The monarchic alliance (1971-1979): monarchic solutions to territorial conflicts and the limits of the monarchic peace
Perhaps the most concise description of the particularities of the short but memorable monarchic period is provided by Ahmadi:
This period began with the Iranian government moderating its policy and seeking rapprochement with other Gulf states from early 1972. Strengthening this approach between 1974 and 1979, Iran succeeded in systematically mending fences with conservative Gulf states. It supported Kuwait during its periods of tension with Iraq, enhanced cooperation with Bahrain, provided aid to the United Arab Emirates, and Dubai in particular, gave military support to Oman in suppressing the Dhofar rebellion, helped North Yemen replace its Soviet arms and furnished arms to Somalia. Iran also signed an agreement with Oman in December 1977 providing for joint patrol of the Strait of Hormuz (the key channels of which are in Omani waters).
(Ahmadi 2008, 111)
Great inequalities of size, power, history, and culture hampered the development of a fully developed ingroup identification or a "West Asian community” (Adib-Moghaddam 2006, 129), but numerous scholars acknowledge the unifying force of political system similarity. Hellyer explains the comparatively weak ties with Iraq vis-à-vis other Gulf states with "the radically different nature of the Iraqi political system” (Hellyer 2001, 168). Ahmadi draws attention to the relatively harmonic monarchic period:
the Arab Persian Gulf sheikhs and monarchs continued to feel more comfortable with Iran throughout the 1970s. They regarded Iran as a conservative, status quo-oriented power, and preferred it over Iraq's revolutionary and ideological regime.
(Ahmadi 2008, 110)
Apart from major conflicts of interests, the differences between the two countries were vast and the basis for ingroup identification therefore especially weak. Iran was an ethnically Persian and denominationally Shiite state, whereas the territories of the Trucial Coast were Arab and mostly Sunni. Their political systems, albeit monarchic, also differed significantly - Iran's more-than-bimillennial history of statehood and empire, its elaborate bureaucracy, and its political institutions stood in sharp contrast to the tribally based federation of seven distinct tiny emirates that started to develop modern state institutions only after the British arrival and consolidated them with income from oil exports that did not arrive until well into the 20th century (although both were rentier states, albeit to various degrees). Whereas Iran is a classic linchpin monarchy where the monarch is the pivotal point of the system balancing different institutions and societal groups (Lucas 2004), the UAE is a typical dynastic monarchy where not the monarch alone but rather the family forms the main focal group and ruling institution of the state (Herb 1999).15
Salience: constraints and catalysts to ingroup identification
The salience of monarchism before the 1979 revolution was high due to threats from external powers, coups and revolutions, and the minority status of monarchies, although it did not reach the peaks of the period of the Arab Cold War.
Although the Gulf states’ independence bolstered the numbers of monarchies, they remained a (large) minority, with nine (the Gulf monarchies, Jordan, Morocco, and Iran) out of 19, i.e. 47%, in contrast to the previous five (Jordan, Morocco, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait) out of 15, i.e. 33%. The Iranian Revolution in 1979 was the last time a monarchy in the Middle East was overthrown and replaced by a republic. Four such regime changes had already taken place in the region before (1952, 1958, 1962, and 1969), the last one just two years before the small Gulf monarchies' independence.
During the rule of Shah Reza Pahlavi. Iranian interests and worldviews largely overlapped with its monarchic Arab neighbors because they were conservative status quo powers. They were all threatened by and opposed to radical Arab nationalism, especially by Iraq abroad and internally by opposition actors. They all favored an intimate relationship with Western powers, especially the United States, and opposed Soviet influence; they were all interested in oil price and transport security and tried not to get too involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Combined with Washington's Twin Pillars policy that relied on Iran and Saudi Arabia as the two guarantors of regional stability, many expected the emergence of joint Gulf security in the 1970s.
The relationships between the hereditary rulers of the Gulf were boosted by past changes in the monarchic community: before the revolution of 1979, another monarchic breakdown profoundly shaped the regional dynamics, the coup of 1958, whose effects are poignantly described by Halliday:
Prior to the Iraqi revolution of 1958, Iran and Iraq, as two monarchies formed after World War I, enjoyed reasonably co-operative relations, even if there remained the issue of the territorial dispute between them, concerning the division of the Shatt al-Arab.... At that time a combination of shared monarchical political system and British influence in Iraq kept conflict under control. The Iraqi revolution of July 1958 destroyed all that: the two countries then found themselves involved in competitive interference in each other's internal affairs.
