Politics is like a group of friends, when two members fight over something they tend to form teams depending on whom they support. In the case of political conflicts, countries support the “team” that will benefit them more. Whether it’s between the regional powers or super powers or unions; self-benefits come above everything.
Among the Arab states, there has always been disputes and lack of cooperation and solidarity due to various reasons such as political ideologies, long-term dictators or religious differences. However, among the Arab states is the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which is the economic and political union of the Arab Gulf States that are bordering the Persian Gulf (or sometimes called Arabian Gulf). This council has been able to unify itself and to surpass the other conflicts in the region and advance in economic and political union.
The GCC was established in Abu Dhabi, UAE on 25 May 1981, the original union comprised the Persian Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The unified economic agreement between the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council was signed on 11 November 1981 in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Economic union was based on trade as they do not unify under one currency as it has failed to materialise in 2010.
This area has some of the fastest growing economies in the world, mostly due to a boom in oil and natural gas revenues coupled with a building and investment boom backed by decades of saved petroleum revenues. In an effort to build a tax base and economic foundation before the reserves run out, the UAE’s investment arms, including Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, retain over $900 billion in assets. Other regional funds also have several hundreds of billions dollars of assets under management. In addition, the GCC economic alliance of 50 million people of oil producing nations is worth $16 trillion per annum of goods and services.
Hence, this union all have mutual benefits when it comes to their social and political stability. However, unfortunately, after the Arab Spring; the union has been experiencing ‘discomfort’ due to disagreements and countries such as Qatar trying to gain political and regional influence over the expense of other countries such as Egypt or Syria in the League of Arab States.
In the latest Arab Summit in Kuwait, all the spotlights were on Qatar and Saudi Arabia as Qatar backs the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt while Saudi Arabia is having its claws out against Qatar and the rest of GCC backs Saudi Arabia. Qatar has presented its inconvenience and would only agree to stop fuelling the MB only if the military-based regime in Egypt works again with the MB. But once again, who would benefit? Definitely, not the Egyptian population as it would only benefit Qatar with greater political hegemony, specifically, in Sinai which is based on tribal democracy and has undiscovered mineral resources from uranium to oil.
On the other hand, as Saudi Arabia and many supporters of it shake their heads in discontent. Disruption in economic investments and projects stay on hold due to stubborn governments and countries who have no hand in the decisions such as Kuwait suffer from such disagreements. The GCC require smooth relations as they depend on joint projects of aviation and energy and cross border investments. Kuwait was meant to implement a project where it will import natural gas from Qatar and save millions of dollars per year. Nevertheless, so far, it is pending as the pipelines would cross Saudi waters to reach Kuwait from Qatar and the Saudi government has not given any permission as long as Qatar backs the MB.
At the end of the day, the losers are either nations/governments that are coincidently geographically located in between countries searching for their benefits or citizens of nations such as Egypt who have regional power yet high number of poverty. As Qatar tries to build its influence through political hegemony by using its oil and money; yet, the questions are, how long would the oil and money last and would they really affect other nations just to gain regional power?
Suzan Shedid (Dubai Campus)