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Restraint and alliance

The outcome of this identification was restraint in times of crisis. Sometimes this restraint meant not only non-aggression but also active cooperation and alliance. Both core ideas are explored by looking at foreign policy restraint (or escalation). While not a question explicitly asked by this book, its analysis also gave first hints to the answer of when non-war turns into solidarity.

The higher the perceived similarity between monarchies, the greater the trust, solidarity, and willingness to reach mutually acceptable nonviolent dispute resolutions. In harmonious times, there might not be any reason for provocation and escalation, regardless of regime type.

However, during crises, these mechanisms become more meaningfill, and here the discriminatory influence of ingroup identification is seen most clearly.

Whereas severe crises escalated into wars or militarized aggression against or between republics, monarchs attempted to de-escalate tensions inside the monarchic community. There was a consistent preference for cooperation over confrontation, unlike in republican or mixed dyads, a pattern seen across all case studies. Even in the tense times of the Qatar Crisis, monarchies - Oman, Kuwait, and Morocco - attempted to provide a mediating platform to solve the conflict between monarchies.

The most important finding in that regard was that confrontation rarely reached the threshold where use of force was even considered, much less deployed. In the rare cases that it was (the seven intra-monarchic MIDs in the region), the crises were quickly diffused before they could lead to war. While conflicts outside the ingroup might become existential and slide into war, a fam-ily-like community understands that conflicts can be mediated peacefully. After all, differences of opinion “even happen between brothers”, as Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of the UAE, said about his country’s relations with the Saudis in 1972 (cited in: Alkim 1989, 118). Being based on norms and identity, ingroup favoritism proved more robust. After all, not wanting to risk war is not as strong a deterrent as not wanting war at all.

The restraint went deeper than merely eschewing war initiation, as captured by the analysis of non-military restraint. Foreign policy decision makers in monarchies generally refrained from destabilizing the opponent’s regime, even though campaigns to destabilize the position of individual monarchs, like in the case of the former Qatari Emir, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, occasionally occurred. Even on the rhetorical level, threats of violence and rhetorical escalation by othering, demonization, or securitizing the conflict issue remained the exception, most remarkably during the confrontation between Bahrain and Qatar when Bahram rebuked its neighbor for breaking "family norms of behavior” without othering it or stripping it of the shared identity. Communication lines were practically always upheld - though sometimes, boycotts of meetings were employed to signal disagreement. Although the feedback loop could not be adequately captured by the theoretical framework, foreign policy restraint during crises in turn clearly led to stronger bonds in post-conflict periods - just as strong bonds in "normal” periods fostered restraint in crisis, creating a feedback loop.

Apart from eschewing military conflict, in some periods, a more demanding norm of intra-monarchic interaction was activated, leading to active mutual support (or solidarity) and long-term alliance and solidarity, which sometimes even transformed into attempts to institutionalize interstate bonds. The most successful of these attempts resulted in the creation of the GCC, although the union between the Hashemite sister kingdoms of Jordan and Iraq was another, albeit short-lived, instance. As a form of positive ingroup favoritism (in contrast to “negative” nonwar), alliance and solidarity are more-demanding and more-costly norms than mere restraint is and therefore not always observable.

Mutual support or intra-monarchic solidarity was activated mostly under two conditions: in the presence of a common threat (like the pan-Arabist revolutionary republics during the 1950s and 1960s) and among especially close and especially similar monarchies, such as the GCC states. When particularly close and similar monarchies formalized existing alliance bonds, they could even lead to their institutionalization in formal intergovernmental organizations. It remains to be seen after the Qatar Crisis if the absence of a common threat might also drive the dissolution of such institutions, but so far, there is no hint that it does. Although Qatar left the Yemen War coalition and OPEC, there was never any suggestion of it leaving the GCC.

However, there were some contradictory findings whether alliance is triggered only by a common threat or also comes about without it, such as in the case of pre-existing groupings based on entrenched and enduring patterns of similarity and proximity. For instance, alliance and solidarity were more pronounced in the Bahraini-Qatari case even in periods without a strong mutual threat - but were propelled to salience during the period of the Arab Cold War, where the common threat was strong. Monarchic alliances were not as pronounced at the beginning of the formation of an ingroup or between highly dissimilar monarchies as in the Iran-UAE case or throughout the early period of the Saudi-Hashemite relations.

Similar caveats apply to the institutionalization of alliance, as seen most visibly with the GCC and the AFU between the Hashemite kingdoms of Jordan and Iraq. Institutionalization attempts failed in cases when no additional kinship or ethnic bonds existed - like the Gulf Security Pact propagated by the shah. This pattern may have also frozen any plans for extending GCC membership to Jordan and Morocco so far.

The findings thus illustrate how identity' can forge and cement alliances that go beyond ad hoc coalitions that are based on “material” interest-based politics and deterrence. Alliances shaped by identity are more durable than ad hoc coalitions driven by common interests are. While a common threat might induce both, ad hoc coalitions break down when interests start to diverge again. In contrast, monarchic ingroup identification remains largely intact even after the departure of an immediate threat. Without such a sense of shared identity, Iraq felt free to attack Kuwait, previously joined into an ad hoc coalition with it against Iran. In contrast, the end of the Arab Cold War did not herald the end of intense and special monarchic relations (and joint peacefulness), although the level of mutual support decreased significantly. The alliance within the GCC persisted even when Bahrain and Qatar were at odds over the Hawar Islands conflict. Even Iran and the Gulf monarchies continued to ally despite the shah's seizure of islands claimed by UAE emirates.

The analysis strongly suggests that monarchic restraint is indeed dyadic and that there is no general monarchic peacefulness, based on the comparison with monarchic behavior toward republics provided by the case studies: subversion campaigns aimed at regime change, assassinations or support of militant groups are measures reserved against hostile republics. These measures were deployed by Saudi Arabia and Jordan against Egypt, Syria, and Iraq in the 1950s and 1960s, and the same policies were adopted by republics against each other or against monarchies, like the Iranian campaign against the GCC states in the 1980s or the Syrian campaign against Iraq in the 1970s. In addition, monarchies did not hesitate to even deploy military measures against republics, most prominently during the Gulf War of 1990/1991. The same systematic cooperation preference that could be found among monarchies had no effect on monarchy-republic interactions wherever political interests diverged. Despite strong disagreements among the dynasties, the spectrum of acceptable and legitimate behavior among monarchies was different from those toward republics like Egypt and Syria. Once states changed their regime, this pattern changed accordingly, as demonstrated by the two case studies of “quasi-experiments”. Two sets of standards were valid for conflict resolution with monarchies on the one hand and conflict resolution involving republics on the other. This supports the constructivist SIT interpretation rather than an institutionalist one.

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