Although the peak of republic-monarchy tensions abated with the fading of the Arab Cold War, they did not cease completely. The radical republican threat was still active in Iraq, which contributed to forging a zone of peace crossing Arab-Persian boundaries during the era of the shah: "between 1972 and 1978, Iraq's support of various radical movements in the Gulf led Saudi Arabia and Iran to co-operate in supporting the growth and stability of the UAE” (Cordes-man 1984,419).
Inside the "club of monarchies”, there was no full-fledged divisive ideology per se, but some currents within the larger members' outlook, and especially Iran, induced tensions. Iranian dominance often proved problematic and divisive given that “Iran-UAE relations largely follow the pattern of relations between a large regional power and a smaller neighbor” (Gargash 1996,151). At the time, the region was dominated by Iran. The shah followed a dual strategy of carrots and sticks. He threatened the small emirates to deter them from allying with another power and extended support to develop special relationships with some rulers of the emirates such as Shaikh Rashid of Dubai (Alkim 1989, 138). The shah's hegemonic aims were bolstered by notions of Persian supremacy, down to the renaming of the country from Persia to Iran, relinking it to its "Aryan” heritage. Adib-Moghaddam emphasized this as a main stumbling block for the formation of community in the Gulf:
The brand of Iranian nationalism espoused by the shah, and more specifically, the reification of the insidious, metaphysical mendacity of racially coded Iranian supremacy, not only widened the gulf between the state elites of the region, it inhibited the formal translation of communitarian norms into a functioning security architecture.
(Adib-Moghaddam 2006, 18)16
Saudi Arabia’s behavior toward its smaller Arab neighbors was often similar, but without an equivalent for Persian supremacism. Among the open territorial claims to almost every single one of its neighbors' territory was also a territorial dispute with the UAE regarding the Buraimi oasis. Even while trying to claim territory from the Trucial Coast states, it supported regional stability and federation formation (of a broader federation that included Bahrain and Qatar as well as the seven emirates that would make up the UAE) before their independence and yet withheld recognition once the federation was announced (Alkim 1989, 115-116). Although the kingdom’s policies could be interpreted as hegemonic or domineering, they were not inherently ideological. The dispute was declared resolved in 1975.
Social processes of ingroup identification
As Ahmadi notes, the bond between the Arab and Iranian monarchies was due to mutual interest and a shared worldview and joint identification:
While the opposition of the Arab radicals to the Pahlavi regime was categorical, the Arab moderates and conservatives identified themselves with imperial
Iran's general game plan, executive strategies and strategic outlook, although they were never fully convinced of the innocence of the shah’s regional aims.
(Ahmadi 2008, 133)
Despite earlier repeated threats to withhold recognition, Iran recognized the UAE two days after its declaration of independence (four days after the islands' occupation), although the establishment of diplomatic relations took almost another year. Relations were cool in the beginning, with the strongest partners being Dubai and Sharjah, but bilateral contacts slowly intensified. President of the Federation Zayed Al Nahyan visited the shah in 1975, signaling the normalizing of relations (Alkim 1989, 140; Gargash 1996, 150). Strong personal relations with rulers of the shaikhdoms of the Arabian Peninsula were generally essential for the shah, who frequently invited them for vacations and hunting trips (Alvandi 2010. 161). They continued in the 1970s, despite the islands dispute.
While reciprocal recognition is usually the first necessary step toward joint identification, in this case it is doubtful that the threat of withholding was directed against the institutions of the emirs or a federal monarchy per se. To the contrary, the shah’s vision entailed stable conservative monarchical entities. Even before the recognition, he emphasized that he favored independence for the Trucial Coast. The point of contention was the shape of the polity, not its existence. He saw the emirates as disparate and inexperienced, making them unstable and prone to revolution or coups. For him, an alternative solution consisted in independent statehood for the larger and more viable emirates, such as Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai, and Qatar and Omani protection for the rest of the territory (Agwani 1978, 114; Alkim 1989, 139). The initial Iranian rejection of UAE sovereignty thus lay in the weakness and instability of their entity, making it unlikely to be stable enough to become a strong monarchy worthy of recognition - not in hostility or power rivalry.
