Middle East News
ANALYSIS: Expanded GCC seeks to face Iran, uprisings
By Abdul Jalil Mustafa May 13, 2011, 10:12 GMT
Amman - The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was set up 30 years ago to promote business among oil-rich Persian Gulf states.
With its latest expansion to Jordan and Morocco, it appears to be shaping into a coalition of Arab hereditary monarchies and emirates intent on both facing Iran's growing intervention in the group's internal affairs and evading any democratic transformation as dictated by a spate of Arab revolts, analysts say.
'I think it is a step in the right direction, whereby the GCC countries can achieve a balance in their conflict with Iran,' Faisal Rofou, professor of Political Science at the University of Jordan, told the German Press Agency dpa.
'The arrangement can also be an advanced formula for comprehending the repercussions of the ongoing tsunami of Arab revolts and resolving the consequent security problems,' he said.
Rofou was referring to the recent toppling of the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes and the ongoing unrest in Yemen, Libya and Syria.
Protests in Bahrain, a GCC member state with a Shiite majority, was quelled by force that involved the dispatch of Saudi troops to the kingdom as part of the Peninsula Shield, a pan-Gulf rapid deployment force.
GCC partners and some other Arab states have teamed up with Bahrain in accusing Iran of being behind the Shiite revolt in the country, while Tehran has been severely critical of Saudi military aid to Manama.
Rofou also sees in the enlargement of the GCC a US-backed 'restructuring of the camp of Arab moderate states' that had received a severe blow with the collapse of Hosny Mubarak's regime in Egypt.
'The GCC countries have worries as to the unpredictable outcome of the current political turmoil in the region,' he said.
This vision is supported by Fahd Kheitan, chief editor of the independent Alarab Alyawm daily newspaper, who considers the expansion of the GCC to include Jordan and Morocco as a 'type of strategic alliance designed to deal with the winds of change that blow in the region.'
Analysts considered Jordan, which borders Saudi Arabia, a logical GCC partner due to its geographic proximity and similar tribal structure. But they have cast doubts on the enrolment of Morocco, which lacks such characteristics.
Jordanians expect to receive economic benefits from joining the GCC, but they appear sceptical over the security burdens that Amman should have to shoulder, particularly in dealing with Iran.
'I believe that Jordan, which has been facing an enemy in the West as represented by Israel, will have to face a new enemy in the east, which is Iran,' Kheitan told dpa.
However, both Rofou and Kheitan believe the economic advantages which Jordan stands to gain from joining the GCC will bolster it against Israel and provide it with additional leverage in its drive to achieve a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians.
'By becoming the seventh GCC member, Jordan will be more independent from an economic viewpoint and more capable of foiling Israeli manoeuvres,' Kheitan said.
Nevertheless, Jordanians inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt fear membership could also quash plans for political reform.
'There are worries that Jordan's joining of the GCC will affect the country's political reform programme,' columnist Mohammad Abu Romman said.
He said the concerns stem from the possibility of resorting again to Bahrain-style 'security approaches' in dealing with pro-democracy protests.
The enlarged GGC is expected to top the agenda of King Abdullah II's forthcoming meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday.
Before his departure from Amman on Wednesday, the monarch was involved in consultations with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, who paid a visit to the Jordanian capital.
The GCC was set up on May 25, 1981 by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.
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