World View: The GCC Honeymoon: Arab Countries Reach a 'Historic' Agreement

World View: The GCC Honeymoon: Arab Countries Reach a 'Historic' Agreement

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Gulf Arab countries reach a ‘historic’ agreement
  • The newfound friendly Arab consanguinity
  • The GCC honeymoon: Pragmatic attitude towards Israel and Iran

Gulf Arab countries reach a ‘historic’ agreement

Gulf Cooperation Council meeting, December 9 (AFP)
Gulf Cooperation Council meeting, December 9 (AFP)

The Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, SaudiArabia and the United Arab Emirates) has succeeded in getting throughits summit meeting last week, apparently in relative harmony. (See “21-Nov-14 World View — Gulf nations paper over their differences for GCC Summit in December”)

It’s being called a “historic turning point” for the GCC, withpotentially far-reaching consequences, because the GCC members havestopped quibbling with each other, and have unified against theircommon enemies.

As I’ve written several times in the last few months, the Gaza war hasbrought about a major Mideast realignment, splitting the GCC members apart. Egypt was thecatalyst for this split, at two points. First, when Egypt’s armyousted democratically elected Mohammed Morsi and his MuslimBrotherhood government, and replaced him with former army generalAbdel al-Fattah al-Sisi, who proceeded with a very bloody crackdown onthe Muslim Brotherhood, Muslim Brotherhood supporters Turkey and Qatarturned vehemently against al-Sisi, while Saudi Arabia supported him.

Second, when the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas began this summer,al-Sisi supported Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and turnedagainst Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition,Iran supported Hamas against Israel. This created a de factorealignment of the Mideast, with Israel plus Egypt plus Saudi Arabiaplus the Palestinian Authority in alliance versus Hamas plus Qatarplus Turkey plus Iran.

The newfound friendly Arab consanguinity

The reasons being given for this newfound friendly Arab consanguinityis that a unified GCC stance is necessary “to stop … attempts ledby neighboring countries to intervene in Arab affairs.” Thetwo countries referenced are:

  • Turkey, which has been “meddling” in Egypt’s affairs by encouraging the Muslim Brotherhood to oppose al-Sisi. Also, in a recent speech, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a crowd of his supporters that no one can question Turkey’s right to intervene in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Bosnia and Herzegovina — countries that were once part of Turkey’s Ottoman Empire.
  • Iran, the historic enemy of Saudi Arabia, is encouraging Shia uprisings in Bahrain, eastern Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

According to the final communiqué issued by the summit:

On Egypt, the Supreme Council reiterated its firmposition in support of the Republic of Egypt and President AbdelFattah al-Sisi’s roadmap, stressing the Council’s full support andstand with the people and Government of Egypt in achievingstability and prosperity. The Council underscored the role ofEgypt at Arab and regional levels for the benefit of both the Araband Islamic countries. 

The communiqué also indicates unanimous opposition to the al-Qaedalinked terrorists in Syria and Iraq:

The Supreme Council welcomed the UN Security Councilresolution No 2170 in August in 2014, under Chapter VII, whichcondemned the spread of serious human rights violations byterrorist groups, including terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, inparticular the Daash and Al Nusra Front, and the sanctions imposedon individuals associated with these groups.

Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL).

So everything’s agreeable. Is there any trouble in paradise? Theproblem is that the communiqué doesn’t mention Israel, Hamas, or thePalestinian Authority. The only mention of Gaza is the following:

The Supreme Council praised the results of the Gazareconstruction conference, which was held in Cairo in October2014.

Well that’s nice, but are all the GCC nations really going to turnagainst Hamas, which would make all the member nations de factoallies of Israel and the Palestinian Authority? How long isthis pleasantness going to last?