Although Iran was usually considered too "foreign”17 to be seen as a brother,18 the Gulf monarchies saw it as a friendly state. Apart from references to a shared monarchic-conservative worldview, ceremonies involving monarchic protocol were notable occasions to forge and signal royal bonds.
Notable examples that emphasized the monarchical element were the festivities in Persepolis in October 1971, marking the 2500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian monarchy by Cyrus the Great. At the festivities, mere weeks before the Trucial states’ independence, the heads of states of many countries were invited and present. Especially royals - European, Asian, and African - were abundantly present, including an emperor of Ethiopia (Haile Selassie), nine kings, three ruling princes, two crown princes, two sultans, and ten sheiks (including the four amirs of the Western Gulf - of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Zayed Al Nahyan of the Trucial states). Although republics were already the vast majority of political systems at the time, there were “only” three prime ministers, 12 presidents, two vice presidents, and a cardinal present (Stevenson 2008, 22).
Royalty were further distinguished from other guests by the protocol that gave them priority of entrance and seating, due to their permanence, resulting in two
From monarchy to republic 185 queues at the welcoming procedure: one for the monarchs and one for "lesser mortals” (i.e. presidents and prime ministers) in the words of the attending Iranian diplomat Bijan Dolatabadi (Amini 2016). Particularly visible were Middle Eastern monarchs and their relatives. King Hussein of Jordan arrived with his wife and his younger sister; the emirs of Oman. Kuwait, and Bahrain and Prince Abdul Vali Khan, the uncle of the king of Afghanistan, were also present. King Hassan II of Morocco sent his brother (Royal Events 2002).
The Persepolis celebrations offered a unique opportunity for the leaders of the world and especially the monarchs to come together in a less than formal atmosphere. Outside of the regular program, they could visit each other in their respective tents, which fostered personal networks of mutual trust. At least some monarchs seized the opportunity: Sultan Qaboos of Oman met King Hussein of Jordan and Prince Nawaf bin Abdalaziz of Saudi Arabia there for the first time and had his first discussions with the shah, with whom he arrived at a consensus on numerous regional issues (including negative opinions on Abu Dhabi, the Iraqis, and the Palestinians). The Iranian and Jordanian kings offered assistance to Qaboos, and he accepted an offer of "three good officers” from Jordan, pledging S2 million in return (Takriti 2016,226). The Persepolis celebrations thus served to reify monarchic bonds by distinguishing royals from other rulers and providing opportunities for personal contact and relations, which in some cases transfonned into tangible support and solidarity.
The shah prioritized regional stability and was thus keen on settling the islands issue peacefully, so he attempted to frame the conflict as a confrontation with colonial Britain, not one with the emerging UAE. During the rule of the shah. Iran adhered to its agreement with Sharjah on Abu Musa and began violating provisions only after the revolution and especially during the Iran-Iraq War.
Foreign policy restraint
Although strictly speaking the occupation of the islands is outside the time scope, because the UAE was not yet independent, it is recounted here because of its impact on funire relations between Iran and the UAE. No MID has been recorded between the dyad (or any other Iran-Arab monarchy dyad) in this period (Ghosn. Palmer, and Bremer 2004).
On November 30, 1971, the day before the British withdrawal from the Gulf and two days before the announcement of the UAE’s independence, Iran occupied the islands (Mobley 2003, 627). While Iranian troops arrived in Abu Musa with Sharjah’s cooperation and were accompanied by a representative of Sharjah, the shaikh's brother and heir apparent,19 their arrival on Greater Tunb was met with resistance (Alvandi 2010, 176). A skirmish led to seven deaths - four Ras al-Kliaimah police officers and three Iranian soldiers (Alkim 1989, 143). This was probably unintended given that the occupying Iranians were instructed not to open fire and first shots came from Arab resistance, which killed the three Iranian marines and injured another (Metz 1994). All inhabitants were evacuated to Ras al-Kliaimah, and rioting in both affected emirates ensued despite Shaikh Khalid of Sharjah’s acquiescence to the agreement (Mobley 2003, 643).
