Symposium Reviews The Gulf Cooperation Council as it Turns 31 (Part 1)

Published: May 28, 2012

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Editor’s Note:

The 31st anniversary of the Gulf Cooperation Council (established May 25, 1981) was celebrated last night at the office of the GCC Secretariat in Riyadh. Secretary General Dr. Abdullatif Al-Zayyani commented that, “The challenges faced by the GCC over the last three decades only strengthened the resolve of the GCC leaders to advance the process of regional integration and the noble targets of unity and shared prosperity and development.” He added, “Through its ministerial council, the GCC strives to assert itself as a key player in the regional and international affairs and makes great strides towards integration. The council adopted crucial calculated steps in the field of economic development such as the economic unity agreement, the common market, the customs union and the monetary union.”

As you have read in these pages there have been moves to increase the integration of the GCC through confederation as a single entity, some believe similar to the European Union. A proposal by Saudi Arabian King Abdullah at last December’s GCC Summit was endorsed for further study by a special committee and last month the question was reviewed by the member states’ leaders. A study of the prospects for a “single entity” union continues with the next review set for December 2012.

There was also an observance of the GCC’s milestone in Washington last week as the National Council on US-Arab Relations (NCUSAR) assembled a distinguished panel to discuss the “Implications of Trends and Indications for GCC and US Interests.” The panel included: Dr. John Duke Anthony (moderator), President, National Council on US-Arab Relations; Ms. Molly Williamson, former senior official in the Departments of Commerce, Defense, State and Energy; Dr. Odeh Aburdene, President OAI Advisors and authority on international monetary issues; Ms. Randa Hudome, former Energy Department Associate Deputy Secretary; Mr. Joshua Yaphe, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research; Mr. Andrew Rabens, State Department Bureau of Near East Affairs; and Dr. Robert Sharp, Defense Department Near East and South Asia Center for Strategic Studies.

SUSRIS is pleased to share the symposium transcripts with you over the coming days. We start today with the panel introduction by Dr. John Duke Anthony, a widely recognized authority on the history and development of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the presentation of Ms. Williamson, an overview of the topic. Other speakers’ presentations and the lengthy question and answer period will be shared over this coming week. SUSRIS thanks the National Council on US-Arab Relations for organizing timely and helpful forums like this one.  SUSRIS also suggests you check the Special Section on the proposed Gulf Union which provides many articles, interviews, and special reports as well as links to other materials on this major development.


The Gulf Cooperation Council at 31: Implications of Trends and Indications for GCC and US Interests (Part 1)
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
Washington, DC
May 24, 2012

Dr. John Duke Anthony (Photo: NCUSAR)

[Dr. John Duke Anthony] Ladies and Gentlemen, please take your seats for what promises to be another cerebral massage in terms of increasing our knowledge and understanding, increasing information and insight on timely, relevant and in many cases pressing issues involving the United States and the Arab countries, the Middle East, the Islamic world, as well as issues from these three overlapping, interlocking regions with the United States in terms of America’s policies, America’s positions, America’s attitudes, America’s actions towards the region’s needs, its concerns, its interests and its foreign policy objectives.

We have a rich array of individuals who’ve spent most of their professional lifetime focused on the region of interest and emphasis today, namely the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which this month, 31 years ago, established a six-state sub-regional organization. At the time, many people were quite surprised because these had been seen for so much of modern history as amongst the most forgotten if not also the most forlorn of the countries of the Arab East. And several countries wanted to be invited to join this organization at the beginning but they were not. And there were resentments, jealousies, envies as a result. And from its inception until now, the GCC probably has been more misunderstood than understood. And this is no more accurately the case than in North America and the United States in particular. It is true that most Americans now who follow foreign affairs issues realize that the GCC is something more than animal, vegetable and mineral. What they’re not exactly certain of is what it is and what it is not, and what it is empowered to do and what it is constrained in terms of not being able to do. Much of it will be shared by our specialists this morning.

So without further ado, you’re going to see and hear these speakers as you see them from your left to your right in sequence. And we’ll try to have equal time for those who will provide presentations to the discussion questions period and Q&A. And we ask that you confine your questions to one of the 3×5 cards that should have been on your chair that will be collected by the National Council staff and brought to me for asking of the panelists. We have several distinguished guests with us today. We have the League of Arab States Ambassador, the Ambassador of Tunisia to the United States, the Ambassador of Bahrain to the United States and other embassy and diplomatic and consulate personnel. Might I ask that the three of you that I just recognized stand to be recognized in the audience.

