Two approaches prevail in external initiatives for Gulf security. The first is based on the reality of the region, where conflict and competition are widespread. It assumes that alliance, maximizing of military power and deterrence are necessary to ensure security and maintain the balance of power. The second approach assumes that a comprehensive security structure, which is concerned with cooperation on issues pertaining to the economy, environment, trade, energy, sea lanes security and combating terrorism, is the appropriate strategy to gradually reach a security system that is inclusive of all parties. The recent US policies, which are based on the balance of power, aim to integrate Iran into the Gulf security structure, but by different means. Former President Barack Obama put forward the scenario of Iran’s ‘participation’, especially after the signing of the nuclear deal in 2015, in the hope of controlling its behavior.
On the other hand, ex-president Donald Trump’s administration withdrew from the agreement in 2018, used a ‘maximum pressure’ campaign, and established regional alliances to subjugate Iran and negotiate a new deal. Some major powers put forward proposals based on the comprehensive security approach. In 2019, Russia launched an initiative to establish an Organization for Security and Cooperation in the Gulf, to include all Gulf countries and in all fields. China presented its Arab Policy Paper in 2016, but it did not unveil specific plans for security in the Gulf. Rather, it seems to be pursuing a ‘great patience’ diplomacy to promote its interests and making its ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative as a catalyst for expanding its role in the region. Additionally, India has shown interest in increasing its participation in the Gulf security through its strategic partnerships with some states. Pakistan has recently also focused on offering mediation initiatives in the Gulf instead of its traditional alliance approach, primarily with Saudi Arabia.