Regime and State Security

Regime and State Security: How they are Intertwined in the Gulf States

The paper sheds more light on the concepts of regime security theory and state security and shows how both ideas intertwine in the context of Gulf States. The study compares and contrasts both forms and explains how they impact on national security in countries in the Middle East. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries has both regime and state security structures that they regard as being the same thing with similar objectives. The countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait have adopted these structures with the goal of safeguarding state authorities from internal and external infringements. States in these region believe that emphasizing on regime and state security prevent adverse effects that could topple existing powers and tamper with national well-being and progress. Regime security as it appears in the paper is also applicable in other regions in the Western world where it emphasizes on democratic forms. The study refers to various incidences and issues to show how GCC nations consider regime and state security to be one and the same thing. It refers to the GCC crisis and how the government of Qatar and involved stakeholders chose to treat the matter as one that could affect leadership and national security. Consequently, all teams entered into a collaborative deal to end the quagmire. The study illustrates how GCC nations while relating with rentier states maintain a common view on regime and state security and how this helps to foster unity. The paper argues that viewing regime security and state security as being the same enable GCC nations to mitigate common issues that affect governance and national security considering the recent instability witnessed across the region.

Describing Regime Security

An announcement was made in 2015 concerning a major pact between Iran and other six world powers, encompassing the U.S. The deal came as a jolt to the Middle East. In the past few years alone, the region has witnessed increased calls for democracy in what was commenced by the Arab Spring. Other concerns that have emerged in the recent past, include insurgencies, increased civil wars, and enhanced terrorism in Yemen, Libya, and Syria (Jackson 167). The region has also encountered backlashes from Bahrain and Egypt. These incidences have impacted the system of the regional alignments and alliances – encompassing in inter-Arab affiliations – as states have attempted to adjust to substantial transformations in regional security and politics. For all these influences and impact to the regional structure, nonetheless, some key elements of regional politics remain unchanged (International Crisis Group). If 2011 was a year that many hoped would prompt regime change, the following years have witnessed the reemergence of chiefly conservative regime security politics, against both internal and external issues (International Crisis Group). Consequently, nations in the region have embraced regime security as a way of safeguarding their interests. Nonetheless, that does not imply that regional politics has undergone transformation. Rather, it implies that regional regimes are still affiliated to old forms, even as societies have transformed significantly and both militant groups and democratic movements alike counter states (International Crisis Group). Thus, regime security still serves as a chief facilitator for joint politics in the Gulf, perhaps playing a fundamental role in fostering inter-Arab relations.

Consequently, nations in the Middle East have embraced regime security as a way of safeguard the country, national interests, and national leaders. Regime security refers to a situation where governing groups are safe and secure against violent opposition and challenge to their leadership, and the serious security concern facing various nations in the region (Jackson 168). Nations in the Gulf perceive the approach as a possible intervention for covering the unwillingness or inability of these regimes to offer adequate security as a public need to local groups (Jackson 168). The recent years have witnessed increased attention towards promoting regime security in the GCC.

The Arab Spring that surfaced in 2010 created an urgency to the need to foster regime security. The bringing down of four regimes, each in a unique manner, still attracted the attention of all surviving authorities in the region. State leaders saw the need to strengthen their power and position through regime security. The primary intention for forming the alliance was to thwart regime security threats (Ryan). Specifically, the UAE, KSA, Jordan, and Egypt emerged as major partners and were committed to suppress the actions of the Muslim Brotherhood that turned out to spread hostility against leaders and championed for revolts (Ryan). Three of the Arab states banned the Brotherhood completely, while Jordan permitted the movement to continue with its practices within the kingdom. Still, Jordan viewed the Brotherhood as a significant threat to leadership and stability in the country (Ryan). The perceived threat compelled Jordan to intensify its collaboration with like-minded states. The collaboration became closer than it were during their working together to respond even to more serious regional threats such as the Syrian Civil War or the growth of extremist threats such as the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.

A good example of how GCC practiced regime security is when the Houthi challengers supported by Iran countered the leadership of Yemeni leader, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, but the president received the support of other leaders in the region. Leaders in the region showed their support for Hadi during the Sharm el-Shelkh summit of 2015 that many thought would focus on improving the condition of Islamic States but instead centered on safeguarding the position of the president of Yemen (Ryan). Such an idea where Arab states cross engage in military intervention in the affairs of other nations was not rampant before 2015 and the practice seemed highly unlikely. However, Hadi received much support from KSA and many other Arabian states, while Houthi opposing groups were supported by Iran (Ryan). Not even serious incidences and concerns such as the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, and the civil war in Syria had compelled similar cooperative efforts to promote stability and security in the region (Ryan). Rather, opposition and support for state authorities were less intensive in their threats. Intervening approaches also included engaging in street activism.

