The Nationalist Threat and the Federation of the Trucial States

By Kristi N. Barnwell
Submitted to Session P2442 (Reconsidering the "Arab Cold War", 2010 Annual Meeting
Arab States; Arabian Peninsula; Gulf; UAE;
19th-21st Centuries; Foreign Relations; Gulf Studies; Modern; Nationalism; State Formation;
This paper considers the impact of Nasser's ambitions for regional hegemony on the Trucial States and the creation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971. In the latter half of the 1950s and into the 1960s revolutionary activities in the Trucial States remained limited to isolated youth groups and expatriate teachers largely from Egypt, Palestine and Jordan. The expansion of the "Arab Cold War" from a rivalry between Egypt, Iraq and Syria into a war in the Yemens brought into focus the antagonism between republican and monarchical regimes.
This fueled fears of Trucial rulers and British officials that the
Arab states of the Persian Gulf would be destabilized.

The British decision to withdraw from the Persian Gulf in 1968 was rooted in the ailing British economy, but as this paper will demonstrate, concerns about the spread of pan-Arab nationalism drove negotiations between Gulf rulers and British Foreign Office officials over the form the future United Arab Emirates would take and its governing institutions. British documents reveal that the Foreign Office hoped a visible withdrawal of military power from the Persian Gulf would serve to silence anti-imperialist and pan-Arab criticisms of Gulf rulers. Local rulers argued, though, that British advisors and institutions would also need to become subordinate to Arab and Gulf advisors in order to effectively prevent Arab nationalists from
targeting the sheikhdoms. The reach of Nasser's pan-Arab ideologies thus reached beyond his rivalry with nearby Arab states to impact the process of state formation in the Arab Gulf.