of “The Gulf Crisis: Regional and International Contexts and the Role of the Media,” with the discussions focusing inevitably on the crisis which has gripped intra-Gulf relations since mid-2017.

Delivering the opening remarks, ACRPS Researcher and Chair of the Gulf Studies Forum Committee, Marwan Kabalan, reminded the participants that the decision to focus on the media pre-dated the recent crisis. Ultimately, the way the crisis unfolded served to emphasize just how prescient that decision was, with both traditional and social media acting as representatives of Gulf governments. Despite the decision by three Gulf states to impose an embargo on Qatar, the themes chosen for the fourth Gulf Studies Forum found a willing audience in researchers around the globe, 250 of whom applied to attend the meeting. Kabalan’s introductory comments to the conference were followed by a keynote address delivered by French political scientist Bertrand Badie. 

Badie offered a general reading of the world order as it stands since the Cold War, suggesting that today’s Gulf crisis was one consequence of the present international arrangement. One feature of the new system since the Cold War, said Badie, was the lack of a world hegemonic superpower. As Badie reminded the audience, the last time the US convincingly and unilaterally won a war was in the 1983 invasion of Grenada. Instead of a complete free-for-all in terms of international relations, however, the current world order relied on a complex network of regional alliances that forced the United States to act in concert with its allies in other places. This was a phenomenon, said the speaker, which could be seen in regions across the globe where the power of the nation-state was significantly undermined. Referring not only to the Gulf Crisis but to the Arab region more broadly, Badie also made reference to how the Arab Spring had worked to undo the power of authoritarian states as well as the very fabric of the social contract in countries like Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The convoluted international relations which the recent crisis brought to the fore, explained Badie, served to undermine the previous “Schmittian model”—a reference to the theorist Carl Schmitt—of rationalizing the factors which determine a country’s foreign relations. 

International Relations of the Gulf States

Following Badie’s keynote address, the sessions moved into two parallel streams. The first of which focused on the fixed theme of the international relations of the Gulf states. The first two international relations sessions covered “The Gulf Crisis: Causes, Patterns and Contexts,” addressed by Gerd Nonneman, Majed Al-Ansari and Mehran Kamrava; and “The Gulf Crisis: Economic Consequences and Legal Aspects,” addressed by Khalid Rashed Al-Khater, Naser Al-Tamimi, Yusuf Hamad Al-Balushi and Mohammed Al-Khulaifi. In parallel, two panels covered the involvement of both traditional media and social media in the present Gulf crisis. These included, “Media Ethics and the Gulf Crisis,” which brought together Noureddine Miladi; Deborah and Brannon Wheeler; and Nawaf Al-Tamimi. 

Gerd Nonneman’s presentation focused on how the pre-crisis relations between the Gulf states were driven by a common objective of preserving monarchical rule and bolstering their shared interests. The growing divide between the Gulf states, said Nonneman was in fact a consequence of changes to the wider regional and global environments. Nonneman was followed by Mehran Kamrava, who explained that the exclusive focus on the traditional threat posed by Iran, which threw them off track from the more fundamental dangers of non-traditional threats to identity which, the speaker suggested, were even more existential to the continuity of the Gulf states. One particular consequence of the short sighted exclusive focus on traditional threats and “zero sum game thinking”, said Kamrava, was the antagonization of Iran and its isolation from the rest of the regional order, which had not advanced security for any of the Gulf states. 

On the next panel in the series, Khalid Bin Rashed Al-Khater explained that the lack of economic integration across the GCC—previously held up as a hurdle to greater cooperation—had in fact immunized Qatar from any serious consequences due to the embargo imposed by Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in June, 2017. In contrast said Al-Khater, a Qatari economist, the blockade on Qatar spurred domestic economic development. On the same panel, Naser Al-Tamimi in fact suggested that the decision to embargo Qatar could in fact blow up in the faces of those leading the blockade. While Qatar was able to leverage its assets to grow economically—even continuing to supply the UAE with natural gas—countries like the UAE appear to foreign investors as unreliable and unstable. Yusuf Al-Balushi, of Oman, was the final speaker on that panel. Al-Balushi addressed the potential for growing ties between the Sultanate of Oman and Qatar, and decried the fact that most Qatari investments in Oman so far have tended to concentrate in the real estate sector and not in more long-term investments like manufacturing. 

