Under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has turned a new leaf over the complex inter-GCC disputes. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have decided to return their ambassadors to Doha after the Qatari administration agreed and pledged to abide by the Riyadh agreement. So, are the GCC’s problems now over?
Definitely not. The GCC is still in the process of reaching full political maturity. So as not to be harsh on the GCC, it suffices to contemplate Britain’s recent threat to pull out of the EU if its demands for EU-wide reforms on immigration are ignored. If such is the case with the Europeans, despite their long political history, what can be said of the GCC? The EU previously faced an economic crisis over the Greek debt. Back then, a German official remarked that the Greeks could not eat caviar and expect the rest of Europe to foot the bill. Well, the disputes of the GCC are not about caviar; they are a matter of life and death.
Differences among Gulf states are real and crucial, and involve Qatar as well as other member states. Some of the disputes are still simmering under the now apparently calm surface. For instance, why did Oman not attend the Riyadh summit that ended the dispute with Qatar? How can Muscat be excited about, say, the US–Iran nuclear deal while it absents itself from the summit? Most of those on the inside knew that the summit would resolve the dispute and turn a new leaf within the GCC. Why, then, did Oman fail to attend it? Thus far, no convincing answers have been offered.
The outcome of the Riyadh summit was not the result of traditional mediation, nor was it a product of emotion. It was simply the fruit of a rational and wise process prompted by the conviction that the GCC is yet to approach full maturity, with a long road still ahead of it, one which will require both patience and perseverance. If the EU itself still faces real challenges, what can be said of the GCC, surrounded as it is by an Arab environment beset with rifts and infiltrations, and facing existential challenges far more serious than the issue of Greek caviar?
The coming days and events will show the extent to which Qatar will abide by the Riyadh summit. The future will also reveal the reasons behind Oman’s absence. All we know right now is that the leaders of the GCC want it to continue, and to attempt to have some influence over their turbulent surroundings. Before anything else, the GCC seeks to provide what is beneficial for its member states, which is in itself a great challenge, particularly due to its proximity with countries currently undergoing serious crises, such as Yemen, Iraq and Syria. On top of that, there is Iran, an extremely meddlesome and problematic neighbor. We can only hope that the GCC soon reaches full maturity. Our people, more so than our our governments, need the GCC, an organization King Abdullah is keen to protect and help continue in its ongoing mission.