New message to Iran likely at GCC summit
The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) consultative summit in Riyadh today (Monday) is expected to announce further consolidating the relations between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, especially in security and foreign policy, in a strong warning to Iran not to interfere in their region’s affairs, officials and analysts say.
“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, Bahrain’s minister of state for information affairs, was quoted by Reuters on Sunday. She named two countries, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
Also, the Bahraini prime minister, Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa was also quoted as urging for 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
However, the details of the announcement are in the hands of the leaders of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, said an official Gulf source.
“Any announcement is [so far] limited to the leaders” added the source who spoke to Gulf News on condition of anonymity. However, he noted that the summit will discuss the report prepared by the special committee formed few months ago after the GCC endorsed a Saudi proposal to develop the cooperation into a union. Bahrain was the most enthusiastic member to the idea.
Meanwhile, the Saudi media is noticeably focusing and welcoming the union concept, and many banners have sprung up on Riyadh streets welcoming the union.
“There are preparations for something called Union, [but] its details, and its nature, we don’t know,” said Jamal Khashougji, Director of newly-established Arab News Channel.
Today’s expected announcement aims “to send a message to Iran; don’t cross your lines and never imagine you can change the history and geography,” he added to Gulf News.
GCC countries, especially Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, have repeatedly accused Iran of interfering in their internal affairs and fomenting sectarian strife in the region – a charge denied by Tehran.
On the other hand, Bahrain’s leading opposition party Al Wefaq said the Saudi intervention was aimed to stop democratic change.
“The issues facing Bahrain are local, not regional. There is little the Saudis can do: they sent troops but failed because the crisis is still going on, and that’s because it requires a political solution,” said senior Al Wefaq official Jasem Hussain.
Also, prominent Saudi journalist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed wrote in the pan-Arab Asharq Al Awsat that he is against any union that would “nullify the features of any Gulf society and lead to the interference of a member country in the sovereign decisions of another.
“I will join the opposition against the Gulf Union if it forces Kuwait, which is the only GCC country that enjoys free Parliamentary elections, to cancel its parliamentary system and political participation concept just to please Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman. Undoubtedly, I will be in the opposition if the proposal enforces Bahrain or Dubai to implement Kuwaiti and Saudi systems that restrict social freedoms and close down its cinemas and stop its free tourism and hotel services.”
Al Rashed added, “I will definitely remain in the opposition if the proposal means Saudi Arabia imposing its ban on women driving on other member countries. I will go against the idea, if it applies a particular conservative or religious education system, preventing coeducation or imposing niqab or hijab on girls. I will go against the proposal if it treats the comparatively free Saudi press equal to the restrictive Qatari press. I will not approve the union if it restricts the free Kuwaiti media to become similar to media organisations in other member states.”