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The Perfidious Union Of (P)GCC – OpEd

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By Mohyeddin Sajed

Last December, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, during the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC) summit called for changing the council into union. It is not clear whether the request was forwarded in accordance with a previously scheduled plan or is the last will of an aging king, who considers the formation of a union similar to the European Union as the only way to maintain the existence of the Persian Gulf Monarchies.

Whatever the reason is, it is an illusion which is not consistent with the existing realities of the six member states of the Council.

The proposal for turning the [P]GCC into a union was not taken seriously even among the media and papers in the Persian Gulf Arab countries and the council foreign ministers did not pursue it. Achieving such unity is much easier among the people rather than the states, as the tribes which reside in these countries and make up the largest population cluster in the area are relatives and their roots usually back to two or three main branches.

People of the Persian Gulf Arab states regard forming a strong union as a means for becoming independent of the foreign powers and as an end to their geographical hardships. But the thirty-year history of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council does not contribute to this optimism, and shows that one cannot build a tall castle on unsteady ground.

The [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council has fundamental problems and inconsistencies in political power and culture, which prevents it from achieving unity. All of these countries have similar political structure and are all dominated by dynasties which have grown under non-democratic conditions. They do not regard themselves worthy of becoming a monarchy and prefer to remain sultanate as monarchy at the end turns into a kind of parliamentary system and requires the constitution- not Emir or Sultan orders- to form the framework for running the country. But even the two monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain only carry the name of a modern contemporary kingship. Although Kuwait has a parliament, the Emir makes all the decisions and power is defined within his family and no political party is allowed to pursue political activities.

The ruling families in these countries not only rule but also consider the country as their asset. The leaders of such states are always on the list of the richest people in the world, while they have acquired their savings from their country’s natural wealth; they regard the country as part of their personal belongings but have no suited to have such affluence. In such systems, the people are no more than a follower and cannot decide on their country’s destiny. The greatest country in the [P]GCC is named after a dynasty. Such a political culture cannot train real and effectual citizens. In such a culture, people even lose their independence and sovereignty.

Moreover, the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council member states have a record replete with economic, political and martial failures. The council member states also do not have a common currency. They have failed in reaching common financial and economic policies and have repeatedly put off the idea of using a common currency. They have not resolved their border disputes yet. The current status of these countries is not a matter of dispute among the nations but among individuals and families, who feel a sense of ownership over them.

Kuwait regards itself as the cheated side in the border disputes with Saudi Arabia. The same condition exists between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which intends to compensate for its small geographical status with big political actions and campaigns. Some part of the United Arab Emirates soil and oil resources are merged with the Saudi Arabia’s soil. The same problem exists between the UAE and Oman together and with Saudi Arabia. The major provinces of Yemen have become a part of Saudi Arabia. The Yemenis, however, are unsatisfied with the accession agreement. After the fall of Ali Abdullah Saleh and the establishment of a democratic government, this problem will become more apparent. Riyadh tries to influence the power change in Sana’a in a way that its interests would not be compromised and the new system would still feel indebted to Saudi Arabia.

The [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council – formed in 1981- was not based on the strategy and thought of unity, rather it was established in reaction to the Islamic revolution of Iran whose traditional power balance was tipped after the fall of Shah. At that time, the ruling families of the Arab countries of the region, who felt threatened with the event, formed a central defense frontline under the supervision of the United States. The clearest manifestation of this defense frontline was the establishment of a joint defense force called the Peninsula Shield, which never predicted a day on which it would be forced to confront an Arab government-i.e. Iraq- and accept its humility because its member states had to ask for the US help for their retention after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

The advice of Saudi Arabia King for changing the status of the [Persian] Cooperation Council into a union is an effort to deal with the popular uprisings in the Arab states which someday will reach the Arabian Peninsula and its first signs have been reported in Yemen. The idea of establishing a union among the Persian Gulf Arab countries has another equivalent, which vanished into thin air after a few months: adding the two monarchies of Jordan and Morocco to the unity.



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