TRANSFORMATION of Gulf countries from a co-operation entity to a united block is an overdue project. Year after year, we hear the unity of the GCC is coming but actually little has been done and in fact it didn’t go beyond rhetoric.
The threat the GCC countries are facing is getting bigger and bigger and unless the issue is addressed now and acted upon, it will likely reach a point where it will compromise the very existence of the nations.
Next month Bahrain will host the GCC heads of states summit and among the various challenging topics considered, the issue of unity is expected to dominate the discussions.
Speaking to Ashraq Al Alwsat (November 7), His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa said, “The Gulf Union is an inevitable goal of the summit. The formation of the Gulf Union is essential to address security problems, economic challenges and other serious issues confronted by the region.”
The Premier has been and continues to be one of the outspoken leaders for Gulf Union, pledging the GCC leaders to take practical steps that lead to the unity of GCC which in turn will help them to preserve their Arab identity and stability.
The formation of a union, however, is a long and complex process which takes into consideration several factors including social, economic, political, cultural and military realities of each member-state. To tune these and other factors to serve the mutual interests of the people and government of GCC needs a number of years of negotiations among the leaders.
The first step of the process is likely to start with establishing a common security agreement against forces that threaten its unity by sowing seeds of sedition and promoting sectarianism. Iran is believed to be behind all the evil agenda. However, blaming it over and over again will not serve the GCC’s interests unless practical steps are taken that have the potential to offset Iranian interventionist policy.
The need to consider the security issues and strengthen the defence capabilities of GCC comes on top of everything. The recent military exercise – the Arab Gulf Security 1, which took place in Bahrain was an encouraging step as far as boosting the Gulf security is concerned.
However, Iran’s threat didn’t come solely from the security point of view. There are some social issues Iran uses as ‘windows of opportunity’ to interfere in the affairs of GCC states including the existence of economic disparities among members of society and youth unemployment.
Once these ‘windows’ are closed by taking measures such as steps that narrow the gap between the rich and the poor and promote employment among the youth, alleged Iranian supporters are unlikely to co-operate with it as they feel a sense of belonging to the GCC.
The reform process taking place in Bahrain can serve as a template for other GCC countries. Promoting multicultural and tolerant societies, cultivating the culture of co-existence and giving due attention to youth employment are some of the socio-economic steps GCC countries need to consider. The GCC unity also gives various strains of terrorists ranging from Al Qaeda affiliates to the so-called Islamic State a staggering blow by denying them ground for recruitment and operation, if a common security pact is agreed.
The Gulf Union is a path to preserve security and ensure future prosperity. It is a complex issue and given the region’s political instability, the sooner it is dealt with the better. It is a race against time and the leaders in the upcoming meeting are expected to take a practical step to materialise the Gulf Union.