We’ll start first with the honorable Molly Williamson and I will not introduce her because you have the introduction in your handout materials that were distributed when you came in. But suffice it to say that she is one of the very few Americans who have worked at the Deputy Assistant level in four of the cabinet positions in the United States. You don’t find people like this, with this kind of empirical education and experience. The honorable Molly Williamson.

Molly Williamson (Photo: NCUSAR)

[Ms. Molly Williamson] Thank you so much John. This is a particular honor for me to join with this wonderful panel to review the history of both the GCC as an organization and U.S. interests as they have continued and evolved with this critical region over that period. As John has mentioned the organization was itself established 31 years ago as an economic and strategic grouping to brace against what was then seen as regional turmoil coming through and following the Iran-Iraq war.

The organization of these critical six states has been designed to develop and promote mutual benefit and mutual security for this critical region. This is not an easy matter. And it’s not unique to this particular collection of countries to have concerns, tensions, and differing ways of approaching shared problems. I point to the European Union for example as struggling with perhaps a common goal but different focus on agenda priority timing in the like. And this is also not lost on the GCC member states as they look to try to develop common currency, common customs schedule or a federation-like union. It’s not easy. That they choose to embark on this endeavor and to maintain the overarching goal of mutual benefit and mutual security in such a difficult circumstance and such a difficult area, is to be noted and applauded.

So what are some of these challenges to regional security, regional stability and tranquility? And these, my fellow colleagues and panelists, will explore in greater depth. Certainly there has been a constant of risk of war, risk of violence, both spilling over from the Iran-Iraq war of almost a decade. And the concern about Iran’s intentions, never mind the nuclear aspect, there is a history of hegemonic aspirations that have worried this region for some time. What this has meant as a way of trying to respond to these challenges, to these tensions, has meant more joint exercises, a sharing of goals, a sharing of operational effectiveness focusing on not just military but larger communication challenges to share interoperability and share common interest.

Another aspect of course has been the risk that extreme violence, even terror, may make vulnerable critical infrastructure not just of the oil producing installations but of larger concern for public law and order and stability. And what this has meant has been greater cooperation and sharing in terms of critical infrastructure protection, and in terms of shared efforts in communication and alertness.

Unemployment. This is itself also a powerful challenge. We are talking about a region in which the majority of the populations are under the age of 20. And to have talented, but unemployed, young people is itself a tremendous challenge. And so the power of the demographics of the region have caused these countries to approach opportunities for development, to coming up with their own programs, coming up with proposals for creating more jobs. In some cases this has meant a whole embrace, perhaps with some reluctance at times, of WTO requirements, opening up the economy so that there could be greater interest and confidence in the foreign direct investment community to come in to invest, to create jobs. Similarly, proposals to explore and in some cases to bring to fruition free trade agreements which have redounded to mutual agreement of the parties. These issues have also brought a certain awareness of the volatility of these economies heavily dependent on one commodity, oil, and that has put a greater emphasis on the volatility of the marketplace, the power and the burdens, of being swing producers in the event of, say, enhanced sanctions on Iran, for example. The need to develop more alternative fuels or to work on the environmentally responsible options that may be available, whether it’s carbon capture and sequestration for the Saudis in enhanced oil recovery, whether it is peaceful nuclear energy that we’ve seen out of the Mubadala initiative in the UAE, and by the way that’s a model in case Iran was looking for a way to develop it’s peaceful nuclear energy in a way that the international community can embrace.

Finally, a greater policy reach from this grouping at a time when there is widespread regional unrest. There has been a willingness, an openness to have, as the group, speak about concerns with respect to Libya, speak with respect to concerns about Syria even so far as to take the cases to a larger sphere in Arab League and to the United Nations Security Council. The approach is not itself without controversy. It is not easy to achieve consensus. That is not unique to this part of the world, witness the Security Council’s conduct over the last 60 years.

