Arabs, Middle Easterners, and Muslims are the usual categories in which we think about the peoples of the Persian Gulf. If asked what is distinctive about those residing around the gulf, we might add the words "oil-rich." In a lengthy and extensively documented essay, M.R. Izady argues that those living around the Persian Gulf form a distinctive society. "Gulfies" are only loosely connected to the hinterlands, with those on the Iranian coast having more in common with those on the Arab side of the gulf than with the rest of Iran. And "Gulfies" interacted with the other societies around the Indian Ocean in Africa and the subcontinent fully as much as they did with the rest of the Middle East.
But, as Ibrahim Karawan argues, the modern trend has been the assertion of primacy of the state, including the incorporation by Iran and Saudi Arabia of their gulf littorals into a national society. Indeed, the main focus of this volume is on the differences between Iran and its Arab gulf neighbors. Essays by an Iranian (Jalil Roshandel), an Arab (Hassan al-Alkim), and a Briton (Richard Schofield) examine the emotional dispute over islands contested between Iran and the United Arab Emirates, an issue on which neither side appears prepared to compromise. A pair of articles (by Abdullah Alshayji and Bijan Khajehpour-Khoei), examining Iranian views of the Arab gulf states and vice-versa, illustrates that there is no love lost between the two sides. And analyses of the next generation show how Iran and Saudi Arabia are headed in different directions: Mohammad Hadi Semati finds that Iran's youth is demanding more social, economic, and political reform, while Mai Yamani argues that Saudi Arabia's educated youth is ambivalent about transformations that would threaten the stable world of extended families relying on patrons.