by Crescent International (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 28, No. 8, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1420)
The six member-states of the Gulf Co-operation Council marked the 18th anniversary of the pact’s signing on May 24. Only two days later, two members, Qatar and Bahrain, announced that they would continue to pursue their border dispute before the International Court of Justice, underlining once again the failure of the organisation to play any role in ending the perennial squabbling among its six members.
On June 6, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates got embroiled in a needless public quarrel over recent moves by some GCC states to improve relations with Iran, damaging further the credibility of an institution already in terminal decline.
Of the two events, the Saudi-UAE punch-up is the more damaging. It all began when a UAE minister, Rashid Abdullahi al-Nu’aimi, complained during a television program on June 6 that the stampede by certain member states to improve relations with Iran was at the expense of his country, and encouraged Tehran to adopt a hardline stance in its territorial dispute with Abu Dhabi (over three islands, including Abu Musa). The minister hinted that the emirate might be forced to leave the GCC as a result.
The Saudi response was immediate and unprecedentedly sharp, with the defence minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz at one point describing al-Nu’aimi as ‘ignorant’. Sultan said that half of the UAE’s population is from Iran anyway, while half of its trade is with Iran - adding that the kingdom was only following the UAE’s example in pursuing trade, economic and employment relations with Iran.
The unprecedented public quarrel was considered serious enough for the GCC secretary-general to hold urgent talks with UAE president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, and for the emirates to decide to raise the issue at a GCC ministerial meeting on June 12. The UAE, which is the current chairman of the organization will raise in particular the issue of Saudi and Qatari efforts to improve ties with Iran. The GCC foreign ministers will confer at the organization’s headquarters in Riyadh.
But although this latest dispute could get out of control, the member states have the somewhat dubious consolation of belonging to an organization that has long been in terminal decline.
Muslimedia: June 16-30, 1999