So these are challenges. The group is itself determined for the purposes of mutual benefit and mutual security, tranquility and stability to do these very difficult measures. And finally I cannot avoid mentioning the importance for this region of seeing some progress on the Israel-Palestine front, as well. For governments to be, or be seen, as tolerating what is so dramatically portrayed as an uneven, unbalanced, difficult position of — whether you use the word ‘occupation’ or not — this relationship costs those governments not trying to be part of the solution. To that end, there has been a very dramatic effort from at the time, Crown Prince Abdullah, now King Abdullah, to promote recognition that there is no military solution to this issue that it must be a negotiated outcome. In the process, there should be protection for those who might fear coming to a conclusion, coming to an agreement, coming to some approach that requires profound concession and compromise.

That initiative has been endorsed by this body, the GCC, has been endorsed as well by the Arab League. And so that also has been a part of the political reach. I fear I’m over running my time, but these various aspects of common concern to all six of these countries, the political the strategic, the economic, the trade, all of this is very much on the plate, very relevant, very much of the day and we will have experts coming forward to talk about the various aspects of them but it’s an extraordinary time, a very challenging time, one in which this particular group, the GCC, is rising to the fore to try to address these issues, not paper over them, not run away from them, and that is to be recognized.


Dr. John Duke Anthony

Dr. John Duke Anthony is the Founding President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and currently serves on the United States Department of State Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy and its subcommittees on Sanctions and Trade and Investment. For the past 38 years, he has been a consultant and regular lecturer on the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf for the Departments of Defense and State. He is former Chair, Near East and North Africa Program, Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State as well as former Chair of the Department’s Advanced Arabian Peninsula Studies Seminar. A life member of the Council on Foreign Relations since 1986, Dr. Anthony has been a frequent participant in its study groups on issues relating to the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf regions and the broader Arab and Islamic world. Most recently, Dr. Anthony has been elected to the Board of Advisors of the Yemen College for Middle Eastern Studies.

In addition to heading the National Council, consulting, lecturing, and serving as an Adjunct Faculty Member of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Institute for Security Assistance Management (DISAM) since 1974, Dr. Anthony has been an Adjunct Professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies since 2006. There, he developed a course for graduate students on “Politics of the Arabian Peninsula,” the first such semester-long academic course to be offered at any American university. In 2007, he was Visiting Lecturer at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies. In 2008 he was the Distinguished Visiting Professor at the American University in Cairo’s HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin ‘Abdalaziz Al-Sa’ud Center for American Studies.

In 1983, Dr. Anthony received DISAM’s Distinguished Achievement Award, one of three granted to American Middle East specialists in the Institute’s history. In March 1989, the Kappa Alpha Order’s National Executive bestowed upon him its Distinguished Public Service Award for Excellence “through a strenuous and useful Life of Service to others.” In 1993, he received the U.S. Department of State’s Distinguished Visiting Lecturer Award, one of three awarded over a span of 25 years in recognition of his preparation of American diplomatic and defense personnel assigned to the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf states. In 1994, he received the Stevens Award for Outstanding Contributions to American-Arab Understanding. On June 21, 2000, H.M. King Muhammad VI of Morocco knighted Dr. Anthony, bestowing upon him the Medal of the Order of Ouissam Alaouite, the nation of Morocco’s highest award for excellence. In May 2008, he was presented the first-ever Local Giants Leadership Award by the Rotary Club of the Nation’s Capital.

Dr. Anthony is the only American to have been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (1969-1970). In 1971, he was cosponsored by the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Department of State as the sole American scholar to observe at firsthand the process by which the British ceased administering the defense and foreign relations for nine Arab states lining the coastal regions of eastern Arabia and the Gulf. His long experience in Yemen led to Dr. Anthony being asked to serve as an international observer in all four of Yemen’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

Dr. Anthony is the only American to have been invited to each of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Ministerial and Heads of State Summits since the GCC’s inception in 1981. (The GCC is comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates). Since 1986 and continuing until the present, Dr. Anthony has accompanied more than 200 Members of Congress, their chiefs of staff, defense and foreign affairs advisers, and legislative and communications directors on fact-finding missions to the Arab world. From 1996 until the present, he has also served as the principal scholar-escort for delegations to various GCC countries, Egypt, and Yemen comprised of 132 officers assigned to the staff of the Commander, U.S. Central Command, including Generals J.H. B. Peay III, Anthony C. Zinni, Tommy Franks, John P. Abizaid, Admiral William Fallon, and General David Petraeus.

