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The United Arab Emirates Foreign Policy Change In The Post 2011 Middle East: A Role Theory Approach

AL-KARBI, FATIMA,MABKHOUT,SALEM,AYE (2022) The United Arab Emirates Foreign Policy Change In The Post 2011 Middle East: A Role Theory Approach. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The United Arab Emirates’ foreign policy changed from a low-key policy that fits with small state standards to an active policy that is sometimes attributed to an interventionist player. Since the 2011 uprisings, the UAE emerged as a crucial regional player seeking influence over Middle Eastern affairs using an assertive discourse of regional leadership. This conduct of foreign policy illustrates role change alongside new identity affirmation. This dissertation examines the UAE as a heuristic case study to answer the following questions: (1) why do some small states pursue greater roles in foreign policy? (2) How do they conduct this change in foreign policy role? (3) What impact does this change have on their state’s identity? This dissertation attempts to complement existing research and literature on the UAE by examining its new regional approach since the 2011 uprisings, which has been studied scarcely. This dissertation intends to uncover how the UAE challenges existing theories of small states’ roles in the international system. It will explore why and how, despite being a small state, the UAE behaved like a great power in the Middle East. In this dissertation, I argue that the power vacuum caused by the fall of traditional Arab regimes following the 2011 uprisings led to structural changes, such as the rise of political Islam and liberal democratic sentiments that pressured political changes. The fall of Arab power centres, such as Egypt, led to the fragmentation of the region. This structural change endangered the UAE’s identity and its regional interests as a Gulf monarchy. This was considered a foreign policy dilemma that prompted the Emirati leadership to pursue external and internal changes while adopting new regional roles and embracing a new identity. These changes led to the transformation of this small state into an influential regional player and a competing actor. The disaggregation of the Arab order influenced the UAE to step in and take up a leading role to restore the previous status quo, and counter regional rivals such as state and non-state actors to secure its regional interests. The UAE’s behaviour showed that it no longer perceived itself as a small state that requires the protection of others, and was now affirming its status as a regional power that traditional regional, and international actors, can depend on and cooperate with to achieve regional security. This study employed interactionist role theory to interpret this change in the UAE’s foreign policy. Applying role theory would explain the UAE leadership’s agency, its foreign policy making, the role it played, and the identity it affirmed. This theoretical framework will be applied to three case studies: the UAE’s role in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. These three Arab states represent the manifestation of the UAE’s foreign policy change in which it affirmed itself as a capable military actor, reliable partner, anti-terrorist actor, and status-quo power.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:UAE foreign Policy, GCC Studies, International Relation of the Middle East, International Relation of Small States, Role Theory, Interactionist Role Theory
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Government and International Affairs, School of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:12 Dec 2022 16:06

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