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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 14-Dec-2014
14-Dec-14 World View -- The GCC honeymoon: Arab countries reach a 'historic' agreement

Web Log - December, 2014

14-Dec-14 World View -- The GCC honeymoon: Arab countries reach a 'historic' agreement

Pragmatic attitudes towards Israel and Iran

This morning's key headlines from

Gulf Arab countries reach a 'historic' agreement

Gulf Cooperation Council meeting, December 9 (AFP)
Gulf Cooperation Council meeting, December 9 (AFP)

The Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) has succeeded in getting through its summit meeting last week, apparently in relative harmony. (See "21-Nov-14 World View -- Gulf nations paper over their differences for GCC Summit in December")

It's being called a "historic turning point" for the GCC, with potentially far-reaching consequences, because the GCC members have stopped quibbling with each other, and have unified against their common enemies.

As I've written several times in the last few months, the Gaza war has brought about a major Mideast realignment, splitting the GCC members apart. Egypt was the catalyst for this split, at two points. First, when Egypt's army ousted democratically elected Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government, and replaced him with former army general Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi, who proceeded with a very bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, Muslim Brotherhood supporters Turkey and Qatar turned vehemently against al-Sisi, while Saudi Arabia supported him.

Second, when the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas began this summer, al-Sisi supported Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and turned against Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, Iran supported Hamas against Israel. This created a de facto realignment of the Mideast, with Israel plus Egypt plus Saudi Arabia plus the Palestinian Authority in alliance versus Hamas plus Qatar plus Turkey plus Iran.

The newfound friendly Arab consanguinity

The reasons being given for this newfound friendly Arab consanguinity is that a unified GCC stance is necessary "to stop ... attempts led by neighboring countries to intervene in Arab affairs." The two countries referenced are:

According to the final communiqué issued by the summit:

"On Egypt, the Supreme Council reiterated its firm position in support of the Republic of Egypt and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s roadmap, stressing the Council’s full support and stand with the people and Government of Egypt in achieving stability and prosperity. The Council underscored the role of Egypt at Arab and regional levels for the benefit of both the Arab and Islamic countries."

The communiqué also indicates unanimous opposition to the al-Qaeda linked terrorists in Syria and Iraq:

"The Supreme Council welcomed the UN Security Council resolution No 2170 in August in 2014, under Chapter VII, which condemned the spread of serious human rights violations by terrorist groups, including terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, in particular the Daash and Al Nusra Front, and the sanctions imposed on individuals associated with these groups."

"Daash" is the contemptuous Arabic name for the the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL).

So everything's agreeable. Is there any trouble in paradise? The problem is that the communiqué doesn't mention Israel, Hamas, or the Palestinian Authority. The only mention of Gaza is the following:

"The Supreme Council praised the results of the Gaza reconstruction conference, which was held in Cairo in October 2014."

Well that's nice, but are all the GCC nations really going to turn against Hamas, which would make all the member nations de facto allies of Israel and the Palestinian Authority? How long is this pleasantness going to last?

Well, at the very least, we can understand the old Arab saying, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Eurasia Review/Arab News and Asharq Al-Awsat (Riyadh) and Saudi-US Relations Information Service

The GCC honeymoon: Pragmatic attitude towards Israel and Iran

An explanation of the GCC compromise with respect to Iran and Israel was given in a television interview by a Saudi writer, Abdullah Hamidaddin. Does Israel pose a threat to Saudi Arabia? His answer was characterized by extreme pragmatism:

"No. Israel is a troublemaker in the region, but it poses a threat to the Palestinians, not to the Saudis. This has nothing to do with the fact that the Palestinians have rights. Israel is an aggressor on many levels. It is an unjust country. We condemn the violence that we witness day and day out. I am not talking about Israel's injustice towards the Palestinians ...

It is imperative to distinguish between the two. The pan-Arabists and the Islamists believe that because Israel occupied an Arab or Muslim country, it must be annihilated as a matter of principle.

I have a different perspective. There is no doubt that Israel plundered [Arab] land, but today the region is divided into countries, one of which is Saudi Arabia. Israel attacked the land of others, not my own land. By no means am I justifying this attack, but with all its evils, it does not pose a threat to the Saudi state or the Saudi citizens."

The interview pointed out that according to the official and declared Saudi position, the Palestinian cause is the cause of all the Arabs.

"There are two reasons for this. First, there is a real problem. Israel's crisis with the Palestinians has generated a regional problem. This crisis has ramifications – although, by the way, these ramifications are highly exaggerated.

The second reason is the need to align with the general [Arab] position. King Abdullah's 2003 initiative involved complete normalization, and it was signed by all the Arabs, including Syria. People were convinced that relations with Israel could be normalized, and that we could have coexistence with it, on condition that the problem in the West Bank and Gaza was resolved.

It is in Israel's interest for the problem to remain unresolved. Israel is not a peaceful country. It is a very oppressive country towards its Palestinian neighbors, and it does whatever it can do to prolong the problem, because it benefits from it."

Hamidaddin concluded by saying that the Arabs have wasted resources attacking Israel in the past:

"No, but I want to focus on the issues that affect me. If Israel does not pose a strategic national threat, we should not treat it as if it does. ...

[Israel did not create the threats coming from Iraq and Iran.] No, it was us. Since the 1960s, when we turned Israel into a problem, we have wasted our resources. Since the 1950s, the Arabs have spent billions on the conflict with Israel, and have sacrificed hundreds of thousands of lives. The outcome is that we are in decline, whereas Israel is on the rise. If we had treated the Palestinian cause differently right from the start, we would have been today stronger and more capable than Israel, and the Palestinians would have been better off."

So is the GCC crisis over? Another Saudi columnist, Salman Aldossary, suggests that the honeymoon may not last, and that the worst may be yet to come:

"It is premature to think that the crisis has been completely resolved. We should admit that only some of the roots of the problem have been addressed. In addition, some details remain vague. Perhaps the coming months will be sufficient to demonstrate if the good intentions that have been expressed about putting the GCC’s general interests above the narrow ones of its member states are genuine. It should not be overlooked, however, that this acute crisis produced fierce reactions that went beyond those of previous inter-Gulf disputes. This was the case when some sides, affiliated with some parties involved in the dispute, lashed out at certain states or figures. These incidents will definitely not be forgiven, no matter how hard those who were responsible for them try to reach out to their brothers. There is a big difference between disagreeing with someone and registering one’s position through objective criticism on the one hand, and throwing the worst insults at someone on the other. It is true that the Gulf states have overcome their political differences and are quite pragmatic, but they do not forget personal differences and the insults that accompany them.

The GCC [has witnessed] a honeymoon period in the run-up to its ... annual summit. ... Who knows, the honeymoon may last throughout the next year. ...

It would be dangerous if the crisis returned and the wound opened once again, God forbid. In this case, the crisis would certainly be more extreme, dangerous, and complex than before, and would produce decisions whose impact no one will be able to comprehend.

May the honeymoon last forever! Nevertheless, wishes need to be accompanied by deeds."

Generational Dynamics predicts that there will be a new war between Arabs and Israelis, refighting the 1948 war between Jews and Arabs that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. Memri and Asharq Al Awsat (Riyadh)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Dec-14 World View -- The GCC honeymoon: Arab countries reach a 'historic' agreement thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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