Dr. Anthony is the author of three books, the editor of a fourth, and has published more than 175 articles, essays, and monographs dealing with America’s interests and involvement in the Arab countries, the Middle East, and the Islamic world. His best-known works are Arab States of the Lower Gulf: People, Politics, Petroleum; The Middle East: Oil, Politics, and Development (editor and co-author) and, together with J.E. Peterson, Historical and Cultural Dictionary of the Sultanate of Oman and the Emirates of Eastern Arabia. His most recent book, The United Arab Emirates: Dynamics of State Formation, was published in 2002.

In addition to being the founder of the Annual Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference, now in its 20th year, Dr. Anthony has been a founder, board member, and Secretary of the U.S.-GCC Corporate Cooperation Committee; founding President of the Middle East Educational Trust; co-founder of the Commission on Israeli-Palestinian Peace; founding President of the Society for Gulf Arab Studies; co-founder and board member of the National Commission to Commemorate the 14th Centennial of Islam; and founder and former chairman of the U.S.-Morocco Affairs Council. In 2006 he was elected Vice-President and member of the Board of Directors of the International Foreign Policy Association in Washington, D.C.

After the completion of his U.S. Army active duty military service, the Commonwealth of Virginia granted Dr. Anthony a four year State Cadetship Award which allowed him to enroll at Virginia Military Institute (VMI), where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in History. At VMI, he was elected president of his class all four years in addition to serving as president of the Corps of Cadets’ General and Executive Committees during his First Class Year. He later earned a Master of Science Degree in Foreign Service (With Distinction) from the Edmund A. Walsh Graduate School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where, in addition to holding one of three University Scholar Awards, he was inducted into the National Political Science Honor Society. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations and Middle East Studies from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C., where he held a National Defense in Foreign Language Scholarship for Arabic, was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship, and was appointed to the full time faculty in 1973 while still a student. For nearly a decade, Dr. Anthony taught courses on the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf States at SAIS. He has been a Visiting and Adjunct Professor at the Defense Intelligence College, the Woodrow Wilson School of Government and Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia, the Universities of Pennsylvania and Texas, the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, and a regular lecturer at the National War College.

Dr. Anthony is married to Cynthia Burns McDonald, Director of the Washington, D.C. Office of the American University in Cairo, and has twin sons.


Ms. Molly K. Williamson

Ms. Molly Williamson speaks extensively on US foreign policy, the interagency process, energy, economics and demographic factors affecting policy formulation, and U.S.-Middle East relations, especially the Israel-Palestine conflict, Iran, and nuclear challenges. Ms. Williamson is a scholar with the Middle East Institute, a Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, a consultant and lecturer at Johns Hopkins University Osher Institute. She is a former Foreign Service Officer, having served six presidents and achieved the rank of Career Minister. She is also a member of Georgetown University’s MSFS oral boards, a board member of the American Foreign Service Association, and board member of the American Academy of Diplomacy.

From 2005 to 2008, Ms. Williamson was the Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Secretary of Energy, with global responsibilities at the nexus of foreign policy and energy policy. Prior to that assignment, Ms. Williamson served as U.S. Charge’ d’Affaires in Bahrain. She was also assigned to special projects regarding Israel/Palestine, Iraq and the United Nations.

From 1999 to 2004, Ms. Williamson was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce responsible for advancing trade relations with eighty-six countries in the Middle East, South Asia, Oceania, and Africa with a trade portfolio valued at over $120 billion/year. Prior to that assignment, she was Principal Deputy, then Acting Assistant Secretary of State, International Organizations Bureau, responsible for the policy and programs affecting UN political and Security Council matters, peacekeeping, and humanitarian operations. From 1993 to 1995, Ms. Williamson was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense responsible for the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. She was engaged in operational defense structure bottom-up reviews, and the policy challenges of Iraqi provocations, crises in Rwanda and Somalia, and nuclear tests in South Asia.

Ms. Williamson has had numerous postings in the Middle East, including Chief of Mission and Consul General in Jerusalem during the Madrid Peace Process (1991-1993), which culminated in the Oslo Accords.

Ms. Williamson, a native of California, has been awarded two Presidential Service Awards, the Secretary of Energy’s Exceptional Service Award and fourteen awards from the Department of State. She has studied both Hebrew and Arabic.


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