The GCC's changing role and the challenges of the region's geopolitical conflict

Elephant rock, at Al Ula, Saudi Arabia

Ahmad Abdel- Rahman explains how changing geopolitics in the Gulf region impacts developments in the region and beyond.

The Al-Ula Summit, which was held in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)in January opened a new chapter of geopolitics in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Openness and reconciliation were hallmarks of the summit of the six countries that make up the GCC. Undoubtedly, it is true that "What happened had to happen."

The reasons why KSA, the U.A.E, Bahrain, along with the North African country of Egypt had a dispute with Qatar were not simple. The reasons why these countries wanted to end the dispute after 3.5 years are also unusual. If the basis for the disagreement is the position of Iranian behaviour in the region, the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorism, then the motives for ending it include adjusting the GCC's position within the framework of a comprehensive strategic view, its developments and challenges.

In a dispute, there is no winner or loser, because everyone loses. When there is an agreement, there is no winner and loser because everyone wins. In this context, it can also be said that the centre of weight in the geopolitical conflict in the region is moving from what were called "ring states" and "water states" to the GCC. *The Arab Ring states is a term coined by the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1960s. The term refers to the Arab countries surrounding occupied Palestine, which are Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.

There are a number of issues that must be taken into account. First, there is the Israeli threat, which has been going on for decades, and was preceded by the Iranian threat. Second, the Ring States have changed their views: Egypt and Jordan are at peace with Israel; Syria is ruled by Russia, Turkey and Iran is paralyzed by the Syrian war that has entered its 10th year. Syria and Lebanon are ruled by Iranian influence. Third, the interests of education, technology, communications, artificial intelligence and diversification of sources of income have become a priority in the GCC.

Fourth, the GCC's pursuit of integration in all fields has led to unity and has met the level of ambition of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the region, to be "the new Europe". Fifth, the priorities in facing the threat posed by Iran has led the U.A.E, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco to sign peace accords and economic agreements with Israel. Sixth, the ambitions of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pose a threat to the whole region, not only to Iraq, Syria and Libya, where he sent his forces and his mercenaries.

Hence, the commitments made at the Saudi Al-Ula summit and the challenges that arose, were highly significant. The Iranian threat, as indicated by the Saudi Crown Prince, and the leaders who participated in the summit, is a "triple" threat to the region, Europe and America, as well as to the GCC.

The first element in this threefold danger is the Iranian nuclear program, on which Tehran has spent hundreds of billions of dollars. Tehran has also practised all forms of camouflage so that it can prove to the world that it has a peaceful nuclear program and is not aimed at producing a nuclear weapon.

The second element of the Iranian triple threat is the ballistic missiles that Iran boasts of making and the extent to which it threatens the GCC, Europe and US bases in the region. The third element is destabilizing security and stability in the region, establishing militias affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards such as the "Popular Mobilization" in Iraq, militias in Syria and "Hezbollah" in Lebanon, and supporting "Hamas" and "Islamic Jihad" in Gaza and the Houthis in Yemen with money and weapons.

The declared roles of these militias were a cover for the roles that officials in Tehran have been talking about publicly. These roles are, at a minimum, "missile platforms" and "front lines" to defend Tehran, while, at a maximum, the control tools in these countries has become part of the new version of the "Persian Empire".

Therefore, it was natural for the "Al-Ula summit statement" to focus on "strengthening military integration between the GCC countries under the supervision of the Joint Defence Council, the Supreme Military Committee and the unified military command of the Cooperation Council, to meet the emerging challenges based on the joint defence agreement and the principle of collective security for the GCC countries."

Frankness and reconciliation were hallmarks of the Al Ula summit. The countries at the summit decided that it is important that there is a collective control of geopolitical dangers and that each country should build deterrence capacity. At the same time, there is the ability for other countries militarily to confront Iran without being fully dependent on other countries.

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Wednesday, 21 April 2021