Seeking Stability Amidst Disorder

The Foreign Policies of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, 2010–20

October 2023 9781805260417 384pp
Available as an eBook Available from Oxford Scholarship Online
EU Customers


The 2010s were a decade of transformation and conflict in the Middle East, bookended by the Arab Uprisings and the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout this time, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar—the three Arab states with the most ambitious regional policies—declared stability to be their main objective. Yet, rather than being a common denominator, this seemingly shared goal in fact obscured differences between their often-competing agendas.

These three Gulf monarchies all agreed that the Middle East had descended into unprecedented and dangerous instability following the Arab Uprisings. But their assessments diverged on what characterised and drove the unrest. This led each country to formulate different—and at times contradictory—views of how politics should be organised in and between states in the region, and what role external powers should play to build a stable new order.

With no universally accepted definition of stability, this book develops an original analytical framework linking this concept to that of order, and provides a useful lens through which to understand foreign policy in the Gulf. While governments often frame their relations with other states by evoking a joint commitment to stability, Tobias Borck shows that this does not, in itself, imply strategic alignment.


‘Refreshing … This book is beneficial not only to scholars of the Middle East and the Gulf, but also to policy-makers and diplomats working with or in any of the Gulf countries.’ — International Affairs

‘An insightful analysis of what “security and stability” truly means in a MENA context. Tobias Borck’s significant contribution is not only a look back at a turbulent decade, but a knowledgeable guide to how an increasingly confident Gulf looks at the future.’ — The Rt Hon Alistair Burt, former UK Minister of State, Middle East, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

‘A comprehensive and valuable compendium of the foreign policies of three key Gulf powers.’ — Jonathan R. Cohen, former US Ambassador to Egypt

‘In this timely and important book, Tobias Borck deftly shines a light on differing perceptions of stability and regional order at the heart of GCC politics and security.’ — Sanam Vakil, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House

‘An insightful re-examination of the concept of “stability” in the region, adding significantly to the analysis of how foreign policies evolved and interacted in a turbulent decade.’ — Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Fellow for the Middle East, Rice University


Tobias Borck is a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London. He specialises in Middle Eastern politics and security, particularly the foreign, defence and security policies of countries in the region. He holds a PhD in Middle East Politics from the University of Exeter.

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