Return of GCC harmony warrants attention

Dr. Ali al-Kheshaiban
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The meetings of the 42nd GCC Summit in Riyadh have come to a close, making it clear that the GCC is at an important turning point, as the Gulf is once again becoming the center of speculations and expectations. Events within the GCC are of a highly critical nature on the global level, and it has become obvious that the six states of the GCC are entering a post-Arab Spring phase, after the Arab Spring reshuffled some of the power cards in the Middle East political game, while resulting in crises of varying levels of severity. Analysts would do well to discuss the effects of the Arab Spring on the Middle East, as many of the problems we have seen in the Gulf can be traced back to it.

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Over the course of its lifetime, the GCC has demonstrated its ability to maintain cohesion despite major transformations and despite the complexities and various influences surrounding the region. The Gulf region is surrounded by political factors that are difficult to overcome from both a political and economic standpoint. There are the traditional players that have a direct impact on events in the regions such as the US, Europe and Russia, in addition to Iran and its attempt to acquire nuclear weapons. And there are parties that have been promoted to the rank of traditional player, represented here by Israel, which was able to secure normalization with two of the Gulf states. As for the newcomers, we have China making a strong entrance into the region, as well as players operating in a covert way serving political and partisan interests, all of which has turned the region into vortex of high international appeal at the political, economic and media levels.

The important question today revolves around the way cohesion looks, and the results it has. The six Gulf states can be divided into two parts; the first comprising four Gulf countries that are geographically and demographically close, and the second comprising two of the largest countries in area. But the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands out the most from the Gulf countries through many features, which gives it a great responsibility as well as the opportunity to be a natural influencer and leader. Historically, Saudi politics have emphasized that the Saudi foundation is related to and compatible with the Gulf states, and Saudi Arabia has historically proven that it welcomes the progress and transformation achieved by the Gulf states, while currently it is more aware than ever of the importance of coordination with the other states in this regard in order to achieve their common goals.

The side effects of the past twenty years on the Gulf region cannot be overlooked, especially since the Middle East, without exception, has experienced major political upheavals, which were expected to affect the Gulf. But the GCC was able to flip the script and maintain a fully cohesive front. This is certainly reflected on the GCC states, which realize that their options are limited to remaining united and compatible with the least amount of political differences, which are generally the most prominent differences. The current stage of the GCC reflects the return of consensus and cohesion to a more powerful level. The final communiqué of the 42nd GCC summit contained bolder statements regarding the stance of the GCC states towards the events surrounding them and their aspirations for the future.

The pivotal issue most affecting the GCC today is the threat of Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, as well as its military and ballistic missiles projects. With time, Iran’s will see itself forced to become a state similar to North Korea, while it is surrounded by countries making economic progress that Iran could have been a part of instead of focusing on nuclear weapons. Iran needs economic reinforcements to enable it to live alongside a GCC that is realizing distinctive economic and political developments, while Iran, with its military orientation, will remain a source of concern, especially since it is not the only country in the region that can possess nuclear weapons. A breach of the nuclear agreement in the region will open up an arms race greater than the region can tolerate.

The return of the Gulf harmony in this way really warrants great attention, it is the harbinger of a new developmental stage, especially since the Gulf countries that are competing on the path to greater economic and technological advancement will greatly outpace the region. This will not be well-received by the region’s enemies, namely Iran, which will soon find it hard to continue to leverage its rich history and culture to catch up with the economic powers that the GCC states are becoming. Thus, it is imperative for Iran to keep a close eye on GCC harmony and take it seriously, and to know that military rivalry is only one part of an economic and political race in which the Gulf states have made giant strides over the past four decades.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi newspaper al-Riyadh.

Read more:

Beyond oil: Unity and development in the gulf

The end of disputes since the Al-Ula Declaration

Gulf states anticipate the nuclear deal

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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