The best books on international politics of the Persian/Arabian Gulf

Birol Baskan Author Of Turkey and Qatar in the Tangled Geopolitics of the Middle East
By Birol Baskan

Who am I?

The events/developments that unsettle international politics of the Gulf are two kinds: internal and external to the region. Yet, no matter whether it is internal or external, its consequences concern us all, no matter where we live in. What happens in the Gulf does not stay in the Gulf. It unleashes ripple effects that reach directly or indirectly into our pockets and hence our lives. I am one of them and a non-resident scholar in the Middle East Institute, broadly speaking, writing on Turkey, the Persian/Arab Gulf, and the Middle East. 


I wrote...

Turkey and Qatar in the Tangled Geopolitics of the Middle East

By Birol Baskan,

Book cover of Turkey and Qatar in the Tangled Geopolitics of the Middle East

What is my book about?

Turkey and Qatar forged a strong, and yet strange relationship in the 2010s. It was strange because Turkey and Qatar were, and still are, worlds apart in many ways. Turkey is a republic, Qatar a monarchy. Turkey is an electoral democracy (?), Qatar authoritarian. Turkey is (still) constitutionally secular, Qatar Islamic. The two are territorial and population-wise in different sizes. And there is this historical legacy. For Qatar a war against the Ottomans (Wajba War of 1893) was a glorious beginning. For Turkey, the successor state to the Ottomans, is not even mentioned in its historical texts. Why and how did this strange relationship get so strong to the extent students of the Middle East politics even began to speak of a Turkey-Qatar axis? I answer it in this book.

The books I picked & why

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The International Relations of the Persian Gulf

By F. Gregory Gause III,

Book cover of The International Relations of the Persian Gulf

Why this book?

The US is indisputably the hegemonic power in and the gendarmerie of the Persian/Arabian Gulf. And the Arab states on that Gulf’s southern littoral are perfectly content with that and even concerned that the US might no longer serve in that role. This book provides a comprehensive and in-depth historical account of how that happened, weaving together a complex set of factors, regional and international events and developments, into one coherent narrative. As such it is the first to be picked and consumed by any inquirer into the topic.

The International Relations of the Persian Gulf

By F. Gregory Gause III,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The International Relations of the Persian Gulf as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gregory Gause's masterful book is the first to offer a comprehensive account of the international politics in the Persian Gulf across nearly four decades. The story begins in 1971 when Great Britain ended its protectorate relations with the smaller states of the lower Gulf. It traces developments in the region from the oil 'revolution' of 1973-4 through the Iranian revolution, the Iran-Iraq war and the Gulf war of 1990-1 to the toppling of Saddam Hussein in the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, bringing the story of Gulf regional politics up to 2008. The book highlights transnational identity issues, regime…


Iran's Persian Gulf Policy: From Khomeini to Khatami

By Christin Marschall,

Book cover of Iran's Persian Gulf Policy: From Khomeini to Khatami

Why this book?

After the US it is Iran. In fact the US is in the Gulf thanks and due to Iran. Iran poses a, real or perceived, security risk to other littoral states of the Gulf and balancing it constitutes the latter’s sublime foreign policy objective. It is also due to Iran that the Arab Gulf states spend billions of dollars on their armaments and engage in proxy-power struggles in other parts of the Middle East. Why is Iran a pariah in the Gulf? For a solid account read this book.

Iran's Persian Gulf Policy: From Khomeini to Khatami

By Christin Marschall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Iran's Persian Gulf Policy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The study is based on Persian, Arabic, English, French and German newspaper reports, as well as interviews with Iranian and Arab diplomats - adds a novel and interesting aspect to the study

Will appeal to the general reader interested in the Modern Middle East, as well as policy-makers and students of Modern Middle Eastern studies and International Relations

There have been no extended studies on the Persian Gulf Policy of the Islamic Republic covering the first two decades of its existence


Transnational Shia Politics: Religious and Political Networks in the Gulf

By Laurence Louër,

Book cover of Transnational Shia Politics: Religious and Political Networks in the Gulf

Why this book?

