Stability of Gulf countries comes from within
Published: Jul 17, 2019 09:18 PM

A view of Dubai Photo: IC

Dubai's opening-up is behind the Emirate's prosperity, but long-lasting prosperity depends on enduring stability. Any visitor who stands on the 828-meter-tall Burj Khalifa - the tallest building in the world - and looks at the Strait of Hormuz is immediately forced to reckon the threats to the Gulf region's stability.

When you are in a Dubai shopping center watching people with different skin tones leisurely go about their life in this man-made world, it is hard to imagine that the Strait of Hormuz, which is not very far, is now the most dangerous place in the world.

If a war breaks out in the Gulf region, 20 percent of petroleum in the world will not be able to pass through the strategic water body that separates Iran from the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Lot of sea transportation will be cut off, which will severely impact the Eurasian trade line.

To a great extent, Dubai's success has been led by its opening-up. Besides, stability has ensured that the mecca of luxury and ostentation could carry on long-lasting opening-up without hindrance. This policy of Dubai is better than that adopted by other neighboring countries, which allows the Emirate to make the most of regional countries' conflicts to enhance its own position as a communication and trade pivot, and even as an important financial center of the world. 

For Chinese investors and visitors, Dubai is the most attractive place in the Middle East. Many Chinese companies regard Dubai as a springboard to Europe, Africa and of course the larger Middle East.

However, once war breaks out, the stability of Dubai will be seriously jeopardized. The surrounding areas will bear the brunt of the US-Iran conflict. Regions in turmoil can never win the favor of capitalists. Now, any entrepreneur who wants to put money in Dubai banks or who hopes to start up his own office in the glitzy modern towers will have to consider if it's a safe bet. 

With the White House cranking up sanctions, two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman in June, followed by the shooting down of a US military drone that Iran believed had entered its airspace, identified by Tehran as an RQ-4A Global Hawk. Although US President Donald Trump called off an airstrike on Iran at the last minute, people are increasingly worried that any minor error of judgment may trigger a war. 

Desisting from attacking Iran but keeping up the pressure may be Washington's strategic choice. But the longer it maintains such a strategy, the bigger the threat it will bring to regional stability. The stability and development of the entire region will eventually be hijacked by US strategy.  

Tensions in the Gulf region, like burning issues in other parts of the world, are caused by discord among countries and intervention by external powers. When major external powers interfere, the regional security situation is forced to kowtow. 

But regional stability can hardly be safeguarded by external forces. It ultimately depends on the coordination of regional stakeholders. Failure to build a stable foundation within the region will lead to distractions by external forces. The regional countries' own policies will thus be jettisoned. 

The Gulf countries' economic development shows that sustained stability has become their lifeline to prosperity. The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have been developing and increasingly integrating into the modern economy. In 2017, the UAE became the world's first and only country to appoint a minister of state for artificial intelligence. All this has created a policy trend in which the countries can be more active in building regional stability.

Washington's debilitating pressure on Iran indicates that it holds few cards in its hands. And due to a strong Iranian pushback, Washington's cards are not having the desired effect. Tightening the cord further may make it snap or at least lose elasticity.

Forces dominating the Middle East are changing. While US pressure has worsened regional tensions, it has also steeled the Gulf countries and other traditional powers, and offered them more opportunities to change the situation in the region.

The author is a senior editor with People's Daily, and a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn. Follow him on Twitter @dinggangchina