GCC defence pact tailor-made for US regional policy

Developing Just Leadership

Crescent International

Shawwal 21, 1421 2001-01-16

Occupied Arab World

by Crescent International (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 29, No. 22, Shawwal, 1421)

The six member-states of the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) signed a defence pact on December 31, pledging themselves to come to each other’s aid in the event of attack. The leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) concluded the GCC’s 21st summit in Manama, Bahrain, and agreed plans to upgrade GCC backing for the UAE in its conflict with Iran, and to prolong Iraq’s isolation. But the rhetoric of the summit and of the Arab media cannot disguise the fact that the six will continue to depend on the US for their defence, and will in return continue to serve its strategic interests in the region.

The summit was in fact on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the Gulf War, which brought home to the GCC member-states their inability to defend their territories against a nearby giant like Iraq without external help. Iraq occupied Kuwait and humiliated Saudi Arabia, the GCC’s most dominant member, by forcing it to call upon the US and other allied forces to protect it against similar occupation.

The GCC itself was set up in 1981, under what Saudi newspapers call “two shadows”: the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 and the Iran-Iraq war (more accurately called the Islam-kufr war). The overthrow of the Shah by the Islamic Revolution reminded the hereditary rulers of the Gulf that they, too, are vulnerable, driving them to accuse Tehran of planning to “export its Revolution”, while the war between the two Gulf giants threatened to destabilize the entire region. Yet despite their fear, it took the Gulf States a decade to conclude even such a loose defence pact. The six often squabble; Qatar and Bahrain are locked in bitter border dispute which the GCC has failed to mediate, and which has now been taken to the international court of justice. Nor has the UAE, which consists of a federation of Emirates, managed to resolve disputes over internal boundaries, although it zealously pursues its dispute with Iran over the three islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs.

One thing the summit had no difficulty in agreeing about was the increase of support for the UAE in its dispute with Iran. Until now the GCC, despite being on the UAE’s side, has contented itself with urging the parties to take their case to the international court of justice; they set up a three-member committee of technocrats to persuade Iran to refer the issue to the court. Now they have come down heavily on the UAE’s side, supporting its claim to sovereignty over the islands and declaring Iran’s ‘occupation’ “illegal and unacceptable”. They have also dissolved the three-member committee, replacing it with a ministerial committee charged with the task of publicising the issue and raising it in international forums such as the UN. The summit was not as emphatic in its declaration on Iraq, although it urged Baghdad to comply with the UN’s resolutions on the elimination of weapons of mass-destruction. The declaration fell short of Kuwait’s demand that Iraq should comply with all UN resolutions, because of objections from the UAE and Qatar. But it clearly backed the US line, which seeks to keep Iraq disarmed in order to maintain Israel’s military edge.

Containing Iran and Iraq, ending Israel’s isolation in the region and boosting the sale of US arms are vital components of Washington’s policy in the Middle East. It is no coincidence that, while the summit was deliberating, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were publicly accused of putting pressure on Yasser Arafat to accede to Bill Clinton’s ‘peace-plan’. Both were forced to deny publicly that they were exerting pressure. Nor is it a coincidence that Saudi Arabia signed a $2 billion arms deal with the US a day after the conclusion of the GCC defence pact. It is significant that the GCC governments agreed on their Manama summit soon after the election of George W. Bush as president and the selection of his senior officials. Not only does Bush support the US’s strategies in the Middle East, but his vice president and nominees for the defence and foreign-policy portfolios also played leading roles in developing those policies.

Vice-president elect Dick Cheney was secretary of defence in the presidency of Bush senior and at the time of the Gulf War; Colin Powell, secretary of state designate, was chairman of the joint chiefs of staff during the same period. Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s choice for secretary of defence, has been involved with the leadership of the Pentagon and the conduct of US foreign policy in the past. Rumsfeld was president Ronald Reagan’s special envoy in the Middle East during the early 1980s and dealt with Arab and Israeli leaders of that period. Only two years ago he led a bipartisan commission that concluded that US intelligence agencies had underestimated the threat of future missile attack from North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

The Manama summit was a fitting preparation to welcome these wreckers of the region’s tranquillity with extravagant military purchases that cannot be used against the zionist foe in our midst.

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