40 Years Later: What Will Become of the GCC?
40 Years Later: What Will Become of the GCC?
Undoubtedly an expansive question, the future of the Gulf Cooperation Council stands in front of two readings; the first a rational, objective reading with a scientific methodology and data, thereby reflecting reality regardless of the status or sensitivity of the issue. Another reading could more accurately be described as wishful thinking than speculation, a line of thought in which emotion plays a major role.
The truth is that, despite all the storms weathered by Gulf states at various stages, perhaps the latest being the dispute with Qatar, these countries have, with difficulty, managed to overcome that unprecedented stage in the history of the GCC. This culminated in a reconciliation summit held in Saudi Arabia to kick off rapprochement.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan referred to a fundamental point to which all parties signed, saying: "State parties affirmed their solidarity in not violating the sovereignty of any; threatening their security, or targeting the national cohesion of their peoples and their social fabric in any way, and they stand fully in the face of anything that could disrupt the national and regional security of any of them." He stressed that the summit "elevated the interests of the Gulf Cooperation Council system and Arab national security."
That achievement later culminated in Saudi-Qatari meetings, as well as the positive atmosphere that followed, with evidence that there are meetings taking place today between Emirati-Qatari committees to address outstanding issues and resolve what must be resolved.
Four decades after the GCC's establishment, gratitude, appreciation and thanks must be given to the great founders of this body, which continues to stand tall despite all the developments and crises it has faced. The consensus in the Gulf is alarming to neighbors and world powers, as coalescing brings about influence and ability, and this is what others do not want to see. Thus, other parties opt for bilateral dealings, in addition to fabricating crises and schisms in order to weaken Arab Gulf integration. Nevertheless, GCC states have become a prominent international political force, prominent actors in the field of development and a global competitor with strong development indicators.
This means that there are substantial efforts, achievements and minute details that the average citizen of a Gulf country may not sense and which may not directly affect their daily life. However, there is a vast intertwined system that aims to improve their life, ensure their well-being and consolidate their security, and this does not necessarily imply familiarity with all the details of the process.
From my experience as a former member of the Saudi Shura Council for three sessions, and by virtue of the nature of parliamentary work, I was closely acquainted with the diverse and vast cooperation between GCC states, the achievements that were made, the effort exerted by the Secretary-General, and the decisions issued in the meetings of various specialized committees, including those pertaining to military and security. There has been diligent work that resulted in positive outcomes, but unfortunately, it does not reach the Gulf citizen. I imagine that the foremost defect is media coverage, which requires a review process by the Secretariat in order to deliver the message to the citizens of GCC states.
The current regional landscape, based on ongoing developments, inspires optimism despite the false news propagated about the contrary. However, diplomatic visits continue, especially in light of Saudi Arabia's pioneering diplomacy, which is taking the initiative under the auspices of King Salman and engagement by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Yesterday, the Crown Prince of Kuwait was in Riyadh, preceded by other Gulf leaders in fraternal meetings. As such, Riyadh reaffirms that it is the destination for Gulf coalescing, as it believes in dialogue and direct meetings, and it tends to intervene in critical moments to safeguard the system in the Gulf, regardless of the divergences in viewpoints it may encounter.
What the Crown Prince is doing reflects Saudi Arabia's serious approach to filling the void, confronting rival projects being hatched in the region, and protecting Gulf and Arab interests. Here, Saudi Arabia's centrality and the significance of its diplomacy are evident, as the Kingdom is not as interested in image or flattery as it is in results and furthering the interests of peoples.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was expressive as he confronted Gulf leaders in AlUla, saying: "Today, we are in dire need of uniting our efforts to advance our region and face the challenges that surround us," noting that his country's policy "places a unified and strong Gulf Cooperation Council at the forefront of its priorities." Crown Prince Mohammed's statement is a message of support, commitment and affirmation of his country's position in light of the unprecedented incursion of non-Arab regional powers.
The regional context and the delicacy of this stage call for an awareness of what has happened and is taking place and the secrets of the history of the region, as well as an understanding of geographical sensitivities and complexities. Therefore, the GCC has long been called upon to wake up to the threats facing it. It is no longer a matter of confrontation, the dangers surrounding it have made it a question of existence and survival. The conclusion here is that we must rally, as people of the Gulf, and think about our interests first.
Iran's relations with the Gulf states are divergent, but the Iran issue requires a different approach, as it is not merely an issue of autonomy, sovereignty, or the principles of international law – despite their importance. Rather, the Iran issue is tied to our survival as countries, and it therefore, requires difficult and costly decisions. We, as Gulf states, need a strong and united voice that rejects what Tehran is doing and to affirm a unified policy that achieves our interests, protects our security and disciplines the Iranian regime.
The complexities of the regional landscape necessitate that some states be freed from the illusory burdens placed upon them. This means accelerating the pace of transition towards a more effective formula and seizing upon the position enjoyed by GCC states in recent years, which places it among the most important and influential blocs in the region.
The success of the Gulf Cooperation Council as a bloc hinges on its members' determination to make fateful decisions and to move towards a new context with a comprehensive vision that goes beyond cooperation, consultation and coordination. This is the reality of what these countries need, and that was articulated by King Salman in a profound and comprehensive vision.
This expanded vision was approved by the GCC in 2015, as it promoted the role of the Council and represented a watershed moment in the history of Gulf cooperation. The vision addresses several themes, including the development of a unified foreign policy and placing the final touches on our economic unity and joint defense and security systems, in addition to strengthening the international standing of the GCC and its role in issues, both regionally and internationally. What is particularly interesting here is what was issued at the Gulf Summit in AlUla, where comprehensive and precise implementation of the vision of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman - according to a specific timetable and diligent follow-up - was agreed upon.
King Salman's vision to invigorate the Gulf bloc is a roadmap for building a unified Gulf capable of facing challenges, ensuring its survival, protecting its interests and safeguarding the well-being of its peoples.