Gulf nations set for new union

Gulf nations set for new union

DUBAI / RIYADH
Gulf nations set for new union

US Secretary of State Clinton watches as members of the Gulf Cooperation Council arrive before a US-GCC forum in Riyadh in this photo. GCC is expected to meet today to announce closer political union. AFP photo

Gulf Arab leaders meeting today are expected to announce closer political union, starting with two or three countries including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, a government minister in Bahrain said.

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might initially seek closer union, local newspapers have reported, as both countries have accused Shiite Iran of fomenting discontent among Shiite Muslims against the Sunni dynasties that rule in both nations. Tehran denies the charges. Tensions have mounted further with the deadly clampdown on the uprising in Syria, whose President Bashar al-Assad is a staunch ally of Tehran, while Riyadh and other Arab states in the Gulf have called for the fall of his regime.

Tehran’s growing influence in Iraq since the withdrawal of U.S. troops, as well as its territorial dispute with the United Arab Emirates, have also contributed to fuelling cross-Gulf animosity. “I expect there will be an announcement of two or three countries. We can’t be sure but I have a strong expectation,” Samira Rajab, minister of state for information affairs, said yesterday. “Sovereignty will remain with each of the countries and they would remain as U.N. members but they would unite in decisions regarding foreign relations, security, military and economy.”

The leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which also includes Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, are meeting in Riyadh as they grow increasingly concerned over Iran and al-Qaeda following the Arab uprisings. Gulf leaders also fear that the Arab uprisings last year created more opportunities for al-Qaeda to gain a foothold in Yemen, where the discovery of another alleged bomb plot was revealed last week.

Too much sway for S Arabia

Bahraini Prime Minister, Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, who has close ties to the Saudi ruling family, is already in Riyadh, where he was quoted as urging closer integration. “The great dream of the peoples of the region is to see the day when the borders disappear with a union that creates one Gulf,” he told Bahrain News Agency. Rajab said, however, that there were reservations among some GCC members over the idea of a closer union, and that it was too early to say if any agreement taken among Gulf leaders would require a referendum in Bahrain or not. Some members of the GCC fear a closer union might grant too much sway to the body’s largest member, Saudi Arabia.

The Gulf Cooperation Council was formed in 1981 when the Sunni-dominated monarchies aimed to bolster security after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and its war with Iraq.

Compiled from Reuters and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.

Gulf, Middle East, oil, USA, US