Repression and Learning Across Borders: Cross-Policing between the Arab Monarchies

By Sean Yom
Submitted to Session P5019 (Protest, Repression, and Cooptation Before and After the Arab Uprisings, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Arab States;
The 2011-12 Arab Spring operated through democratic diffusion, as waves of popular mobilization against authoritarianism spread across borders. This paper engages the opposite side of the story – how the region’s eight monarchies (Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Oman) responded to revolutionary diffusion by collaborating with one another, formulating new survival strategies in a sequential process of learning and emulation. Operating in this realm, this paper deepens ongoing work on the intersection between authoritarian rule and the international system by focusing upon the one new monarchical policy shared across the kingdoms beginning in March 2011 – cross-policing.

Cross-policing is the practice of each monarchical regime repressing domestic critics of *other* monarchies in a perverse pattern of outsourcing coercion (e.g., the Saudi regime torturing a Saudi citizen criticizing the Jordanian monarchy). Based upon fieldwork in four monarchies and Arabic-language documentation, this paper outlines the origins and development of cross-policing. First, it locates the origins of this policy as an informal strategy pioneered by the Interior Ministries of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the spring of 2011. It also tallies the total number of cases (including individuals and groups) affected by cross-policing through 2016. Second, it traces the spread and formalization of cross-policing through two institutional mechanisms – the transformation of the GCC from a Gulf security alliance into a “club for monarchies,” and frequent meetings between Interior Ministers of the six Gulf kingdoms plus Morocco and Jordan that allowed for convergent anti-terror statutes and new legal codes. Third, it explores the most plausible explanation for why cross-policing emerged as a viable shared strategy between the Arab monarchies – the rise of a pan-royal identity, one that facilitated the ideational circulation of knowledge and was underpinned by communal norms about the superiority of dynastic rule. Finally, it compares cross-policing to other known regional examples of outsourced regional coercion. Those examples number two: 1) Operation Condor, the collective slaughter of US-backed right-wing Latin American regimes against leftist opposition during the 1970s; and 2) shared repression between the SADC (Southern African Development Community) states against liberal opposition in the 1980s.