In the following panel, Mohammed Al-Khulaifi explained that while Qatar had avenues open to international arbitration, that the political realities meant that intervention by the UN Security Council remained highly unlikely. 

Media and Social Media in the Gulf Crisis

Two panels were devoted to the role of the media and social media in the Gulf crisis. These were “Media Ethics and the Gulf Crisis,” bringing together Noureddine Miladi; Deborah and Brandon Wheeler; and Nawaf Al-Tamimi. A second panel, “The Media and the Making of Gulf Public Opinion,” included Khalid Al-Jaber; Liqaa Makki Al-Azzawi; and Kamal Hamidou. 

Noureddine Miladi, speaking on the first of the parallel stream of media dedicated panels, condemned what he described as the breakdown in moral standards adhered to by media institutions in the countries leading the blockade in their attempts to lead a smear campaign against Doha. Miladi highlighted a number of individual media outlets for special consideration. These included Saudi-dominated print newspapers such as Okaz and Al-Riyadh. Miladi contended that the willingness of Saudi and Emirati media to stray into ethically questionable and contentious material was not matched by Qatari media, which instead chose to “fight a clean fight”. 

Miladi was followed by Deborah and Brandon Wheeler, whose joint presentation highlighted how attempts by Saudi media to capitalize on Islamic motifs to shame Qatar have had no tangible impact. Nawaf Al-Tamimi, speaking on the same panel, explained how the group of countries leading a blockade of Qatar used a diversity of methods to lead a smear campaign against Doha, including propaganda through traditional channels as well as shaming through social media. 

Qatari journalist and former Editor-in-Chief of The Peninsula, Khalid Al-Jaber discussed the “manufacture of consent” in the Gulf states, a process which he said placed media institutions in the GCC member states in a contentious place at the crossroads of government aims, audience needs and state bodies. Given the lack of robust mechanisms for what Al-Jaber called “political communication,” Gulf citizens relied on the media to a great extent to understand the future direction of their governments. 

For his part, Al-Azzawi explained that, since its outbreak in June, the Gulf crisis has become central to “new media” and the social media ecosystem across the Gulf. In Al-Azzawi’s view, new media was inextricably linked to the nature of the crisis. Kamal Hamidou was the final speaker on that panel, whose paper highlighted the role of the media in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt in shaping public opinion against Qatar, both domestically and in the wider Arab region. Hamidou paid particular attention to how media in the blockading states made use of vague suspicions of Qatari funding for terrorism to batter Doha in the Arabic press. 

Closing off Day One of the 2017 Gulf Studies Forum, four prominent Arab media personalities shared a platform for a special panel. These included Sheikh Abdulrahman Bin Hamad, CEO of Qatar Media Corporation and Yasser Abu Hilalah, Marwan Bishara and Salah Negm from Al-Jazeera. The panelists in the concluding session explained the importance of maintaining professionalism in the midst of the 2017 Gulf Crisis, which pitted countries with previously warm relations against each other. 

Sheikh Abdulrahman explained to the audience that Qatari media were committed to the same principles of propriety and professionalism that they had always maintained, even as the country was being attacked from abroad. In contrast, Marwan Bishara explained how Western audiences were left in shock when the governments of Arab countries demanded the closure of the Al Jazeera offices. For his part, Abu Hilalah, Director of News at Al Jazeera, assured the audience that the embargo on Qatar would ultimately serve the cause of media freedom in the Middle East. Instead of the previous situation in which Saudi Arabia was able to pressure Al Jazeera, via Qatar, to sugar coat its coverage of the kingdom, the new order of affairs meant that the broadcaster would now be able to show Saudi Arabia’s foreign policies for what they really were. According to Abu Hilalah, this was already visible in the broadcaster’s coverage of the humanitarian disaster resulting from the Saudi-led war on Yemen. 

