Insecure Gulf

The End of Certainty and the Transition to the Post-Oil Era

Part of the Power and Politics in the Gulf series
May 2011 9781849041270 288pp


Insecure Gulf examines how the concept of Arabian/Persian Gulf ‘security’ is evolving in response to new challenges that are increasingly non-military and longer-term. Food, water and energy security, managing and mitigating the impact of environmental degradation and climate change, addressing demographic pressures and the youth bulge and reformulating structural economic deficiencies, in addition to dealing with the fallout from progressive state failure in Yemen, require a broad, global and multi-dimensional approach to Gulf security. While ‘traditional’ threats from Iraq, Iran, nuclear proliferation and trans-national terrorism remain robust, these new challenges to Gulf security have the potential to strike at the heart of the social contract and redistributive mechanisms that bind state and society in the Arab oil monarchies.

Insecure Gulf explores the relationship between ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ security challenges and situates them within the changing political economy of the GCC states as they move toward post-oil structures of governance. It describes how regimes are anticipating and reacting to the shifting security paradigm, and contextualises these changes within the broader political, economic, social and demographic framework. It also argues that a holistic approach to security is necessary for regimes to renew their sources of legitimacy in a globalising world.

Table of contents


1. History of Gulf Security Structures, 1903-2003
2. Security as Discourse: Iraq, Iran and Trans-National Extremism
3. Contextual Parameters and Future Trends


4. Demographic and Structural Imbalances in Gulf Economies
5. The Political Economy of Resource Insecurity
6. Climate Security and Environmental Challenges


7. Yemen’s Contested Transition
8. Conclusion: A New Approach to Security


Insecure Gulf provides the first detailed assessment of the developments in the Persian Gulf sub-region in the post-oil era. It is the one of the few books of its kind not to be obsessed with the sub-region’s energy riches, and in looking to highlight the uncertainties of a future from which oil income may not provide sufficient protection, warns of the sub-region’s impending demographic, economic and environmental crises. Sympathetically written and meticulously researched, Kristian Coates Ulrichsen draws our attention to the dangers of a perfect storm forming in the Gulf Arab countries in which domestic challenges could combine with externally-induced security or economic shocks to expose these societies to crises of such magnitude that could test their very socio-political foundations. This is a must read.’ — Anoush Ehteshami, Professor of International Relations at Durham University

‘Kristian Coates Ulrichsen’s absorbing book is rich in detail and profoundly incisive. It is brilliant in its analysis and masterful in scope, tackling the most important and toughest questions on security in the Gulf region. Fascinating, fluently written and insightful, Insecure Gulf offers a genuinely original perspective on this important subject. This is compulsory and highly engaging reading.’ — Dr Steven Wright, Department of International Affairs, Qatar University

Insecure Gulf offers a broad-ranging yet consistently cogent survey of the major trends that threaten the stability of the Arab Gulf states at the present moment and in the foreseeable future. It highlights not only the concrete, material challenges that confront regimes in this part of the world but also the ideational dynamics that shape how strategic realities get interpreted and prioritized. And the book accomplishes this while remaining accessible to non-specialists. An enlightening tour d’horizon.’ — Fred H. Lawson, Professor of Government, Mills College


Kristian Coates Ulrichsen is Fellow for the Middle East at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, and an associate fellow of Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. His books with Hurst include Qatar and the Gulf Crisis and Centers of Power in the Arab Gulf States. He supports West Ham.

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