Despite Iran's territorial claims, the handling of the conflict was remarkably civil, with little to no escalation and provocations. Since the UAE's independence, there has been no significant delegitimization attempts and no subversion between Iran and the UAE and the Arab Gulf states in general. The khaleeji reaction to Iranian occupation was highly restrained.
Fourteen months of British mediation attempts under the deadline of their withdrawal had brought successful conflict resolution between Iran and Sharjah between the shah and Shaikh Khalid regarding Abu Musa. In the case regarding the Tunbs, it failed because Ras al-Khaimah’s ruler Shaikh Saqr was less amenable to an agreement with Iran (Mobley 2003, 627).
UAE declared independence on December 2, 1971, after Bahrain and Qatar had already done so in September. Both the Arab League and the UN addressed the islands question (Mobley 2003,643), but the shah’s abandonment of his claim on Bahrain muted reaction in the Arab world. Only Arab nationalist Iraq severed relations (Alvandi 2010,177). An Arab League emissary concluded that local rulers were in favor of diplomatic solutions. Despite the tensions, Ras al-Khaimah was still open about the possibility of leasing the islands to Iran, but Tehran had lost interest. In a December 9 session of the UN Security Council, delegates of the republican states of South Yemen. Libya, Iraq, and Algeria declared that the invasion violated the UN Charter and that the agreement between Sharjah and Iran over Abu Musa must be annulled, because it was concluded under duress. No resolution was adopted (Mobley 2003, 643-644).
A joint Arab letter was signed on July 18, 1972, and sent to the UN to protest against the occupation and declare the islands Arab. Not every Arab country signed, however, and the monarchies were split. Morocco, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and the UAE signed, along with the radical states, but Jordan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia (along with non-Arab North Korea and Somalia) abstained. Although hardly a united effort, the letter was to be the last joint Arab action before the revolution (Ahmadi 2008, 102-103).
Despite the immense impediments in Arab-Iranian relations, the monarchies cooperated with one another even on the eve of occupation. Saudi Arabia only reluctantly criticized the hostile Iranian action. At first, it merely expressed sorrow but refrained from condemning it, instead expressing surprise and regret at the incident. Ahmadi describes it thus: “Saudi Arabia, as a conservative and pro-Western state, indicated only its dissatisfaction with the Iranian move and did not even directly urge an Iranian pullout” (Ahmadi 2008, 110). Saudi Arabia also did not participate at the Arab League crisis council on December 6 and did not request participation at the UN SC session three days later (Sirriyeh 1984, 85). Kuwait enjoyed friendly relations with the shah, who was also seen as a bulwark against Iraq, which had in the past often threatened the statelet militarily and was thus reluctant to criticize the occupation (Assiri 1990, 64).
The UAE itself was slow to reply. On December 5, President Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan condemned "the aggression by a neighbouring and friendly state” -eschewing family rhetoric but affirming friendship - and stated that “we are awaiting the Arab states’ concrete support to assist us in regaining our rights”, but it was not followed by more-concrete actions (Alkim 1989, 144). And even this appeal for support seemed more rhetorical than sincere, given the UAE’s rejection of Libya’s “concrete support” offer to send troops (Ahmadi 2008, 102). This was hardly surprising given the vastly differing viewpoints and approaches among the emirates themselves.
The lone exception amid the tepid Arab Gulf reaction was Ras al-Khaimah, the last emirate to join the union in 1972, for reasons mainly connected to the Iranian question. Initially, Ras al-Khaimah refused to join the UAE. in protest of its passivity in light of the occupation (Gause 2010,24), but its later application was rejected, in part because of its more radical stance on Iran (and its ambitions vis-à-vis its future position and power in the federation) (cf. Ahmadi 2008,95-96). The emirate agreed to join theunion in December 10 if, among others, the UAE would "liberate the three islands from Iranian occupation by armed force” (cited in: Alkim 1989,47).