Qatar Deputy Prime Minister Addresses the 2017 Gulf Studies Forum

His Excellency Sheikh Mohammad Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, was the guest of honor and the main keynote speaker at the 2017 Gulf Studies Forum. Sheikh Mohammad's address, delivered to a special session of the Forum on the evening of Sunday, 3 December was titled "The Gulf Crisis in Regional Context" and was an opportunity for the statesman to address the possibilities of success for the upcoming GCC Summit due to take place in Kuwait on 5-6 December, 2017. The summit in Kuwait is intended to find a way out of the crisis in intra-Gulf relations which was crippled collective decision-making in the GCC since June of this year, and in which three other members of the GCC imposed an embargo on Doha.

Qatar's chief diplomat offered his views on the roots of the crisis in intra-Gulf relations, which he attributed the lack of abiding mechanisms for conflict resolution across the Arab region. This, explained Sheikh Mohammad, meant that there was no role for what he called "preventative diplomacy" in the Middle East. The Qatari Foreign Minister then proceeded to explain the negative role played by Arab regimes in turning their media against Doha, exacerbating a crisis which had vast human consequences for the people of Qatar and across the Gulf. Additionally, Sheikh Mohammad described how stability and the protection of collective security had been used as a pretext for the intervention of the affairs of sovereign states across the Arab region.

Sheikh Mohammad also explained that the countries leading the embargo and smear campaign against Qatar were doing so out of spite for Doha's increasingly prominent role as an invaluable player in regional power politics. This growing role, said the Foreign Minister, also brought to the fore the fact that Qatari policy makers often had a "healthy" level of disagreement with their counterparts in other countries. Qatar's insistence on being a mediator of international conflicts drove the desire on the part of other countries in the region to punish Doha, instead of being able to accept a normal difference of opinions.

Sheikh Mohammad further added that Qatar's pivotal role in world politics was only made possible because of the economic prowess made possible by its vast natural resources. Whatever the countries leading the embargo hoped, Qatar continued to be an important source of energy for markets across the globe, with countries as far afield as the United Kingdom and Italy, South Korea and Japan, buying Qatari natural gas. Indeed, Qatar continued to supply natural gas to Dubai, even as the United Arab Emirates was one of the main proponents of the blockade on the country. Qatar's decision to continue using the Dolphin Gas Pipeline, said Sheikh Mohammad, reflected the desire of policy-makers in Doha to avoid mixing economics with political differences of opinion, especially if such disagreements could have an adverse effect on the peoples of the region.

On the question of ending the blockade on Qatar through negotiations, Sheikh Mohammad expressed Qatar's support and appreciation of the efforts by Kuwait's Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah to bring about a negotiated end to the intra-Gulf crisis. While conceding that the Gulf Cooperation Council was itself institutionally ineffective throughout the latest Gulf crisis, Sheikh Mohammad insisted that Qatar would never work to dismantle the GCC and instead wanted to see the alliance, which he described as the "fulfillment of a dream" for the peoples of the Gulf, live into the future. Sheikh Mohammad also expressed Qatar's wish that in the wake of the crisis, the GCC would "raise to the aspirations of the peoples of the Gulf," and insisted that Qatar always insisted on a resolution to the crisis from within the Gulf itself, abiding by Kuwaiti mediation efforts.

Sheikh Mohammad explained to the audience that the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim had welcomed an invitation from his Kuwaiti counterpart to attend a summit of GCC leaders due to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday (5 and 6 December), which both the Emir of Qatar and his Kuwaiti hosts had hoped would pave the way for the end of the crisis.

