The relationship between Iran and its southern Arab neighbors — namely, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states — has been turbulent for the past few decades. The GCC states were under the shadow of Iraq and Iran, the two prevailing powers in the Persian Gulf, for much of the 20th century, with the latter historically being the more dominant power. Stricken with internal disputes, weak central governments and rivalries among themselves, the Arab states along the Persian Gulf’s southern coast were never in a position to challenge the powers to their north.
The situation changed after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, which brought political Islam to the geopolitical scene. The autocratic Persian Gulf monarchies immediately felt threatened by this new political force, which had the potential to undermine their legitimacy and jeopardize their rule. Within this context, in 1981 they established the GCC, comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980 had provided a convenient excuse to exclude Iraq and Yemen, notable omissions even though the latter does not border on the Persian Gulf, and Iraq has close to 40 miles of coastline.
“What Obama should say to King Salman during his visit,” Hossein Mousavian, Al Monitor, September 4, 2015.