Three questions for Marwan Bishara

Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst comments on the Gulf states’ summit.

The GCC is made up of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar and Oman [AFP]

The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) has concluded its 31st summit in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, amid persistent questions about its future relations with Iran and the United States, following the recent WikiLeaks revelations.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, comments on three crucial issues

How did the GCC summit respond to the leaked US documents?

WikiLeaks was the white elephant in the summit: absent from the official deliberations, but omnipresent in the side talks between the Gulf leaders. The GCC ignored the allegations in the leaked documents. Notably, some among [GCC members] asked Washington in closed doors to attack Iran, according to the leaks, and refused to tackle persistent clandestine financial support to al-Qaeda within their territory. However, in an effort to calm mounting suspicion and disappointment in Washington and Tehran, they vowed to “root out al-Qaeda”, and called for a “peaceful solution” to the Iranian nuclear programme.

What is the GCC’s true position vis-a-vis Iran?

There are three reasons for the ambiguity of the GCC position regarding Iran. Firstly, disagreement among its member countries on how best to deal with the rise of Iran. Secondly, Gulf leaders are far more exposed than their Arab or Western counterparts to Iranian retaliation if they dare publicly incite against it. Whether the Iranian leaders believe that WikiLeaks are part of a Western conspiracy to divide the region, as they claim, or are calmly preparing their vengeance, remains to be seen. And, thirdly, there is a discrepancy in perception of the threat between certain Gulf and Arab regimes and the majority of the public that sees the main threat to their national security stemming, not from Iran, but from Israel and the US. (A recent poll shows 88 per cent believe the greatest threat is Israel, followed by the US, 77 per cent, and only 20 per cent see Iran as the major threat.)

What are the GCC options as five permanent Security Council members and Germany restart negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme?

In the immediate run, Gulf leaders demand a seat at the table since, as they put it, whatever its outcome, the success or failure of the diplomatic process will come to bear primarily on their countries. In the foreseeable future, the Gulf states will continue with their delicate balancing act, between history and strategy, geography and diplomacy, or in other words, between all that’s constant commonality with their powerful neighbour, Iran, and the hybrid security and economic engagement with their patrons/protectors in the West. With the combined annual GDP of more than trillion dollars, and over two thirds of the world’s known oil reserves, this will be a tough balancing act for Iran and the GCC countries.

Source : Al Jazeera

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