GCC integration remains a legitimate possibility

Arabic newspapers raise concerns that the tyranny of despotic regimes will be replaced by the tyranny of the masses. Other topics include the violence in Tripoli and GCC integration.

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The idea of further integration among GCC countries remains a legitimate possibility

The proposal for a union between the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has dominated newspaper headlines and opinion pages in recent days, particularly following leaks from Bahrain that a major announcement was to be expected during a Riyadh summit last week, wrote Khaled Al Dakheel, a Saudi writer, in yesterday's edition of the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

The proclamation of the rumoured union between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain - as a prelude to a wider GCC political integration - did not happen. But debate over the question continued, with some in favour, some against and others undecided.

"But most of those Gulf nationals who are either resentful or have expressed their rejection of the concept of a union belong to the Shiite sect," the writer said. "Which doesn't mean that all the Shiites reject the idea."

Bahrain's Shiites are a majority in the Sunni-governed kingdom.

"Note that the most vocal opponents of the idea are figures from the Shiite opposition in Bahrain, as represented by Al Wefaq, the strongest Shiite opposition group in the country."

Al Wefaq is opposed to a union, particularly with Saudi Arabia, because "Bahrain will lose its independence", the writer cited Al Wefaq leaders as saying.

"Implied in such a fluffy statement is a fear that the majority in Bahrain will turn into a minority within the larger union, which would cost Al Wefaq a significant portion of its political weight.

"This is a politically relevant and legitimate reason. But it should be put on the table as it is, with all the other legitimate fears and concerns regarding the matter."

The GCC also includes the UAE, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar. It was established in 1981 as an economic and strategic bloc to brace against regional turmoil, namely the Iraq-Iran war.

All stakeholders should be able to have answers to questions like: Does Al Wefaq reject the idea of a union in principle, or is it for a union but does not want to jeopardise its gains at home?

"There is a fear of the size of Saudi Arabia, particularly its religious establishment, political system and conservative nature," the writer said. "And that is a legitimate fear as well."

"What isn't so legitimate, however, is to use this fear to reject the concept of a union lock, stock and barrel, based on the erroneous presumption that the influence within the prospective union would go in one direction: from Saudi Arabia to the other nations."

This presumption is erroneous on at least two counts: first, the union, as discussed between the member states, aims to preserve the sovereignty of each nation; and second, the socio-political advancements in Bahrain - or Kuwait for that matter - are too entrenched to simply disintegrate within a union.

Tripoli violence was only a matter of time

Intermittent confrontations in the city of Tripoli in north Lebanon can be interpreted as a natural extension of the ongoing tension in neighbouring Syria, said the columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

Tripoli is home to Alawites and Sunnis at a time when some insist to portray the turmoil in Syria as a conflict between the two sects.

It is no secret that since the beginning of the uprising, the Syrian regime has been seeking to detonate the situation at contact areas, especially in Lebanon, to relieve some of the tension internally. What better target to do so than Lebanon where sectarian tensions simmer. But, despite the skirmishes, the region remained relatively calm.

The Assad regime has been hanging on to the claim that the uprising is the work of terrorist organisations that have taken root in Lebanon. It went as far as accusing some Gulf states of financing terrorist operations against Damascus; a scheme that set in motion a series of well-designed events in Lebanon, where pro-Assad authorities have been active accomplices in the plan to market the terrorism theory.

As a result of this Syrian despotism coupled with Lebanese complacency, mainly from the Hizbollah-controlled government, three Gulf states officially warned their citizens against travelling to Lebanon, now considered an insecure destination.

Fear of a new kind of tyranny in the region

There is a growing concern among Arab intelligentsia that the collapse of despotism in some Arab countries that have been engulfed by a wave of change since last year, might generate a new tyranny out of the ballot boxes, wrote Dr Hasan Madan in an article for the UAE-based daily Al Khaleej.

Playing down such a concern would be misplaced for several reasons. First, given the fragile democratic traditions in the Arab world "after long decades in the grip of dictatorship that has uprooted every plant of democracy …since the early 20th century."

The second reason is the "lack of social and political bearers of democracy. "

Culture of democracy and the practice of democracy are inseparable. Democratic culture will not take hold in a society fearful of democratic practice and its ensuing outcomes.

Some might claim that the Arab nation is unworthy of democracy, for the latter entails awareness and education, but that democratic culture takes shape only by continuous practice.

Through exposure and practice, societies gradually become cognisant of how paramount democracy is. Moreover, democracy does not take root solely through elections, but mainly through social and political carriers that must commit to modernity.

* Digest compiled by Translation Desk