I followed the arrival of leaders of the GCC member states at Kuwait International Airport to participate in the annual summit of the council. The smiling faces of the leaders were unusual. Some of them raised their forefinger, perhaps in protest against something on their mind, in a warning to enemies who want to inflict harm on their nation or against somebody in the council itself.
Half of the participants in the summit were second-rank leaders in their countries. The reasons for the absence of some leaders were understandable, while for some others they were not, but in this regard we can say the only they know the real reason.
Like other people, I watched the speeches delivered during the inaugural session of the summit. The fact, however, is that there was nothing new in the speeches, despite the major developments taking place in the Arab world and on the international stage that dominate every aspect of our lives.
When the opening session of the summit concluded, our leaders retired to their meetings, away from TV and newspaper cameras and microphones. I wished I could be invisible and take part in these meetings to hear what our blessed leaders had to say. I was dying to know what they would do and how they think when they meet to discuss the crises that surround us.
I was stunned, like other people, at leaked reports that our leaders had decided not to discuss divisive issues in their meetings, which is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s call for moving from the coordination stage to confederation. They focused on the turmoil in Egypt and the bloody clashes raging in Syria while millions of Syrian refugees experience untold suffering away from their country. They also focused on the killing, kidnappings and civil war fears in Yemen.
No doubt they were divided on Iran. Nevertheless, the fact is that Arab summits and other international meetings always discuss divisive issues, as there is no need for discussing issues one agrees on, but our leaders seem to ignore this rule.
I listened to the final statement of the summit read out by the Secretary General of the GCC, Dr Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani. There was nothing new in the communiqué, except for the announcement of the creation of a common police force. This only meant that GCC countries will tighten the garrotte around their citizens’ necks. The statement also called for the creation of a unified Gulf military command. The question that arose in my mind then was: Will the creation of the command put an end to the mission of the Gulf military shield?
The statement also included a call for the establishment of a Gulf academy for strategic and security studies. The academy will be based in the United Arab Emirates. The thing is that there is a whole university whose job is to conduct strategic and security studies, namely Emir Naif University for Security Studies.
Gulf citizens have the right to ask whether these security entities and centres are established for the sake of the citizens or out of fear among the governments. All indications show that these bodies aim to protect the citizens and the regimes at the same time.
Still, the communiqué included one new step, namely the launch of a permanent programme to develop the capacities of youth and encourage their participation in humanitarian and development activities. But what about political activities?
The final communiqué contained an extremely important clause. It expressed concern over reports that Gulf countries planned to build more nuclear reactors on the Gulf coast, and the effect of these reactors on the weak ecosystem of the region and its water security.
Some people may link this clause to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both of whom have announced plans for peaceful nuclear projects on the Gulf coast. Iran already has a nuclear plant on the eastern side of the Gulf.
The communiqué did not refer to demands by the International Atomic Energy Agency for Iran to demonstrate cooperation in dismantling the reactor, it being so close to a seismic zone. This poses a serious environmental threat to Gulf countries.
The final communiqué mentioned Iran in three clauses. The first clause underlined the importance of boosting cooperation between Iran and the GCC countries. This could have been said in the past, but now the situation is different on the ground in Iran. How can there be more cooperation with Iran, especially if Gulf leaders keep Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Eritrea in mind?
The second clause welcomed the approach of the new Iranian leadership towards the GCC countries. The question is: what is this new approach adopted by the administration of new Iranian President Hassan Rowhani towards the countries of the GCC? What is the difference or the similarity between this approach and the approach former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami adopted towards the same countries?
I refer the General Secretariat of the GCC to the final communiqué of the council summit after Khatami took over in Iran. They should compare this communiqué with the one they produced after their latest summit.
The third clause welcomed the initial deal between Iran and the 5 + 1 countries. It should be noted that some Gulf countries had a different point of view earlier because GCC countries should have been represented in the meeting during which this deal was hammered.
I hope nobody jumps to the conclusion that I am against better relations with Iran. This is not what I mean in this article. I only hope that any rapprochement with Iran will tackle the need for Iran to stop spreading the Shia faith in countries surrounding us in the Arab world and in the Horn of Africa. Iran’s domination of Iraq, either directly or through its agents, does not serve the best interests of the Arab nation in general or the Gulf countries in particular. In this our interests clash with those of Iran.
In sum, differences remain among our leaders on a wide range of issues. This affects joint Gulf work. The sorry thing still is that everything around us makes us worry about security and stability.