What are the constituents of the risk Iran poses to the Arab Gulf states? Military? Yes. Ideological? Yes. Rival in the regional influence game? Definitely. But, among all, in my personal view, the trans-border distribution of Shias in the Middle East and in the Gulf is the most serious one. For worse, this book shows, the Shias also constitute a transnational community linked through religious networks. Hence Iran’s hegemonic rise will seriously complicate the problem the presence of Shias poses for at least two, potentially three Gulf states: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and potentially Kuwait. To see the root cause of the Gulf’s Iran/Shia problem, read this book.

Transnational Shia Politics: Religious and Political Networks in the Gulf

By Laurence Louër,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Transnational Shia Politics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Laurence Louer, author of the critically acclaimed To Be an Arab in Israel, brings her extensive knowledge of the Middle East to an analysis of the historical origins and present situation of militant Shia transnational networks. She focuses on three key countries in the gulf: Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, whose Shia Islamic groups are the offspring of various Iraqi movements that have surfaced over recent decades. Louer explains how these groups first penetrated local societies by espousing the networks of Shiite clergymen. She then describes the role of factional quarrels and the Iranian revolution of 1979 in defining the…


External Powers and the Gulf Monarchies

By Jonathan Fulton (editor), Li-Chen Sim (editor),

Book cover of External Powers and the Gulf Monarchies

Why this book?

Besides the US and Iran there are others: especially China as an alternative hegemon/gendarmerie to the US, Russia as a partner in OPEC+, India, South Korea, Japan as major consumers of Gulf oil and natural gas, Egypt and Turkey as potential regional strategic allies, UK and France as old imperial centers and new destinations for Gulf capital, and Brazil as a giant economic power. This edited volume covers it all and as such is an indispensable read for a comprehensive look at the external powers that matter, and will matter, in international politics of the Gulf.

External Powers and the Gulf Monarchies

By Jonathan Fulton (editor), Li-Chen Sim (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked External Powers and the Gulf Monarchies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Gulf monarchies have been generally perceived as status quo actors reliant on the USA for their security, but in response to regional events, particularly the Arab Spring of 2011, they are pursuing more activist foreign policies, which has allowed other international powers to play a larger role in regional affairs.

This book analyses the changing dynamic in this region, with expert contributors providing original empirical case studies that examine the relations between the Gulf monarchies and extra-regional powers, including the USA, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, France, and the United Kingdom. At the theoretical level, these…


Insecure Gulf: The End of Certainty and the Transition to the Post-oil Era

By Kristian Coates Ulrichsen,

Book cover of Insecure Gulf: The End of Certainty and the Transition to the Post-oil Era

Why this book?

Security is the prime issue in the international politics of the Gulf. Not just in the narrow military sense. In the broadest sense too. This book takes a comprehensive and in-depth look at the multitude of risks the Arab Gulf states faces, not only military kind (read Iran), but also food and water, environment and climate, sustaining standards of living in the face of a multitude of economic challenges and potential regional state failures. This book is unquestionably a must-read to have a deeper understanding of the complexity of problems the Arab Gulf states have to resolve, some of which are unique to the Gulf, some are not. It will be epic to survive them.

Insecure Gulf: The End of Certainty and the Transition to the Post-oil Era

By Kristian Coates Ulrichsen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Insecure Gulf as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Increasingly long-term, nonmilitary challenges have remade security concerns in the Persian Gulf. The protection of food, water, and energy, the management and mitigation of environmental degradation and climate change, demographic pressures and the youth boom, the reformulation of structural deficiencies, and the fallout from progressive state failure in Yemen all require a broad, global, and multidimensional approach to achieving security in the Gulf. While traditional threats from Iraq and Iran, nuclear proliferation, and transnational terrorism remain robust, new challenges could potentially destabilize the redistributive mechanisms of state and society in the Arab oil monarchies. Insecure Gulf explores this new reality,…


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