The GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) was created in 1981 to facilitate trade between the six Arab Gulf Monarchies (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE) but in recent weeks some members have been pushing for a closer union, which Bahraini foreign minister, Khalid Al Khalifa, has said could follow the ”European Union model”.

What that means exactly is unclear: the nature of the proposed union hasn’t fully come out but we know the idea was instigated by the Saudi monarch. Although the proposal has been postponed, Bahrain and Qatar have backed it, the UAE and Kuwait have said they need time to review, and Oman has flat out rejected it. This might simply sound like countries with similar interests coming together but a lot of people are saying other reasons, such as keeping Bahrain’s royal family incumbent, are behind the proposal.

The solution to the crisis in Bahrain is…

Iran quickly came forward to criticize the plans, aiming their warnings mainly at Bahrain. It’s widely thought that the proposed union will bring greater ties between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the same Saudi Arabia whose troops are currently in Bahrain, along with several other GCC nations’ – to help quash protests from the majority Shia against the Sunni Royal Family. Iran, it has been said, is helping to fuel protests; Iran is known to support Shia groups around the region (Hezbollah in Lebanon).

Iran’s foreign minister said “Any kind of foreign intervention or non-normative plans without respecting [Bahrain’s] people’s vote will only deepen the already existing crisis.” and “The solution to the crisis in Bahrain is a response to the legitimate demands of the people.” More worryingly Iran’s parliamentary speaker was quoted in the national news agency as saying “If Bahrain is supposed to be integrated into another country, it must be Iran and not Saudi Arabia.”

…this has been circling international courts for a while…

Iran seems to be talking for the people and its points are quite valid but their motivation is more than likely less pleasing. Saudi Arabia and Iran are two of the biggest players in the region, Saudi Arabia being Sunni and Iran being Shia they tend to support groups from their own sect. A simple comparison of their stances on Syria and Bahrain highlights this, Saudi Arabia supports the majority Sunni protestors against Assad’s Shia minority government while supporting Bahrain’s Sunni minority Royalty against the Shia majority protestors, Iran takes the opposite stance for both.

Another detrimental issue to Arab-Persian relations are the disputed Abu Musa and the greater and lesser Tunb islands Though this has been circling international courts for a while it came to a head last month when Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, visited the Island, sparking a diplomatic row that saw the UAE recall its ambassador and a number of countries declare their support for the Emirati stance. It should be noted that this is all going on in the Strait of Hormuz, an area already in the media after Iran’s threats to block exports from the Gulf States.

…they’d much prefer to support their particular sect…

Iran is increasingly seeing itself as a threatened state, with Arab countries acting against it now as well as Western powers. The worry is that these arguments could heat up. Both the Saudis and the Iranians accuse each other of helping different sides in Syria and should sectarian violence intensify in Syria, it could easily spill over into Lebanon, which has already seen rival Syrian groups attack each other inside its borders.

It’s a sad fact that though often saying they support the people’s choices, countries around the Arabian Gulf seem to have no real interest in democracy; they’d much prefer to support their particular sect than any kind of real majority rule. Could a closer GCC union be seen as a threat to Iran and to protestors in the region? And if it’s lead by Saudi Arabia what will that mean for other members that, though strict, are more lenient: will they be expected to ban their women from driving too?


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Grew up in the Middle East, currently studying Arabic and Linguistics in central London. Write a lot...

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