Similar regime security structures exist outside the Middle East. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is an example of a regime security structure that has mandate over member nations in Europe (Evron). The group works for democracy, peace, and stability through political agreement about shared views and through practical works that adds to sustainable growth. The group’s comprehensive idea of security encompasses the political and military aspects, environmental and economic dimensions as well as human aspects (Evron). Within the political and military aspects, the OSCE aspires to foster enhanced openness, cooperation, and cooperation and has formed the globe’s most developed regime of arms regulation and confidence-forming structures (Evron). Areas of focus include transformations in the security sector and the proper storage and demolition of small arms, conventional ammunition, and light weapons. Similarly, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) acts both as a defense joint force against external infringement, but in addition, it formed though this was not its objective, a security regime for its affiliates (Evron). Hence, it is impossible to imagine a military confrontation between Germany and France, or Spain and France within the framework of the EU or NATO (Evron). While EU is chiefly political and economic in its approach, it also serves imperative functions as a security regime.

Describing State Security

State security, on the other hand, refers to the measures adopted to safeguard the existing social and state structures and the territorial independence and integrity of the state from adverse or subversive actions. The practice seeks to safeguard the state from the intelligence operations and other special interventions of hostile nations, as well as from opposing forces inside the country. In other words, state security which is also referred to as national security refers to the protection of the state – its values, people, institutions, and boundaries – from external violations (International Crisis Group). Initially perceived as a safeguarding the state against military infringement, state security is not widely viewed to encompass non-military infringement, including potential violations due to crime, terrorism, environmental factors, economic dynamics, cyber-security, and food security among other threatening factors. State security risks comprise, in addition to actions of other governments, the activities of drug dealers, aggressive non-state players, natural calamities, and multinational firms impact significantly on national security (International Crisis Group). Often, government including those in the GCC, use a range of resources and measures, including diplomatic, military, political, and economic means to secure the security and safety of a nation-state. States also act to strengthen the factors impacting on security internationally and regionally by minimizing transactional factors resulting in insecurity, such as use of nuclear weapons, political exploitation, economic imbalance, and global warming.

The Connection between Regime Security and State Security in the Middle East

Calls to counter production and use of nuclear weapons have been increasing with the objective of safeguarding national security. Nations in the GCC have embraced a similar call and embrace both regime security and state security approaches to counter potential violations. For example, the nuclear pact between Iran and leading world powers shocked member states of the GCC (Evron). KSA took the initiative to encourage the formation of an Arab and Sunni partnership against Iranian interference with Arabian politics (Evron). Many hail the move as a common view towards regime security aimed at protecting governance systems and state security aimed at averting potential harm to national security.

Impact of Tribalism

Looking at the issue of tribalism in the GCC provides more insight into why member states do not emphasize the differences between regime security and state security and instead choose to treat them as one. Gulf societies are usually perceived as being highly tribal. Nonetheless, in discussions of national identity and state building is usually overlooked. However, concerns exist that tribalism in the region affect popular engagement in state affairs as well as influence how they exercise domestic political power. Nonetheless, it is apparent tribes play fundamental roles in the formation of progressive regimes and policy formation today and will continue to have significant influence going forward. Looking at the past, tribe has influenced the region significantly in terms of modernization, contribution to the Arab Spring, wars in the Gulf, and the GCC crisis. Tribal identities remain essential in many areas of the Middle East and they serve as a foundation for various forms of political and communal solidarity. Therefore, any variations between tribal groups is likely to become more aggressive with conflicting parties using other reasons to express their tribal differences.

A keen look at the GCC crisis reveals that tribal differences contributed significantly to the stalemate that threatened regimes and state security. Various nations in the GCC, including KSA, the UAE and Bahrain cut its diplomatic relations with Qatar and restricted Qatar-registered ships and aircrafts from using their sea routes and airspace (Ryan). Nations blamed the Qatar News Agency for transmitting news that tarnished the reputation of Saudi Arabia while praising the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran that were threats to peace and security stability in the GCC and the larger Arab world (Ryan). Tribalism could be attributed to be a key contributor to the stalemate taking into account that people in the diverse parties belong to different tribes. Hence, the push could be partly due to tribal variations taking into account that ethnic groups sometimes have conflicting ideologies, especially when it entail crossing international borders.

