Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: GCC consensus is between reality and hope | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A general view of the last session of the 34th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held in Kuwait, on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 (AP/Gustavo Ferrari).

No one argues with the fact that the people of Qatar and the State of Qatar represent an important and cherished element of the Gulf family. Equally, no one argues with the fact that there is no family devoid of differences of opinion among its members.

However, at the same time, we must accept that there are rules and values that govern family relations that everyone must respect. There are obligations and commitments that must be taken into consideration. There are many benefits in keeping the Gulf family together and united against challenges and outside threats that threaten the security and stability of every Gulf home.

It was against this background that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain took the decision to withdraw their ambassadors from Qatar, a diplomatic expression of their displeasure with Doha. This is a message of reproach, not retribution.

This decision, which we never wished for, is nothing new in international relations, even between countries that are part of the same alliance or union. This is because each state has its own national policies that may be different to those of other members of the alliance.

It is also no secret that this decision did not come as a surprise to observers of Gulf affairs, who knew what was going on in the Gulf’s political corridors, especially over the course of the past three years following the eruption of the Arab Spring revolutions. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states remained steadfast in the face of the troubles that affected the region, and especially over the past three decades that witnessed terrible wars and horrific events. The GCC showed great skill in being able to cooperate and coordinate to overcome the crises since the eruption of the Iran–Iraq war, and the establishment of the GCC as a successful organization.

The GCC states were then able to overcome the most dangerous crisis they faced in the second Gulf War when Saddam Hussein’s forces invaded GCC member state Kuwait. The GCC faced the repercussions of that invasion and worked for the liberation of Kuwait.

The next test appeared with the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the effects they had on the Arab world, including the Palestinian Cause. The subsequent Afghanistan war also had its effects on the region, including oil-price fluctuations and the wave of terrorism that affected a number of regional states. Following this, the GCC dealt with the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 by US and allies forces.

Despite all these terrible events, the GCC states succeeded in overcoming the crises thanks to the wisdom of its leaders and cohesion of the people, as well as the unity of their stances and decisions—and despite the fact that this Gulf consensus or cohesion was not welcomed by many international and regional powers who wanted to interfere in Gulf affairs.

The Gulf States now face new challenges that are no less serious than the ones they faced before. The security, stability and independence of the Gulf States are under threat. Since the start of the Arab Spring revolutions, Qatar has gambled on the ascendancy of groups who apply political Islam and want to join those groups who seek to harm Gulf and Arab states with no justification. Qatar either directly or tacitly permits this, and it is this policy that has placed the country in conflict with its Gulf partners who believe in good neighborliness and non-interference in the affairs of others.

Several messages were sent to draw Doha’s attention to the seriousness of these practices that are dragging Qatar and the rest of the Gulf States into a quagmire of thankless issues that only serve the aims and plots of other regional powers. Following this, the disagreement increased between the GCC states, which had previously been in harmony and shared a single fate. These sisterly relations stemmed from a common history and destiny and the interests of the one people of the Gulf.

The Gulf States were aware of the serious circumstances and plots confronting them, but despite this there were repeated attempts to heal the rift and quietly put the Gulf house in order. The last of these attempts was made by the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, who tried to persuade Qatar to abandon the policies that were harming the GCC States, threatening their security and negatively affecting joint Arab efforts. The Emir called on Qatar to abandon its support of Islamist groups outlawed by their own people and branded as terrorist organizations.

Qatar, however, continued its approach and unfortunately continued to move in a direction that hindered the GCC’s operations and political and security coordination, allowing others to interfere in Gulf internal affairs.

The statement issued earlier this month by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, mandating the withdrawal of ambassadors from Doha, is a bitter one, and comes only after all cordial attempts of redressing this situation have been exhausted. The statement focused on a number of issues such as the clear violation of the principles of Gulf relations, the violation of the GCC Charter represented in Doha’s refusal to sign the Riyadh Charter and Doha’s interference in the internal affairs of other Gulf States, providing support for parties that threaten the security of the Gulf, not to mention its support for the anti-GCC media campaign.

Despite all this, we hope that Qatar learns the lesson and overcomes this diplomatic crisis, and returns to its rightful place as a contributor to stability and development among its sister states, under the umbrella of the GCC, which is aiming to become a union. We also hope that Doha closes the dossiers of conflict and opens those of agreement, and that Qatar becomes a bridge for Arab rapprochement, not division and break-up, committing to the Gulf traditions of non-interference and respecting the will of the people in choosing their governments and regimes, instead of trying to impose new realities on the scene.

We agree that the alliances of GCC states with other countries or groups outside the GCC system, should not be rejected or harmful, as they are a sovereign right for all GCC states including Qatar. However, it must also be recognized that these alliances must not come at the expense of vital interests, or at the expense of the security and stability of the other GCC states. They must also not be an alternative to good and balanced relations within the GCC, nor a means of muscle-flexing against the GCC or of disturbing the stability of the GCC.

Therefore, what is expected from the Qatari leadership is for it to reconsider its priorities, and take into consideration the fact that Gulf security and stability is “indivisible” and not subject to bargaining. Foreign alliances are nothing more than temporary and tactical moves; they must not be placed above the higher interests of the GCC, which are strategic in nature.