Can the Gulf states become a single entity? This question comes up repeatedly at every meeting between leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC], and on every other opportunity.
To answer this question, we must go back to the real reasons behind the establishment of the GCC, which was announced after the Taif conference between the foreign ministers of the six Gulf states in February 1981, less than half a year after the outbreak of the Iraq-Iran war.Back then, the undeclared objective behind the formation of the GGC was to create a united front along the Persian Gulf to assist Iraq in its confrontation with Iran.
To lend prestige to and create an entity for that front, the GCC states called for the establishment of a GCC military force. The “Peninsula Shield Force,” with its command located in Hafar al-Batin (a Saudi Arabian city located north of Riyadh), conducted joint exercises for years until a scandal exploded with the disastrous invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. Then, it became evident that the Peninsula Shield Force was nothing but an illusion — another means to deplete the money of the peoples of the Gulf.
Today, Iraq has become fragmented and Iran has taken full or partial control of southern Iraq. Arab dictatorships that we would never have imagined to see overthrown have been brought down. The Arab Spring has imposed strict conditions for its survival and continuation; conditions which do not include armies, or deals involving arms, aircraft and tanks. They rather involve freedom in all its forms, democracy in the absolute sense of the word and rights in their most abstract interpretations. In light of all this, the GCC today confronts the same modern challenges faced by all peoples in the Arab region.
Today, the GCC must compose a new narrative, one that is in line with the events of the Arab Spring and its dangerous political repercussions that have swept the region.
Today, the we strongly urge the GCC to provide practical discourse free of the rhetoric that we have gotten accustomed to reading about and hearing at the end of every GCC summit.
The new discourse must, first and foremost, be based on a commitment to democracy, freedom and civil rights — particularly political rights. To start with, all peoples of the Gulf order must reach a unanimous consensus over any changes to the form or role of the GCC. Crucial decisions must not be left in the hands of leaders alone. They have a duty to involve all segments of the Gulf population in the process. This can only be done through the ballot box, the sole judge. At the least, any changes or updates to the role of the GCC must be brought to a vote.
Democracy alone is the savior of the Persian Gulf — whether from an Iranian threat or any other. Without democracy, the peoples of the Gulf will continue to be citizens seeking mere donations and charity.