The news that Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will return their ambassadors to Doha is encouraging. At a time when the Middle East region is suffering unprecedented levels of turmoil, the six nation Gulf Cooperation Council – for all its internal rivalry and disagreements – is something of a beacon of hope in the Arab world.
The proposal to reinforce cohesion between the six nation states by forming a union, presented by Saudi Arabia at the GCC summit in Kuwait at the end of last year, lost steam after a blunt rejection by Oman. More recently, there has been the falling out with Qatar primarily over that emirate’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood but also because there is a feeling within the organisation that the tiny but exceedingly wealthy country is becoming rather “too big for its boots”.
“The GCC may be in trouble,” said Theodore Karasik, a security and political affairs analyst at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. “The union is being threatened by Iran’s proactive policy towards several GCC states and such moves harm the basis of the union’s evolving foundation.” The union, it seems to me, is also being seriously threatened by its own internal wrangling.
At a time when regional governments have been warned by the IMF they could face a $175bn hole in their fiscal surpluses from falling oil prices, putting new pressure on policymakers to reduce spending plans,
alongside rising populations and escalating unemployment, further disunity is just what the GCC does not need.
All families have their arguments, caused by any number of factors - an authoritative father (Saudi Arabia), a rebellious teenage son (Qatar), a daughter who strikes up an ‘unsuitable’ alliance (Oman), but they work through such difficulties because the support of family supersedes all else.
Like the family it has, since its formation in 1981, become, it is time for the GCC states to make compromises and to make peace. Disunity benefits none of the GCC countries, only the avaricious and greedy onlookers from outside the neighbourhood. n
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6 The Middle East December 2014