This stance was rooted in the actual occupation as much as in personal traits of the ruling Shaikh Saqr, who was sometimes also jestingly referred to as “the Napoleon of the Gulf’ or "Bonaparte of the Trucial Coast”. Saqr had a reputation of contrarianism besides the islands issue. Among the most notable disagreements with other Emirati shaikhs were his informal claims to neighboring Sharjah, legitimized by it being a part of a larger Qawasim state;20 his reluctant support for the UAE before the 1979 revolution; and his unilateral decision to invite Soviet military technicians to Ras al-Khaimah (Ahmadi 2008, 97).
Saqr’s foreign policy decisions did not show any acceptance for sovereignty or territorial integrity norms among states, regardless of the closeness of relations. He laid claim not only to the Tunbs and Sharjah but also to Omani territory and offshore rights, which in November 1977 resulted into an armed confrontation between the two countries "that ended like ‘a comic opera' when the large number of Omanis in Shaikh Saqr’s forces refused to fight Oman's forces” (Ahmadi 2008, 98). This attempt to seize part of Oman won Ras al-Khaimah' the Soviet Union’s support (Foley 1999). To add insult to injury, UAE president and emir of Abu Dhabi Zayed Al Nahyan backed Oman in the dispute, which exposed the UAE’s vulnerability to pressure from Oman and led to continued tension between Shaikh Saqr and other members of the UAE (Ahmadi 2008, 98).
Ras al-Khaimah's practically sole close supporter was republican Iraq, whose relations to Iran had deteriorated massively after the revolution in 1958. Early on, Iraq pushed the UAE to press the matter of returning the islands to their Arab owners, but with little effect (Alkim 1989, 53).
In the case of the Iranian move on the islands, both monarchies and republics flocked with birds of the same feather, and ideology rooted in the different political systems trumped geographic proximity and personal concemedness. The delegitimization and subversion of Iran and the UAE came mainly from republics, not each other. The "radical” Arab countries reacted much more vigorously, despite their greater distance, first by calling for immediate Iranian withdrawal, then with more robust calls and actions. Libya offered military support and prepared troops to move to the Gulf, while Iraq deported about 120,000 purported "Iranians” over the turn of the year 1971/1972 (Ahmadi 2008, 102).
Iraq was also the only country to continuously put the islands issue on the public agenda (at least until the Algiers Accord of 1975). This was not done out of solidarity with a politically and militarily weak UAE; to the contrary, Iraq even pressured the Emirates into a more confrontational stance while withholding formal recognition of the new state (Ahmadi 2008, 107). Iraq also began equating "Persian nationalism” with Zionism and imperialism, two mortal enemies of the Arab nation in its worldview (Ahmadi 2008, 102).
After a coup attempt in Sharjah in 1972 that killed the compliant Shaikh Khalid, who had agreed to the MoU on Abu Musa, the emirate accused Iraq of support and providing an arms shipment. Khalid was replaced by his brother Sultan bin Muhammad, who affirmed his adherence to the MoU but stated his intention to come to a new understanding with the shah. Somewhat ironically, the crisis led Iraq to heighten its pressure on Kuwait to cede the islands of Warba and Bubiyan to Iraq, which had already risen in the late 1960s, due to its tensions with Iran. In April 1973, Iraq's foreign minister stated that without these islands, Iraq could not become a Gulf power, and its cession was therefore necessary for a border delimitation. Riyadh and Tehran together pressured and appeased Baghdad, and Kuwait offered large payments (Ahmadi 2008, 108, 110).
In the 1970s, Iran moved closer to other Arab states and especially monarchies and even provided protection, as if the islands dispute never existed. Despite strong ingroup solidarity, the divisions between Iran and the Arab Gulf monarchies were too strong to successfully institutionalize the alignment in the Iran-led Gulf Security Pact. Nevertheless, mutual support was strong: security guarantees, pressure, and financial incentives from both the Arab states and Iran are said to have deterred Iraq from attacking Kuwait in 1973 (Adib-Moghaddam 2006, 15; Ahmadi 2008, 110).
