Rise Of Gulf Cooperation Council Raises Concerns In Mideast

At this week’s meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Iran was the major topic of discussion among the foreign ministers of the six Arab member nations (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait).

GCC meeting in Jeddah on Tuesday (Arab News)GCC meeting in Jeddah on Tuesday (Arab News)

In the final communiqué, the ministers said Iran’s interference in their affairs comes “through conspiring against their national security, sowing seeds of sectarian discords among these states’ citizens,” and the actions are a “violation of their sovereignty, independence and principles of good-neighbourliness, as well as relevant international covenants and laws,” according to the Gulf News. They also expressed “deep alarm” about Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran’s response was too cute by half. They refer to the group as the “[P]GCC”, which stands for the “[Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council,” in order to emphasize that the gulf being referenced is the Persian Gulf, not the Arab Gulf.

And an Iranian Parliament MP is quoted by Iran’s Fars news service as saying, “The repeated claims by a number of tiny Persian Gulf littoral states are aimed at currying favor with their Western masters,” and that Iran “will not take heed of such baseless accusations.” He added that the PGCC is so reliant on the Western powers that they have not issued even one statement in support of the Palestinian and Lebanese people and they are only concerned about Iran’s affairs.

Iran’s belittling remarks are a sign of the growing influence of the GCC, following the estrangement of Saudi King Abdullah from President Obama, following the latter’s humiliation of long-time ally Hosni Mubarak, calling for him to step down in the face of the student protests. This raised the fear the Obama would also call for Saudi King Abdullah to step down, and led to the conclusion that the U.S. could no longer be trusted, especially with regard to the danger from Iran. (See “21-May-11 News — Saudi Arabia advances Gulf Cooperation Council, further cuts U.S. ties.”)

The GCC has taken center stage in two of the major crises facing the Arabian Peninsula: The Bahrain uprising, where the GCC sent in troops to quell the rioting, and the Yemen uprising, where the GCC attempted, unsuccessfully so far, to mediate a peaceful conclusion.

Adding Jordan to the GCC

As we’ve reported, there are ongoing discussions to add Jordan and Morocco as members of the GCC. The addition of Jordan is a good idea, according to an Arab News analysis:

“The deal, observers say, is based on the fact that Jordan, which has a long history of security cooperation with the GCC, can do a lot to safeguard the stability of these nations, especially in the face of external threats. On the other hand, Gulf leaders are aware of the strategic importance of Jordan, which has the longest border with Israel, and supporting economically it will undoubtedly reflect positively on their own national security during these turbulent times.

So it is a win-win exchange. Jordan already has hundreds of thousands of its nationals working in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait. They are mostly skilled and white-collar professionals who have become the driving force behind key sectors in IT, banking, public administration, education, and media, among others. It goes without saying that expat remittances are an important source of foreign currency inflow for Jordan.”

The addition of Jordan and Morocco to the GCC also provides more police power to suppress unrest, according to Mudar Zahran, a Palestinian writer and academic from Jordan:

“On the other hand, both, Jordan and Morocco have a history of pacifying local unrests with their police forces, rather than their armies; these police forces could provide the GCC states with a quick guns-for-hire to suppress unrests and revolts which have already hit some GCC countries such as Bahrain and Oman. Having Jordan joining the GCC would therefore give the cover of legitimacy to Jordan in involving its police force in any GCC country that oppresses protesters. Jordan might find an interest in sending its servicemen to oppress citizens in GCC countries as that might entitle it for more grants from its oil-rich allies who have stopped being so generous with Jordan since 1990 when the late King Hussein politically supported Saddam. Between 1990 and 2003, the year Saddam was toppled, Jordan received free oil from Iraq in exchange of good ties and serving as Iraq’s window to the world when it was under UN-imposed trade sanctions. After Saddam was toppled, the new Iraqi government refused to give free oil to Jordan, which has been paying regular market prices for the oil it purchases from the GCC states since then.”

The GCC versus the Arab League

The GCC is a council of Sunni Muslim nations, specifically targeted against Iran and Shia Muslims. However, there are two other (mostly) Sunni Muslim organization in the Mideast.

One is the Arab League, which has traditionally united the Arab countries. But today the Arab League is barely functional, according to an analysis by Memri. Indeed, the protests in the Arab world, particularly the Egyptian revolution that brought about the ouster of the Mubarak regime and the popular protests now threatening President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in Syria, have created a leadership vacuum in the Arab world.

Thus, Jordan and Morocco’s acceptance into the GCC is, among other things, an attempt by the Gulf states to make the GCC a new inter-Arab political body that will guide moves in the region and replace the Arab League – thus shifting the center of gravity and decision making in the Arab world to the Gulf region, according to the article.

Furthermore,

“It should be noted that, in parallel to the addition of Jordan and Morocco to the GCC, Saudi Arabia has in recent months been working to garner support and aid from additional Sunni countries, namely, Pakistan and Malaysia, in a bid to create a dominant Sunni bloc against Iran. As part of this campaign, Emir Bandar bin Sultan, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council, visited both countries in March to meet with heads of state. The meetings appear to have borne fruit: Pakistan and Malaysia have agreed to send troops to Bahrain to help the regime there suppress the anti-regime Shi’ite unrest there – an indication that both countries have in effect joined the Sunni anti-Iranian camp.

On March 28, 2011, bin Sultan visited Pakistan and met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Following the meeting, the former called Pakistan Saudi Arabia’s “strategic partner,” while Prime Minister Gilani said that Pakistan promised to continue to stand alongside Saudi Arabia in all international forums. He added that Pakistan was “interested in tightening up its strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia.”

The Axis versus the Allies

Long-time readers of my web site are aware that for years I’ve been watching the trend lines to determine the lineups in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war.

It’s been apparent for some time that the “Axis” will consist of China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries, while the “Allies” will consist of the U.S., Japan, India, Russia and Israel.

Iran has been clearly headed for an alliance with the West. Iran’s young people are clearly pro-Western and not particularly anti-Israel. Furthermore, Shia Muslims have historically been allied with Hindus versus Sunni Muslims. Those will be the deciding factors when Iran is forced to choose one side or the other.

Some mysteries remain. How will the European countries line up? Perhaps the unfolding Greece crisis will provide some ansers. Where will Egypt and Turkey line up? What about South Korea?

The inclusion of “Sunni Muslim countries” on the “Axis” side has always been a bit vague, but now we have some additional information.

The GCC members are Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait, and the members-in-waiting are Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan and Malaysia. These countries are not forming an alliance for commerce; it’s a Sunni Muslim alliance specifically opposed to Iran and Shia Muslims. We can tentatively assume that the GCC nations will form the core of the Sunni Muslim countries that will be allied with China against the West.

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