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Peninsula Shield Force: Ensuring the Gulf’s security | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] Peninsula Shield Force represents the main safeguard against any political unrest or security violations in any GCC member-state. The Peninsula Shield Force is based on the principle of collective and integrated security and defense, with each GCC member-state pledging to protect and defend the mutual security and interests of GCC member-states, as well as their territory and sovereignty.

One of the main objectives behind the establishment of the GCC in 1981 was protection from the threat posed by the Iran – Iraq War, and Iranian inspired Islamist activism. The GCC Peninsula Shield Force was established during the third GCC summit held in Manama in 1982, with GCC member-states agreeing to establish a “Peninsula Shield” made up of joint-military forces from GCC member-states. The GCC Peninsula Shield Force established its headquarters close to the city of Hafar Al-Batin in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia in 1985.

Initially, the GCC Peninsula Shield Force was made up of 5,000 troops, the majority of whom were Saudi Arabian, however today the Peninsula Shield Force is made up of approximately 40,000 troops from all GCC member-states, and is indeed deployed in all GCC member-states.

The GCC Peninsula Shield Force undertook its first mission in 1986, after Iranian forces invaded Iraq’s strategically crucial Faq Peninsula during the Iraq – Iraq war. In addition to this, the Peninsula Shield Force troops were also deployed along Saudi Arabia’s southern border during this period in response to the escalating threats along the Saudi – Yemeni border.

Following the Second Gulf War in 1990-91, the GCC Peninsula Shield Force sought to build up its defense capabilities, with GCC member-states establishing unified operational procedures, training, and military curricula. In addition to this, the Peninsula Shield Force began to carry out joint military exercises and maneuvers with all GCC state militaries. The Peninsula Shield Force today holds joint training exercises every two years with one of the Gulf’s militaries.

Another important achievement was the resolution taken during the GCC Summit in Kuwait in 1997 to link the GCC member-states with an early warning military communication network, with a secure fiber optic cable network being completed in early 2001.

The GCC member-states signed a joint security pact at the 21st GCC summit in Manama on 31 December 2000. In the closing statement of the 21st GCC summit, the GCC General Presidency announced the establishment of “the principle of common security by consolidating coordination and cooperation in the fields of defense and security in order to protect national security, and in order to maintain the independence of the GCC states, their sovereignty, and territorial integrity under a Common Defense Agreement among the GCC states.”

This treaty also led to the creation of a joint GCC Defense Council and a Supreme Military Committee, and this put into place what has now become the pillar of the GCC security doctrine, namely that a breach of the security of one GCC state represents a breach of the security of all GCC member-states.

The GCC Peninsula Shield Force witnessed significant operational changes in 2006 following a proposal put to the GCC by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz. The Saudi monarch proposed that the Peninsula Shield Force should be transformed into a quick-reaction force, with troops based in their home countries but under joint command. The Peninsula Shield Force would then be able to quickly respond to any crises in any GCC member-state, following a request by the GCC member-state in question. This is precisely what has happened with regards to the GCC Peninsula Shield Force deployment to Bahrain.