Because revolutionary Iraq was the more immediate threat, the other Arab monarchies gave only token support to Ras al-Khaimah in its dispute with Iran in late 1971. Abu Dhabi, the largest and most influential emirate in the federation, wanted to counterbalance the Saudis, with whom it had a territorial dispute until 1974, via good relations with Iran and Oman and thus opposed Shaikh Saqr's adventures. Sharjah, the other affected emirate, had already settled for part of Abu Musa and was keen to not jeopardize the oil rent and Iranian financial assistance. At the opposite end of the spectrum of necessary means in the islands question across Ras al-Khaimah was pro-Iranian Dubai, with its intensive trade and historical relations with Iran. The ties were so resilient that Dubai sided with Iran even in the border dispute. In 1976, Iran and the UAE signed an agreement of economic cooperation 1976, of which Dubai was the prime beneficiary (Alkim 1989, 53, 152-154).
The commercial sector was a main driver of cooperation between the two states, but bilateral relations expanded in general in the 1970s, despite the invasion (Hellyer 2001, 170). The UAE in general preferred good relations with Iran, despite the seizing of the islands, because of its vulnerability toward Saudi Arabia (the border issue between Abu Dhabi and the kingdom had not yet been settled) and because of the power vacuum left by the British withdrawal, especially given the
From monarchy to republic 189 ongoing Dhofar rebellion and the Marxist regime in South Yemen. This made the shah suitable as protector of the "conservative status quo” (cf. Gargash 1996, 149).
In January 1975, Iran extended its naval presence in Oman under an agreement for joint naval operations in the crucial Strait of Hormuz. According to the Iranian foreign ministry, 3000 troops were deployed to Oman to help against the Dhofar insurgency, and the Omani military announced that Iran had guaranteed air support against foreign intrusion into Oman's airspace on February 2, 1975, as requested. The Omani minister of state for foreign affairs, Qais Abd al-Moneim al-Zawawi, said that Iran would have the major responsibility for implementing the agreement, which was aimed at keeping the waters on both sides of the strait "secure and free”. He denied that the operations were a threat to Iraq. This bolsters the interpretation that the Iranian military buildup at the time was perceived as a relief more than a threat by the littoral states (Ahmadi 2008, 112), indicating a high degree of trust. Following the revolution, Iranian troops and military guarantees to Oman were removed (Halliday 1980, 13).
Ingroup identification led the shah to believe the time was a ripe for a joint regional security cooperation framework, and he proposed the Gulf Security Pact, which he tried to make palatable to the Gulf states. The pact would have posed an alternative to the later GCC and would have included Iran (while excluding republican Iraq). Although it ultimately failed, there was some level of support among the smaller Gulf states for a joint security arrangement. Apart from Iraq, the most critical Gulf state was Saudi Arabia as it ran counter to its own ambitions of regional hegemony over the smaller states - although its level of support and opposition varied (cf. Gause 2010, 39).
The pact was officially directed “against outside interference” but in reality most likely against internal threats, combining the monarchies in a framework based on their shared threat of regime overthrow and coup d’état that forged their identity and worldview (Halliday 1980, 10). On the shah's first visit to Saudi Arabia in March 1957, he proposed his vision for a bilateral defense pact but was rebuffed because Saudi Arabia feared entrapment into the controversial Baghdad Pact that ultimately was put to rest by the breakdown of the Iraqi monarchy. After the Six-Day War in 1967 dealt a heavy blow to radical Arab nationalism. King Faisal proclaimed during visit to Tehran in December that "now is the time for more cooperation and coordination between the two countries”. One result was the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, founded in 1969. The shah reiterated his proposal of a Gulf collective security pact after his visit to the desert kingdom after Faisal’s death in April 1975. The Saudis signaled interest but stayed noncommittal (Ansari 1999, 857-859).
During November 25-26, 1976, all littoral states met for the first time on the foreign-ministerial level at the Muscat conference. The proposals presented there included Iranian-style cooperation projects and Iraqi-inspired denials of any necessity for collective projects (Ansari 1999, 859). Iran proposed a unified military under joint command. The Muscat conferences’ failure to reach a conclusion was a setback for the shah, and Iranian press blamed Iraq and foreign powers for it - but not the monarchies (Parveen 2006, 114, 53). Despite the setbacks, theshah did not abandon his idea and instead kept bringing it up on various occasions and official visits to the Arab monarchies. In May and June 1978, talks were held between Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, but any possible consensus was undercut by the revolution in Iran in February 1979, which put an end to all of these efforts (Ansari 1999, 860).