Sheikh Mohammad affirmed that Doha's delegation to the meeting in Kuwait would be at the highest levels, expressing the hope that the Summit would provide an opportunity for all of the outstanding issues between the GCC to be discussed in full and for a resolution to be found under Kuwaiti auspices, within the GCC framework. Looking forward, Sheikh Mohammad also expressed the desire that the Middle East would develop a mechanism would develop a mechanism for the peaceful resolution of conflicts between the Arab states. "It was the lack of reason and peaceful mechanisms for conflict resolution which allowed for the intervention into the affairs of states in the region by other governments, on the surreptitious grounds of protecting collective security".

Sunday, 3 December was the second day of the 2017 Gulf Studies Forum, the fourth in an annual series of academic conferences hosted by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies and which has become the leading venue of academic discussion on issues pertaining to the GCC and its member states. The panels within the Forum are generally divided into two parallel streams of panels, the first of which is always devoted to the international relations of the Gulf countries, while the second theme is given over to a distinct topical theme each year. This year, with the Gulf Studies Forum taking place in the midst of an unprecedented crisis in intra-Gulf relations, the second set of panels was devoted to media and communications, which have played a role in driving a wedge between Qatar and its neighbors.

Day2: How did Regional and Global Powers Deal with the 2017 Gulf Crisis?

Speaking on the first International Relations panel, "Regional Approaches to the Gulf Crisis," were Murat Yesiltas ("Making Sense of Turkey's Strategy in the Gulf Region"), Luciano Zaccara ("The Iranian Factor in the Gulf Crisis") and Zahid Shehab Ahmed ("Pakistan's Position on the Gulf Crisis"). Yesiltas defined Ankara's approach to the Arabian Peninsula as "moderate," seeking to assure Qatar that it would not be abandoned while also ensuring that it would not break ties entirely with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, especially at a time when Turkey was working with these two countries on other regional issues. This, despite the fact that the UAE in particular was seen as supportive of a failed coup attempt in July, 2016 which sought to overthrow Turkey's democratic regime. Referring to a 2015 agreement between Turkey and Qatar, the ratification of which was expedited by Ankara's parliament when the intra-Gulf crisis broke out two years later, Yesiltas added that a Turkish military contingent deployed to Qatar would be working to train Qatari military personnel without becoming involved in any military conflict—neither the size and capability of the contingent, nor the strategic aims of the Turkish state, would support that.

Zaccara, speaking second on the panel, kicked off by explaining how the crisis in intra-Gulf relations would in the end pay dividends for Iran's regional policies. The 2017 crisis which pitted Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE against Doha had been an unparalleled opportunity for Tehran to involve itself in the affairs of its Arab neighbors, following a period since 2011 when Iran shared Saudi antipathy towards Qatar's support for the Arab Spring in Syria. In contrast, the embargo placed on Qatar by its Gulf neighbors working together with Egypt has allowed Iran to expand its exports to Qatar and to create political capital out of the break in intra-Gulf relations.

Zahid Shehab Ahmed began with an exposition of the deep, extensive ties which tie Pakistan—a country which was Muslim-majority "by design"—with all of the Gulf states. These included the massive trade with the UAE particularly; the growing import of natural gas from Qatar; military deals which saw the Gulf states seek Pakistani expertise in the combatting of extremists; and also the hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis who worked as expatriates in the Gulf as well as the 200,000 who went to Saudi Arabia annually for the Hajj. Nonetheless, said Ahmed, Islamabad's approach to the intra-GCC crisis could not be understood entirely in terms of trade and economic ties—instead, Pakistan was also keen not to become embroiled in a conflict, which pitted different Arab countries together for ideological reasons, choosing to be a mediator partially for domestic political reasons.

The second session focused on the standpoints of the international powers and their management of a crisis of this scale in a region with great geo-political significance. John Duke Anthony presented his research on "The Future of US-GCC Relations under the Trump Administration in Light of the Gulf Crisis", and clarified that the situation in the GCC countries is tied in with their energy reserves, and their geo-political influence, and closely linked to growth and the global economy. These factors represent decisive determinants of US Gulf Policy.

