'Gulf Union' Idea Resurfaces As Security Worries Shift

Article Summary
A two-day conference recently held in Bahrain addressed the source of security threats in the Gulf. The Arab Spring and regional power imbalances were the main culprits, and an economic-security bloc called the “Gulf Union”  is being seriously considered for the first time in 30 years. Mohammed al-Sa’id Idriss reports.

Between March 21 and 22 [2012], the "Bahraini Arab Islamic Al-Wasat Society” organized an important two-day conference entitled "Arab Identity and Security in the Gulf," attended by a large number of Bahraini and non-Bahrani thinkers, intellectuals and politicians. It was immediately apparent that the conference correlated the security threats and dangers facing the Gulf region with the challenges facing Arabism in the Gulf. These challenges go beyond the region’s disagreements with Iran over whether it should be deemed the Arabian Gulf or the Persian Gulf, and instead address the Gulf’s association with Arabism, in light of the huge demographic imbalance that favors non-Arab nationalities and Iran’s growing role in the Gulf region.

The main concern at the conference was to identify the source of security threats against Bahrain in particular, and the Gulf Arab states in general. The results of the so-called "Arab Spring" — the popular Arab movement that took place, and is still taking place, in several Arab countries — were also topics of interest, especially amid continued domestic tension in Bahrain between the opposition and the government. The conference also discussed the National Commission’s report, which followed up on the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), also known as the " Bassiouni Commission." The Bahraini king received the National Commission’s report only one day before the conference started.

This is, perhaps, what prompted conference organizers to work on drafting a document called “Visuals of What Should Be,” which proposed possible solutions to the challenges facing Bahrain, as a conclusion to the conference.

Some of the important ideas proposed were a key part of these visuals. Gulf-state governments should focus on three certain issues: implementing serious political reform, achieving social justice and establishing a Gulf Union. It is important to note that creating a Gulf Union as a way out of the crises facing Bahrain and other Gulf Arab states is a relatively new concept, especially when compared with the negative way in which the proposal had been received in previous years. A Gulf Union has been proposed since the GCC was founded in 1981 with the aim of coordinating security initiatives. However, because security was not an issue at the time, the council did not accomplish any significant results. Furthermore, the call for achieving Gulf unity — and not just forming a Gulf Union — was quite noticeable in the founding charter, but was not given priority in its actual implementation.

Analyses of the region confirm that the Gulf Union is a necessity for regional security. The analyses are based on the fact that the regional security problem in the Gulf stems from an imbalance of power within the so-called "regional Gulf order,” which includes the eight countries situated on the Arabian Gulf: Iran, Iraq and the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Based on the balance of power that was in place at the time of the GCC’s creation, there were three regional Gulf powers: Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, and five smaller countries which are Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and the Sultanate of Oman. The military superiority of both Iran and Iraq would encourage both of them to adopt aggressive policies toward the other six Gulf states, which prompted these states to seek external balance and to demand international, non-regional intervention in order to maintain regional security.

The second fact, stemming from the first, is that addressing “imbalance of power” issue — which created the security problem in the Gulf — can be achieved by establishing a new balance of power. This cannot be done by depending on external parties, but by integrating the six states under a single security system and transforming the GCC into a socio-political security bloc. This bloc would not only be able to create a balance of power with Iran and Iraq, but would also achieve the economic excellence needed to make cooperation, and not conflict, the main characteristic of regional relations. This would considerably limit the justification for international intervention in maintaining Gulf regional security.

Today, other domestic forces have emerged, which makes it imperative to implement these changes within the GCC system. Although the traditional regional forces are certainly present, new forces within the Gulf Arab states, namely Bahrain, make the Gulf Union an inevitable necessity for resolving security and domestic stability issues in the Gulf states.

Found in: security, saudi, iranian threat, iran, gulf union, gulf security, gulf cooperation council, gulf, gcc, bahrain, arabism, arab spring, arab

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using them you accept our use of cookies. Learn more... X