Well, at the very least, we can understand the old Arab saying, “Theenemy of my enemy is my friend.” Eurasia Review/Arab News and Asharq Al-Awsat (Riyadh) and Saudi-US Relations Information Service

The GCC honeymoon: Pragmatic attitude towards Israel and Iran

An explanation of the GCC compromise with respect to Iran and Israelwas given in a television interview by a Saudi writer, AbdullahHamidaddin. Does Israel pose a threat to Saudi Arabia? His answerwas characterized by extreme pragmatism:

No. Israel is a troublemaker in the region, but itposes a threat to the Palestinians, not to the Saudis. This hasnothing to do with the fact that the Palestinians haverights. Israel is an aggressor on many levels. It is an unjustcountry. We condemn the violence that we witness day and dayout. I am not talking about Israel’s injustice towards thePalestinians …

It is imperative to distinguish between the two. The pan-Arabistsand the Islamists believe that because Israel occupied an Arab orMuslim country, it must be annihilated as a matter of principle.

I have a different perspective. There is no doubt that Israelplundered [Arab] land, but today the region is divided intocountries, one of which is Saudi Arabia. Israel attacked the landof others, not my own land. By no means am I justifying thisattack, but with all its evils, it does not pose a threat to theSaudi state or the Saudi citizens.

The interview pointed out that according to the official and declaredSaudi position, the Palestinian cause is the cause of all the Arabs.

There are two reasons for this. First, there is areal problem. Israel’s crisis with the Palestinians has generateda regional problem. This crisis has ramifications – although, bythe way, these ramifications are highly exaggerated.

The second reason is the need to align with the general [Arab]position. King Abdullah’s 2003 initiative involved completenormalization, and it was signed by all the Arabs, includingSyria. People were convinced that relations with Israel could benormalized, and that we could have coexistence with it, oncondition that the problem in the West Bank and Gaza was resolved.

It is in Israel’s interest for the problem to remainunresolved. Israel is not a peaceful country. It is a veryoppressive country towards its Palestinian neighbors, and it doeswhatever it can do to prolong the problem, because it benefitsfrom it.

Hamidaddin concluded by saying that the Arabs have wasted resourcesattacking Israel in the past:

No, but I want to focus on the issues that affectme. If Israel does not pose a strategic national threat, we shouldnot treat it as if it does. […] 

[Israel did not create the threats coming from Iraq and Iran.]No, it was us. Since the 1960s, when we turned Israel into aproblem, we have wasted our resources. Since the 1950s, the Arabshave spent billions on the conflict with Israel, and havesacrificed hundreds of thousands of lives. The outcome is that weare in decline, whereas Israel is on the rise. If we had treatedthe Palestinian cause differently right from the start, we wouldhave been today stronger and more capable than Israel, and thePalestinians would have been better off.

So is the GCC crisis over? Another Saudi columnist, Salman Aldossary,suggests that the honeymoon may not last, and that the worst maybe yet to come:

It is premature to think that the crisis has beencompletely resolved. We should admit that only some of the rootsof the problem have been addressed. In addition, some detailsremain vague. Perhaps the coming months will be sufficient todemonstrate if the good intentions that have been expressed aboutputting the GCC’s general interests above the narrow ones of itsmember states are genuine. It should not be overlooked, however,that this acute crisis produced fierce reactions that went beyondthose of previous inter-Gulf disputes. This was the case when somesides, affiliated with some parties involved in the dispute,lashed out at certain states or figures. These incidents willdefinitely not be forgiven, no matter how hard those who wereresponsible for them try to reach out to their brothers. There isa big difference between disagreeing with someone and registeringone’s position through objective criticism on the one hand, andthrowing the worst insults at someone on the other. It is truethat the Gulf states have overcome their political differences andare quite pragmatic, but they do not forget personal differencesand the insults that accompany them.

The GCC [has witnessed] a honeymoon period in the run-up to itsforthcoming annual summit. … Who knows, the honeymoon may lastthroughout the next year. […] 

It would be dangerous if the crisis returned and the wound openedonce again, God forbid. In this case, the crisis would certainlybe more extreme, dangerous, and complex than before, and wouldproduce decisions whose impact no one will be able to comprehend.

May the honeymoon last forever! Nevertheless, wishes need to beaccompanied by deeds.

Generational Dynamics predicts that there will be a new war betweenArabs and Israelis, refighting the 1948 war between Jews and Arabsthat following the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of thestate of Israel. Memri andAsharq Al Awsat (Riyadh)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC,Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, UAE, Kuwait, Oman,Israel, Iran, Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Morsi,Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi, Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan,Ottoman Empire, Yemen, Hamas, Gaza, Palestinian Authority,Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daash
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