The incident affirms that tribalism could be a national threat and could destabilize regimes without proper intervening frameworks. The government and security of Qatar as seen in the crisis was at stake and compelled the state to embrace a uniform structure that would safeguard leaders as well as the country (Sadiki and Layla). Embracing diverse mechanisms or treating the issues as requiring different attention would take much time and create further delay in mitigating the problem. In dealing with the matter, concerned parties chose to treat regime and state security as being the same to come up with long-lasting remedies. KSA, Kuwait and other GCC members in what appeared to be regime security approach entered into a joint deal to resolve the crisis (Sadiki and Layla). Under the pact, it was agreed that KSA would halt its blockade of Qatar ad reopen its borders. Failing to take quick measures to mitigate the crisis could aggravate the situation and could pose significant threats to security (Sadiki and Layla). For example, constrained economic activities between nations could expose Qatar to state security issues that could have more devastating effects. The tension could also prompt physical aggression with conflicting parties rising against each other to express their displeasure or retaliatory forms.

Relationship with Rentier Nations

Rentier nations usually comprise of oil-producing countries. Often, GCC and MENA countries form part of rentier states, but it also comprises of some nations in Latin America that are affiliates of OPEC. Gulf nations usually gain loyalty by offering their citizens with social and welfare benefits in rentier states. Such practices strengthen relations between countries and help to address disturbing issues without much difference. The continued interaction at the various levels have created the urge to develop similar structures aimed at mitigating concerns that affect the Arab nations (International Crisis Group). State leaders understand the interaction could cause security issues and know that leaders may face pressure to adopt certain leadership practices. Consequently, GCC nations have opted to embrace a common view towards mechanisms that would protect individual states and people as they continue to traverse national borders (International Crisis Group). State leaders and agencies pay attention to creating guidelines that safeguard national interests and bolster security rather than dwelling on different ideas that could cause more confusion and disruption. 

Allegiance to the Deauville Partnership

In addition, GCC nations do not create much difference between regime security and state security frameworks and instead feel that both forms play equal functions in promoting security and stability in the region. For instance, GCC nations abide by the provisions of the Deauville Partnership for Arab Countries in Transition as a collaborative forum that safeguard the position of existing leaders as well as protects nations from internal and external threats and violations (OECD 11). The Partnership was established in 2011 to support GCC nations embrace civil engagement, provide job opportunities, and practice good governance as some of the ways to prevent uprisings against existing governance. Over the years, the framework has offered a forum for collaboration in various dimensions. The program presents a platform for dialogue and engagement between Arab nations and stakeholders feel that the intervention framework that takes the form of both regime security and state security plan has bolstered security, stability, and economic growth in the various GCC countries (OECD 11). Members consider the Deauville Partnership to be more comprehensive, hence more impactful because of the oversight it enjoys from international organs such as the OECD and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries like Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, and Egypt. Stakeholders believe that the Partnership will become more influential moving into the future and will offer better guidelines for combating political, economic, and social issues (OECD 11). GCC while following the Deauville Partnership neither views it as a regime security or state security plan. Instead, states view it as a framework that helps to maintain existing governance and prevent insurgence.


Regime security and state security have some differences but they have almost the same meaning in the GCC. Regime security specifically entails forming ties with other like-minded nations to create protection over existing leadership and state structures against internal and external violation. State security, on the other hand, refers to the approaches states take to safeguard the country against internal and external infringement. GCC nations choose to consider both forms as being the same because they help to address some of the common concerns in the region. The GCC has in the recent past witnessed a series of unrests that threaten leadership structures as well as national security. Consequently, governments have opted to develop a similar perception to the emerging issues believing that taking a common approach would bring long-lasting remedies. The need to embrace a common view to regime and state security presented a better chance to end the GCC crisis that was caused by misunderstandings among countries with tribalism being a key facilitator of the misunderstanding. Examining the relationship with rentier nations further illustrates why GCC nations choose to consider regime and state security as being the same thing. In addition, the study explores how relations among rentier states help to deal with common challenges with common views towards regime and state security.

Works Cited

 “Active with MENA: The Middle East and North Africa.” OECD, 2021, Accessed 19 Feb. 2022.

Evron, Yair. “A Regional Security Regime in the Middle East.” Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture, vol. 11, no. 1, 2004,

Jackson, Richard. Regime Security. Chapter 12, pp. 161-175.

Ryan, Curtis. “Regime security and shifting alliances in the Middle East.” Project on Middle East Political Science, 2021, Accessed 19 Feb. 2022.

“The Middle East between Collective Security and Collective Breakdown.” International Crisis Group, April 27, 2020, Accessed 19 Feb. 2022.

Sadiki, Larbi and Layla Saleh. “The GCC in Crisis: Explorations of ‘Normlessness’ in Gulf Regionalism.” The International Spectator, vol. 55, no. 2, 2020, 1-16.

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