The Rise of Small States in the Arabian Gulf: The Case of UAE and Qatar: A Historical Sociology Perspective

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Over the past fifty years the impoverished and tribal Arab Gulf states have become some of the most developed and influential political players in the Middle East. These states, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar, underwent a program of modernisation starting in the early 2000s which has led to both Abu Dhabi and Doha becoming cultural, economic, and diplomatic hubs of the Arab World and gateways to the Greater Middle East. To understand this transformation, resulting in increased foreign policy and economic power and soft cultural influence, this paper seeks to investigate the historical changes experienced by both the UAE and Qatar following their independence in the 1970s.

I argue that, based on historical sociological analysis, the rise of both UAE and Qatar was an inevitable by-product of several changes. To understand the driving forces behind this phenomenon, this paper suggests a trifold analytical framework which attempts to understand the social, political, and economic dynamics behind this shift. Firstly, on a domestic level, the rise of small states in the Arabian Gulf came about because of ongoing socio-political and socio-economic development, ambitious leadership, and a hybrid concept of state identity. Secondly, regional structural change was brought about through equalisation of rich Gulf States and their neighbours, shifting international power dynamics and the radical (yet devastating) changes in the MENA region over the past 20 years. Lastly, the system level has contributed to this phenomenon by recognising the nature of international politics, including the transition and/or diffusion of power, and accommodating small states’ vibrant diplomacy.


About the Author:

Ahmed M. Abozaid

Ahmed M. Abozaid: An Egyptian Scholar and Political analyst based in UAE. He is the director of research & co-founder of the International Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (IICD) a Dubai-based think-tank. His first English monograph on Counterterrorism Strategies in the Middle East after the Arab Uprising is forthcoming with Routledge (2021). Abozaid have published Six books in Arabic on IR Theories, Foreign Policy, and Middle Eastern Studies, and several papers (both in Arabic & English) in peer-reviewed journals such as Middle Eastern Studies, Studies on Conflict & Terrorism, Terrorism & Political Violence, Aggression and Political Violence, Contemporary Arab Affairs, Arabian Journal of Political Science. Abozaid hold MSc in International Relations from University of Aberdeen. Now he is a doctoral researcher in School of International Relations, University of St Andrews, Scotland.