The pact failed in part because the small Arab monarchies were still distrustful of the shah and his hegemonic ambitions in the Gulf, despite his insistence that Iranian policy did not constitute a “big brother attitude” (Parveen 2006, 54). However, the smaller Gulf states' lukewarm reactions extended equally to similar Saudi proposals for unity and thus cannot be reduced to mistrust of Persian Iran alone. After he succeeded his half-brother Faisal after the latter’s assassination in March 1975, King Khalid became the first Saudi monarch to visit the Gulf states during March-April 1976 and used the occasion to advertise a Saudi alternative, which consisted of numerous bilateral agreements on internal security cooperation. Kuwait and Oman “politely demurred” from the proposal in fall 1976, to form an organization for internal security cooperation that would consist exclusively of Arab monarchies, thereby excluding republican Iraq and Persian Iran, both special allies of the two small monarchies (Gause 2010, 39-40). After the Saudi-Emirati border issue was settled in 1974, the UAE also reacted more coolly to Iranian advances regarding the security pact (Gargash 1996, 150).
Certainly, at that time, the obstacles were too great for a full-fledged security community to form: the small Gulf states had just begun to develop into nationstates with their own national identity (let alone a cross-national joint identity), and the regional system was still adapting to the entries and exits of previous years and decades. It remained a "rump international society” (Adib-Moghaddam 2006, 15). Nonetheless, the long process of negotiations showed the first signs of the transformation of cooperation and coordination out of a short-term convergence of interest into a longer-term identification with common goals and each other.
Ingroup identification in the monarchic period
The developments in this period show that despite the salience of the Arab-Persian cleavage, in critical situations, regime type trumped ethnicity. In both countries, the political leadership identified more with conservative monarchic interests than with Arab or Persian nationalist causes and ideas. Iran and the UAE shared many similarities, although not as many as, for example, Iraq and Kuwait in the previous case. In addition, while not a full-fledged ideology, Iran's “Persian supremacy” and dominating role in the Gulf had a divisive effect on the group, making it harder for ingroup identification to arise. Consequently, there are fewer (albeit still notable) indications for the development and affirmation of such a sense of monarchic solidarity. The resulting sense of proximity was fostered by the shared threat from revolutionary republicanism, resulting in a remarkable level of restraint even during conflict periods.
Despite the military and political superiority position of Iran (especially after the departure of the British), Tehran attempted to pursue negotiations instead of a policy of confrontation. This resulted in a diplomatic agreement in the case of Abu Musa and. more importantly, in the abandonment of Iran's territorial claim to Bahrain. As a consequence, the capture of the Greater and Lesser Tunb did not result in a major escalation. Because the UAE was not yet an independent state, it was not an "equal” and was more likely to be perceived as “fair game”, which contributed to a more muted reaction.21 However, the first signs of recognition and symbolic “club membership” association were already present throughout this period, including frequent visits by high-ranking officials; festivals celebrating joint club membership, such as the Persepolis festivities; and the quick recognition of independence of the UAE.
This short period between the British withdrawal from the Persian Gulf, the Tm-cial Coast states' independence in late 1971, and the fall of the Iranian monarchy in early 1979 was "the most stable in the recent history of the Gulf’ (Gause 2010,42). Interstate disputes over the domestic bases of political legitimacy among the regional states were muted at first and nonexistent later on in this period. Instead, the monarchies shared a core interest that ensured regional peace: regime stability. Overall, there was a high level of agreement over the domestic legitimacy base, because it was essentially the same - monarchic, threatened by the republican current sweeping the region. As long as there was a shah in power in Iran and not a president (or a “Supreme Leader”), there was a strong sense of monarchic solidarity despite the divisive power of Arab and Persian nationalism (cf. Adib-Moghaddam 2006.18-21).
This dynamic turned completely in the post-revolutionary period. Although material capabilities and regional hegemonic ambition remained largely constant, it was the perception of similarity that had changed: "The shah’s power was not a threat to regime stability in the Arab monarchies; it provided support” (Gause 2010, 43).