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The Gulf: In the midst of the storm - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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It is estimated that the Gross Domestic Production [GDP] of Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] states may reach as high as $1.5 trillion in 2013, depending if oil prices remain at $100 per barrel. This is consistent with the expectations of the oil market based on international levels of supply and demand.

If we take current global standards into account, which talk about a state’s power and ability to influence according to the size of its economy and the per capita income of its citizens as well as the extent of its economy’s development; these figures grant a clear picture that we are talking about an economic force to be reckoned with on the international level, as well as in terms of regional standards.

The GCC is holding its 33rd summit in Manama whilst this organization has always focused on regional economic integration and market openness along the lines of what we have seen in Europe. The GCC’s march has passed through a significant period of volatility, perhaps most noticeably as a result of the severe decrease in oil prices which GCC state economies relied upon, particularly in the 1980s, not to mention various international financial crises. In addition to there, there are the fluctuations in the global economy that have had both negative and positive repercussions on all economies tied to the global market; however these have ultimately been positive and the citizens of the 6 GCC states have benefited from this in terms of movement, labour or investment. The markets and economies of the GCC states have expanded and developed to the point that they are now dealing in figures reaching tens of billions of dollars per day!

Politically, the storms have raged on, and this is in a turbulent region that has always been beset by crises. Indeed, the establishment of the GCC in 1981 took place amidst the Iran – Iraq war, which itself was accompanied by the so-called Gulf “Tanker” war. Following this we witnessed the gravest threat, namely Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, which was followed by the war to liberate the country. Following this, we saw the so-called Second Iraq War [2003], as well as numerous other regional crises with military dimensions, whether we are talking about Gaza, Lebanon or Yemen. This is not to mention the threat of terrorism, particularly following the 9/11 attacks.

We have now witnessed the latest political storm, namely the wave of change that beset some Arab states beginning two years ago, including key states. The repercussions of this wave are on-going, including chaos and instability, whilst violence is on-going in Syria, along with Iranian attempts to exploit these fluctuations and events to serve Tehran’s regional agenda.

This may not be the first storm that GCC states have co-existed with, particularly if we take into account the previous crises, however the nature of this crisis represents a different challenge in light of the state of fluidity that has been created in the region and which remind us of the circumstances that characterized the beginning of the 20th century.

Without a doubt, the projects that are currently being discussed by the GCC summit to achieve a Gulf Economic Union, as a prelude to establishing a single currency and a unified political and security policy will place the 6 GCC member states in a better position to positively influence their geographic surroundings, and assist the region to safely pass through this storm with the least damage possible.

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

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