GCC: Scrambling for Allies

Posted on | mei 24, 2011 | No Comments

Will M6 have to wear the GCC uniform?

No serious predictive analysis could have ever averred that Morocco and Jordan would be considered for membership in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Not even the amazing astrologer Maguy Farah could have predicted it. The GCC’s invitation for Morocco and Jordan to join its ranks has the subtlety of a Saudi tourist in a Thai whorehouse right after Ramadan. The approach is undoubtedly exceptional for it seems discordant with the rich petro-states identity we have grown accustomed to. As counterintuitive as it may seem, the plan to integrate Morocco and Jordan into the GCC is in the execution phase. Both countries have welcomed prospects of joining the block. Discernible effects of such an augmentation will take time to manifest of course, but it is quite clear that the GCC will extend a much needed economic lifeline to the Hashimite and Alaouite kingdoms; both are facing crippling unemployment, rising commodities prices, and abysmal budget deficits; both are convulsed by the revolutionary challenges coursing through the Arab world; both government have made the economy their number one priority so as to placate popular ambitions. Morocco will also gain a geopolitical edge that will affect the dynamics of its relationship with Algeria.

It would have made perfect sense if the GCC invited Iraq and Yemen to join its ranks. Yemen has been granted an observer status since 2001. The timetable was set for a full integration in 2015, but popular demand for Ali Abdallah Saleh to relinquish power has undermined that aspiration. Iraq is an oil producing gulf country that, once the war induced trauma subsides, will most likely emerge as an influential regional player. The GCC deems Iraq unsuitable as a partner for the fact that the majority of its citizens are Shi’a and Iran runs the gamut of political interaction and security operations in all its provinces except Al-Anbar where Saudi Arabia, thanks to its financial support to the tribal sheiks and terrorist groups, has a modicum of influence.

The GCC members, to the exception of Oman and to a lesser degree Bahrain, have succeeded in forfending social upheaval mostly through mass bribery and an intimidation campaign that involves selective kidnapping and assassinations of key opposition leaders. To mitigate the internal problems of Oman and Bahrain, the GCC allocated US$20 billion in aid; in accordance with its security and defense joint agreement, the Peninsula Shield Forces, made up of a thousand Saudi military and five hundred UAE police officers, was deployed to Bahrain to violently quash a peaceful uprising king Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa failed to countercheck. The fact that Egypt, a pro-western ally under the tenure of former president Hosni Mubarak, softened its posture on Iran and further successfully reconciled Fatah and Hamas had a sobering effect on the GCC, especially Saudi Arabia. The latter, which has always assumed a position of political and economic leadership not only in the Gulf region, but the Arab world, has failed to mitigate the revolutionary surge in Yemen and broker a peace deal between the embatled Ali Abdallah Saleh and the Yemeni opposition. There is a strong concern in Saudi Arabia and Oman that the post Ali Abdallah Saleh government will be unsympathetic to the GCC. As Arab dictatorships crumble and new democratic governments that are more responsive to public opinion and energized by a reformer and revolutionary generation shoulder the leadership responsibility, Saudi Arabia is seeing its influence eroding while Iran’s political assertiveness is becoming stronger.

The GCC’s analysis of the revolutionary spillover predictably revolves around Iran and its destabilizing surreptitious intelligence activity aiming at mobilizing the shi’a population inside Gulf countries against the ruling families. Gulf countries have used such a strategy on numerous occasions to rally the U.S. in defense of its strategic agenda. In response to the current crisis, the U.S. tactfully declined to be involved in what it deems internal issues and instead advised that Gulf countries pursue democratic reforms and open an honest dialogue with the opposition. Saudi Arabia was shocked when the Obama administration encouraged the removal of Hosni Mubarak. It has become evident to Gulf rulers that U.S. cooperation, hamstrung by precepts GCC leadership and Arab governments in general are not familiar with – human rights and international laws protecting individual freedoms, will not be forthcoming when the perceived threat is strictly internal and popular. Even prior to the start of the Arab Spring, there have been fulgent indicators the Obama administration would break away from its former duplicitous self by protecting despots to reinforce stability. Obama ‘speech, made it clear the U.S. will no longer hedge its bets in its Middle East and North Africa policy. It is for this reason that Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz of Saudi King Abdullah, King Abdallah’s National Security Advisor, travelled to China to meet President Hu Jintao. The GCC ‘scramble for allies has begun. The threat of Iran is not as eminent for Morocco as it is for Bahrain, Kuwait, or Saudi Arabia. But Iran is not the only threat undermining GCC hegemony; The Arab world is splitting along ideological/sectarian lines: the revolutionaries and the counter-revolutionaries, the Shi’a and the Sunnis, the kingdoms and the republics. The GCC, as a Sunni “club of Kings” as some pundits called it, will counterbalance a less friendly Arab League, an influential and Iran backed Shi’a block, and a fresh leadership that considers it lacking legitimacy. The GCC members are starting to feel isolated and vilified, hence, the invitation to Morocco and Jordan to join.

Moroccan forces giving rights... and lefts to peaceful demonstrators

Moroccans have been buzzing about the possible motivation behind the GCC’s generous offer. The economic gap between Morocco and the Gulf countries is unfathomable. What could the Moroccan government possibly bring to the GCC table to be considered an equal partner? Economically, nothing, of course! Morocco already has cooperation agreements with individual Gulf States and has been staffing hotels with waiters and waitresses, hospitals with nurses, schools with teachers, streets with traffic police officers, and nightclubs with dancers for years. But the GCC is more than just an economic block; it is an ideological confederacy designed to protect the interests of the monarchic autocracy. The need for such protection has never been more urgent than now. As a GCC member, Morocco will have a responsibility to protect the other GCC members, not from an outside threat such as Iran – they have the U.S. for that, but from an internal threat such as dissent against the established leadership. When the Peninsula Shield Forces was deployed to Bahrain, it became apparent that a number of soldiers were somewhat reluctant to engage in a violent confrontation with the demonstrators. Inviting Morocco and Jordan to be members of the GCC will prepare the legal ground for military intervention, intelligence exchange, and counterintelligence cooperation. It will allow for an integrated combined arms incorporating all available assets, sensors and militaries to counter the revolutionary trend digging roots in the Arab world. To that effect, the GCC countries will inexorably inhibit reform efforts in Morocco and Jordan by gushing petro-dollars in their economies. Since the GCC announcement, the Moroccan authorities’ response to demonstrations has become unabashedly violent; the peaceful demonstrations organized Sunday in Tetouan, Fez, Marrakesh, Agadir, Tiznit and other cities have been brutally suppressed; many of the participants sustained serious injuries. I’m afraid the Moroccan people, whose chests swelled with pride when on March 9, the king announced radical constitutional reforms and spoke of democracy and freedom, justice and dignity, will have to pay a steeper price for their aspiration, a price much higher than the billions of U.S. dollars the GCC is willing to pay to keep Moroccans enslaved.

AUTHOR: Ahmed T. B. / Cabalamuse
URL: http://cabalamuse.wordpress.com/
E-MAIL: cabalafuse [at] hotmail.com


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