Sergey Strokan dealt with the Russian position in his presentation on "Russia-GCC Relations: It Takes Two to Tango", in which he suggested that King Salman's historical visit to Moscow in October was the most important for their bilateral relations in recent history. The visit indicates an overturn of a long running tense relationship between the two powers, and a burgeoning Russian-Saudi relationship. He stressed that Russia must not lose this opportunity to develop friendly relations with the Gulf States and to invest current developments in the aim of solving regional crises, such as in Syria.

Jeremias Kettner spoke next, presenting on "Qatari-German Relations and the Gulf Crisis", in which he claimed that Qatari-German relations have seen ever-growing development over the last twenty years. Berlin has been assertive in its approach to the Gulf crisis, as reflected by the statements of Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel who has called for a lifting of the blockade. A resolution of the crisis through diplomatic channels is critical for Germany, especially since Berlin does not have a military presence in the Gulf, a major destination for its exports. Germany's position stemmed from the growing threat of shifting instability from the Arab world to Western Europe. With the Syrian crisis, about one million Syrian refugees fled to Germany alone.

The session was concluded with a paper offered by ACRPS researcher Ahmed Qasem Hussein, entitled "The European Union and the Gulf Crisis: Contexts, Roles and Actors". He pointed out the change in trans-Atlantic relations, which albeit at its lower limits, may be a catalyst for a more cohesive European Union with a more visible and effective international role. This is reflected in the way Brussels has managed the Gulf crisis. Hussein concluded that the crisis in the Gulf prompted decision makers in Brussels to reassess the European role in a manner appropriate to the severity of the crisis, and to determine a common European security and defense policy connected to Europe's neighboring regions, especially the Gulf.

Al Jazeera and Social Media in the Gulf Crisis

In the first panel of the media sessions, the presentations looked at the influence of Al Jazeera in the media age and the information revolution. The first panelist, Haydar Badawi Sadig, presented his paper, "In the Heart of the Storm: How Al Jazeera Is Changing the Gulf and the World", interrogating the success of Al Jazeera in challenging the dominant world powers. He delved into the topic of its bombardment, as a political actor with the power to change the political scene in addition to its role in covering the revolutions of the Arab Spring 2011. In his opinion, Al Jazeera provided every interested political party with a space of expression, in line with its motto of giving a "voice to the voiceless".

Hugh Miles presented next on "Aljazeera and the Information Revolution in the Arab World", alluding to the Arab experience in the 1990s and early 2000s. This information revolution paved the way for the Arab spring in 2011 and 2012, as it contributed to a political awakening for many Arab citizens.

The final panelist of this session, Mahmoud M. Galander, gave his presentation entitled, "Explaining the Wrath against Al Jazeera: A New Model for the Analysis of Arab Media Systems", in which he cited, (and criticized) the William Rugh model to explain the work of the media. Galander pointed out that there are four factors that affect the work of the media. He argued that economic, social and environmental factors, in addition to cultural and religious factors, and political factors, produce goals and communication strategies.

In the second session, which was devoted to social media and the Gulf Crisis, Maryam Al Khater discussed "Propaganda and Mobilization on Twitter in the Gulf Crisis". She concluded that the campaign to incite Qatar, has become an intra-Gulf political conflict in the age of the digital revolution, and that it produced a produced a propaganda war, the first of its kind, between the Gulf family.

Andrew Leber and Alexei Abrahams presented their paper, "Social Media and Authoritarian Thought Hegemony: Evidence from the Gulf Crisis". They explained in an analysis of the political dialogue on Twitter in the Arabian Peninsula that social media, despite its celebrated potential for democratization of debate, could in fact become a tool for dictators to dominate the intellectual discourse.

Abdulrahman Mohammed Al Shami presented the final paper of this session on "Qatari Journalists on Social Media during the Gulf Crisis", stressing that the blockade imposed on Qatar since June 5 2017, is "an important stage in the history of Gulf media in general and Qatar in particular."

Day 3: Trump Twitter Discourse and its Impact on the Gulf Crisis

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.

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.