In a turbulent region, the GCC has realised the power of unity

The 35th GCC summit in Doha has shown the six member states can get beyond its internal divisions when it really matters. Photo: WAM
The 35th GCC summit in Doha has shown the six member states can get beyond its internal divisions when it really matters. Photo: WAM

The GGC summit held in Doha this week was like a meeting of captains trying to decide how to sail their six-ship fleet through stormy seas, the London-based newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi said in its editorial.

The serious challenges facing the six GCC countries prompted them to put their differences aside at the Doha meeting. The Qatari Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, said at the annual gathering that “against the dangers and challenges that surround us on all sides, we cannot be sidetracked by differences over details”.

The huge challenges facing the GCC alliance include the effect on the Gulf of the US-led negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme, the growing threat of ISIL and other forms of terrorism and escalating crises in countries like Yemen.

How to adopt a unified policy to handle these issues was perhaps the main problem facing the GCC heads of state gathering in Doha, the newspaper said. This goal seemed especially difficult to achieve after the outbreak of Arab uprisings that polarised the GCC members. Interference by regional and global powers – the US, Russia, Iran, Israel and Turkey – has exacerbated the situation in the region, culminating in the removal of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi last year and the ensuing crackdown on Islamist organisations across many Arab countries.

Now that the GCC’s internal spat has been resolved and the UAE, Saudi and Bahraini ambassadors have returned to Doha, the question is whether the GCC can end the polarisation over other Arab countries, particularly Egypt.

Zuhair Qusaibati, writing in the London-based daily Al Hayat, noted that the summit was held as the GCC countries face the rising threat of ISIL and the sliding oil prices. The meeting reaffirmed the reconciliation with Qatar announced in Riyadh last month.

The GCC states have agreed to find a different way to deal with regional and global challenges. ISIL is not far from the Gulf borders, Iran’s influence is extending over Yemen with the rise of the Houthis, and the US is gradually normalising relations with Tehran through nuclear talks and the fight against ISIL.

This year has been one of the GCC’s most critical periods in its history, with an eight-month dispute among four of its members. Whether it has successfully dealt with this will be put to the test in its policies about Egypt, which is still plagued by violence and division, as well as over the formulation of a unified stance on the Syrian crisis.

The Gulf is facing these changes at a time when ISIL is making headway and the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 are continuing. The GCC countries know that letting themselves be sidetracked by small disagreements provides a good opportunity for their foes, the writer said.

Mohammed Fahad Al Harthi, writing in the UAE-based daily Al Bayan, argued that the GCC Summit in Doha is probably one of most important in the alliance’s history because of the serious topics on the agenda.

After a difficult year, it opened a new era of Gulf integration and solidarity. By putting their differences aside, the summit has sent a message that the GCC countries look forward to a new era of enhanced Gulf unity.

The GCC’s leaders understand they are all in the same boat and must stand as one to preserve their achievements. The Gulf countries have overcome the most difficult crises in the alliance’s history, but they still have to respond to tough challenges, both at home and abroad.

Strengthening GCC security and moving from cooperation to a union capable of boosting the Gulf’s clout on the international arena top the list of domestic challenges. The world is witnessing huge changes, with the US avoiding getting involved in the Middle East issues and focusing more on the Asia-Pacific region.

There is also Russia’s re-emergence as global player and the rise of China, both of which will have consequences globally and regionally. There is also Iran’s expanding role and its nuclear programme, along with Turkey’s rising power in a region that lacks a powerful Arab counterbalance.

These factors threaten the GCC countries, leaving them no choice but to reinforce their political, economic and military ties. The move of creating a joint military command agreed in Doha meeting is part of these efforts and can serve the transition to the goal of becoming a union.

Extremist groups, sectarian strife and demographics – in which Gulf citizens are minorities in their own countries – pose a real danger to stability and require concerted action. Unity is the best way to do that.

Translated by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni

Published: December 11, 2014 04:00 AM


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