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[ 121 ] CHAPTER SIX Formal sovereignty and continuing collaboration, 1972 This chapter will examine the consequences of the British withdrawal from the Persian Gulf and the emergence of Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE. The impact of decolonisation in international relations has not been analysed in sufficient depth. Mohammed Ayoob explores the issue in relation to the security dimensions of the Third World. He argues that ‘imperial powers bequeathed to their postcolonial successor regimes territorial entities that were composed of distinct … ethnic groups or … divided previously homogenous ethnic communities’ into different states through a ‘cavalier construction of colonial borders’. Consequently, these postcolonial states ‘found themselves facing challenges of either a secessionist or an irredentist character’ after independence. Leaving aside his dubious conception of a ‘homogenous ethnic community’, one has only to think about the Basque region in Spain, Ireland or Scotland to question whether such a problem is in fact unique to the Third World. Most critically, he fails to make a clear distinction between four different issues:1 (1) A resumption, or a continuation, of the issues that had existed prior to the arrival of the imperial power; (2) The issues that were brought in by, or created through contact with, the imperial power; (3) The issues that were created or exacerbated by the modality of the way in which the imperial power departed; and (4) The issues created by a larger force of modernity or modernisation. Making an analytical distinction between these interconnected issues helps us understand what is often called the ‘legacy of imperialism’. Partly owing to the sense of guilt in the former metropole, or the insecurity of the postcolonial states, imperial powers are often condemned not only for their own conduct (2) but also for problems already ­ existing SATO 9780719099687 PRINT.indd 121 04/12/2015 08:53 BRITAIN AND THE FORMATION OF THE GULF STATES [ 122 ] at the time of their expansion into foreign territories (1), or that had been created by the way in which they left (3), or that were going to happen sooner or later regardless of the imperial presence, as long as the region concerned was going to experience modernisation (4). For example, there had been various rival groups in the Persian Gulf before Britain established a foothold in the region in the nineteenth century (1). The treaty relations with Britain institutionalised some of those divisions (2), and subsequently some groups were marginalised when the three states achieved full independence in 1971 (3). However, irrespective of British presence or withdrawal, sooner or later the polities in the region had to choose between becoming sovereign states or being absorbed by existing ones. This was simply the process of, and reflection on, the modernisation of international relations. It was a global phenomenon, even though it carried a strong European colour (4). Other examples could be found in debates over ‘ethnic’, economic and other problems, but this chapter will focus on the issue of external sovereignty. Further to this point, this chapter will critically re-examine the existing understanding of the relationship between decolonisation and the norm of self-determination. Mikulas Fabry asserts that ‘for the last 200 years, recognition of new states has been tied to the idea of selfdetermination of peoples. In fact, recognition and self-determination have been … two sides of the same coin.’2 This line of argument suggests that the idea of self-determination significantly contributed to the new states being recognised as fully sovereign states. This chapter will ask if the norm did indeed play a pivotal role in the new states in the Gulf. Another point of reference will be the argument put forward by Wm. Roger Louis and Ronald Robinson on the persistence of imperial sway. They contend that decolonisation did not demolish imperial associations but merely translated them into a less conspicuous guise. This idea was advanced with an emphasis on the co-option of nationalist movements by the Anglo-American alliance. This chapter will build upon Louis and Robinson’s argument by illuminating the centrality of sovereignty throughout the whole process.3 Whereas they fixed their attention on the players of the game, this chapter will look into the rules. After all, while the players alter over time, the rules tend to endure. These points will be explored with a focus on the 1970s. This is partly because most government sources of the 1980s onwards remain classified. Another consideration is that the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1978/79 fundamentally altered the regional dynamics of...


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