GCC Summit: A Show of Unity – Arab News Editorial

Published: December 12, 2014

Editor’s Note:

Leaders from across the GCC met this week in the 35th Supreme Council. Saudi Arabia was represented by Crown Prince Salman, alongside leaders from Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Oman, in consultations that tackled regional crises and intra-GCC challenges. SUSRIS has compiled a number of reports on the outcome of the Supreme Council that you can find indexed at our Special Section “Gulf Cooperation Council Doha Summit 2014.” Today we present a wrap-up editorial from Arab News on the significance of the Supreme Council meeting as well as their views before the Gulf leaders sat down in Doha on the 9th.

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Editorial: GCC Summit: A Show of Unity
Arab News Editorial
December 12, 2014

There are many strong ties that bind together the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Some of these bonds are invisible. The growing integration of military assets along with their command and control systems is not noticeable. In a region riven with conflict, security actually demands a low profile for the considerable work being done to enhance the GCC’s joint defensive capability. Thus the most that many GCC citizens knew about the establishment of its own ground units and a joint naval task force, was from reports of the Council’s summit this week in Doha.

GCC Summit Hall

The overriding take-home message from this year’s meeting has been “Unity.” Many delegates echoed the warning of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani that the organization faced unprecedented security and political challenges.

The strategic details of the enhanced military cooperation were understandably not explained at the end of the GCC meeting. It will be even more important that the tactical arrangements that commanders from member states agree, are also kept secure. Nevertheless, it must be a great comfort to all GCC citizens and those who live and work here to know that robust and effective defensive measures are under way.

It was notable that once again, this year, the GCC reiterated its demands that Tehran return the islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb to UAE control.

Undoubtedly higher profile will be the new GCC police force. To be based in the UAE, these law officers are likely to bring to the detection of crime, a coordinated database. This will help police forces in individual states track known criminals and gather intelligence on their next crimes. In time it is also likely to enhance the effectiveness of relations with Interpol and the police forces of states that border the GCC. This year’s summit was notable for other important reasons. A further invisible bond that is bringing the member states ever closer together is in world of trade and finance. Traders around the world have for centuries known how to buy and sell with multiple currencies. Even so there is no doubt that commerce is facilitated by a single currency.

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Click for larger infographic. (Source: QNA)

It would be good to believe that the GCC has studied and learned from the strengths and weaknesses of the euro. It was created by European federalists who saw it as a way of bringing EU states closer politically. It was welcomed by business because it reduced conversion costs and currency risks. For this same reason, European banks could only pretend to be pleased at the loss of a revenue stream. They had made a very good living from foreign exchange transactions.

Unfortunately the euro had to reflect the value of hard-working economies such as Germany as well as distinctly less-applied countries such as Greece. That was a core contradiction. It was coupled with a general fudging of the strict deficit and debt rules for euro admission. Hence there still remain big questions over the European single currency.

At least within GCC states, predictable exchange rates are clearly facilitating trade. The summit was told that internal trade within the bloc is set to pass $100 billion a year. And there is a degree to which a nominal GCC single currency already exists. Businesses trade using a basket of GCC currencies, just as before the euro was conjured into being, the European Currency Unit (ECU) was long used as a nominal medium of exchange.

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The Customs Union is now all but complete. The coordination of taxation systems, accounting standards and civil legislation is all work in progress. The interoperability of more mundane items such as professional qualifications, insurance certificates and identity documents is following as sure as night follows day. Much of this work is being undertaken by officials who are beavering away unseen. The fruits of their efforts will however be very obvious, when they emerge.

The most visible at present is undoubtedly the new $15 billion GCC railway network. More than 2,000 kilometers long, it is running from Kuwait, through the Kingdom with a causeway link to Bahrain, then on to Qatar, the UAE and Oman. By 2020, goods and people will be moving around the GCC on fast and efficient rail services. Even more than the network of highways that currently links member states, the railway system will be a high profile achievement. It will be a monument to the iron bonds of friendship and mutual interest that are drawing the GCC ever closer together.

Source: Arab News

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The GCC puts on its armor
Arab News Editorial
December 4, 2014

Ever since it was established in 1981, it was clear that the six-member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council would be looking beyond the creation of a powerful international trading bloc. A single currency will in time cement the business and commercial ties.

But from the outset, GCC leaders also saw that there was a security component to their ever-closer links. The Iran-Iraq war demonstrated the rising level of threat that was coming from the other side of the Gulf. The Iranians proved themselves willing to shut the Strait of Hormuz as part of the 1984 “Tanker War.” Saddam’s treacherous August 1990 invasion of Kuwait underlined the importance of one of the GCC’s founding principles. This was that an attack on one member state is deemed to be an attack on them all.

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The threat by Iran in 2011 to again shut the Hormuz Strait only boosted the rationale for a robust and coordinated GCC military response.

The challenges posed by Tehran have not gone away. Indeed the Iranians have increased their interference in the affairs of friendly neighbor states. For Iraq that meddling has had wide-ranging and deadly results. The outcome of Tehran’s messing with Iraq now brings GCC states with a new danger — the rise of new and unpitying form of terrorism. There is no debating with ISIS. It will agree to nothing save on its own extreme terms. Until it has been smashed on the battlefield, it will not consider negotiation. And maybe even in defeat, it will still stick to its mad and unprincipled aims.

Bahrain’s foreign minister summed up very neatly the danger the GCC is facing:

“If Afghanistan was a primary school for terrorists, then Syria and Iraq is a university for them — these are serious threats.”

Given the looming presence of IS bigots in Iraq and Houthi rebels in Yemen, it is right that the GCC is expanding its military cooperation. The planned launch of a Joint Military Command to counter Iranian threats and the rising danger of terrorism, will absolutely be the right move.

The new air command, to be based here in Saudi Arabia, will send two clear messages. The first is that Iran should back off. It should look to its own deep sanction-led economic problems at home. It should not be seeking to create trouble among those countries that surround it. The joint military command is the robust response that underpins this message to Tehran.

Surprisingly, some defense commentators have dismissed the move as likely to be lacking in substance and effectiveness. One issue raised is the alleged incompatibility of weapons systems and command and control operations. Such an analysis defies what has already been achieved.

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In 1984 the Peninsular Shield Force (PSF) was created. Based here in Saudi Arabia at the King Khalid Military City at Hafar Al Batin, this 10,000-strong unit consisted of two brigades with troops drawn from all GCC countries. The PSF has carried out joint maneuvers with the troops of individual GCC member states. In the first Gulf War, its ranks were expanded as had been planned, though it did not itself take part in the liberation of Kuwait.

The PSF has laid the groundwork, in terms of operational procedures and the integration of communications and weapons systems. It has facilitated significant joint exercises with air and naval assets, as well as land forces. It has seen the development of important early warning systems.

The only thing the PSF was never tasked to do was to consider how to combat the threat of terrorism. This bloody monster could hardly have been imagined 30 years ago. The sheer nihilistic destruction of Al-Qaeda and IS would have seemed impossible in 1984. Nor would many in GCC countries have been able to anticipate the effect of terrorists who claimed, odiously, to be acting in the name of Islam. That claim has inveigled young men and women throughout the Muslim world into its psychotic ranks.

Therefore the Joint Military Command will not only be bringing the armed forces of the GCC closer together. It will also, if necessary, create a powerful intelligence component. This will enable the success of ground and air operations against the terrorists.

That the GCC has responded so swiftly to the urgent need to defend itself militarily from outside threats says something else important about the organization. It suggests that what can be achieved in terms of defense can also be attained in terms of ever-closer economic and financial cooperation.

Source: Arab News

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