Saudi bid to save monarchies
Sun May 15, 2011 4:41AM
Seyyed Mohyeddin Sajedi
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah
Saudi King Abdullah's sudden and hasty decision to invite Jordan and Morocco to join the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC) signals his extreme concern about the potential collapse of the Arab world's backward monarchical or semi-monarchical regimes.
Even Moroccan king Mohammed VI was surprised by the invite and responded to it ambiguously. Jordan feels closer to the kingdom, but is aware that the path has not been paved yet for its integration into the regional Arab grouping.
The [P]GCC is a coalition of six rich Arab states which came into existence in 1981 to form a wall against the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was mainly tasked to help the deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein carry on the imposed war against Iran, which lasted for eight years. Observed and advised by the United States, the council turned into a society aimed at restricting the outcome of Iran's Islamic Revolution.
Wealth concentration is uneven among the six members -- Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. The two potential members enjoy less oil income and, during the unrest which erupted in both, the council decided to assist each with USD 10 billion in cash.
However, market's economy, governance and social relations are very much alike among the six nations. In all six, clans play an important role in the political and social life with the geographical continuance forming another very significant factor, which goes hand in hand with the clannish element.
The body is more of a political society aimed at proclaiming political stances and has never been able to achieve a definite result in forming a united army or establishing a common currency. Saddam's 1990 attack on Kuwait, a council member, exposed the body's weak military constitution with only the US offensive being able to put the Iraqi dictator in his place.
After the imposed war, the Arab Cooperation Council (ACC) was formed on 16 February, 1989 -- a coalition, grouping the 'poor' Arab states of North Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt. It tried to form a new axis in the Middle East, especially in the light of Egypt's return to the Arab world (after facing an Arab boycott due to its singing of the Camp David Accords) and more importantly given the fact that the Iran-Iraq War had neither defeated nor weakened the Islamic Republic.
The fever of formation of Arab groupings still ran high. Only a day later, on February 17, 1989, five states to the west of the Arab world announced the formation of the Arab Maghreb Union. Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Mauritania joined the grouping. The union was not so rich and the age-old conflict between Algeria and Morocco over the Polisario desert and Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi's ambitions and unpredictable policies prevented it from taking an important step in the direction of political, economic and military unity.
The ACC lasted no more than a year and fell apart with Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. North Yemen and Jordan backed Iraq and Egypt sided against the dictator with the US in favor of his ejection from Kuwait. The [P]GCC and the Arab Maghreb Union have, however, lived on to date without achieving any practical results. The [P]GCC's only big step has been to help quell the popular movement in Bahrain by sending a contingent, joined only by Saudi troops and UAE police, to the Persian Gulf island.
Even if Jordan and Morocco join the [P]GCC, it will not have a positive effect on the economic conditions of the council, but it will increase the total population of the member countries to about 70 million, approximately equal to those of Iran and Egypt. Jordan borders Saudi Arabia to the east and southeast, thus it will have a geographical solidarity with the council, but Morocco would never have such type of affinity with the member states of the council.
In case these two countries join the [P]GCC and the council takes a new shape, one of its functions will be to oppose Iran and the new Egypt, particularly at the time when “the Arab axis of moderation” is broken due to the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and the Saudi king does not know how long he can hurdle the resumption of ties between Tehran and Cairo.
Some analysts, who favor a religious war in the Middle East, believe that Jordan and Morocco will boost the power of the council, one of whose members (Bahrain) has a Shia majority, and another of whose members (Saudi Arabia) is host to an important Shia minority, who have expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling political system and have called for an end in political and economic discrimination in the country.
However, it seems that Iran and Egypt as well as the enfeebled status of Saudi Arabia were not the only reasons behind the new decision, and the [P]GCC and particularly Saudi Arabia are worried about the future. Jordan and Morocco are scenes of popular protests every day, where people have been calling for curbing the king's absolute power and changing the countries' constitutional monarchy and separation of powers. The situation is also worse in Bahrain. Oman's Sultan Qaboos also did not manage to end the unrest in his country and is worried about the future.
The Saudi king is trying to save the rotten Arab monarchical regimes and does not know any way rather than bribing his people or the people of Jordan and Morocco. Abdullah, and all rulers like him, no longer trust the United States and the West. Mubarak's life in prison and the arrest of his wife and children are a tough lesson for the last traditional Arab kings.