An Important Gulf Summit in the Transitional Period

  • 25 December 2008

 The Gulf Cooperation Council summit hosted by the Sultanate of Oman towards the end of December is being held at a defining moment, both at the regional and international levels, because through its deliberations, summations and resulting decisions, it would determine the way for the GCC states in tackling a number of crucial issues that have a direct and deep bearing on the Gulf integration initiative, with the file of the planned monetary union being on top of the agenda. Other items on the agenda include water and electricity deals, Gulf railroads, and the peninsula deterrence forces. At the regional level, the Muscat summit takes place in wake of important transformations on the Iranian and Iraqi fronts. The recent period has seen a better understanding between the Gulf states and Iraq, and growing Gulf interest in its reconstruction out of a realization that it is an important country in the Gulf and the Middle East. The Gulf–Iranian and Arab-Iranian relations have also undergone many developments, and the Iranian nuclear crisis has entered a new and different phase. New regional challenges have come to the fore, such as the maritime piracy in the Gulf of Eden and the Red Sea with increasing danger in a vital area for the Gulf national security. In addition, the Arab–Israeli conflict is pointing towards many new and impending dangers that could lead to major escalation in tensions at various levels, and inter-Arab relations are suffering from some problems and tensions that could take on dangerous dimensions in the coming period.

On the international arena, the Gulf summit happens at a transitory phase on the international arena on the political and economic levels; as on the political level the new American administration is preparing to take over the rule in The United States of America in the coming month, and the indicators show that it has a different vision towards the Gulf and the Middle East affaires in addition to the international relation in general, in a way that could affect the world interactions in the coming years.

On the economic level the world financial and economic crisis represents the prominent variable and the biggest challenge that confronts the “Muscat summit” especially that the negative affects that reached the Gulf Cooperation Council at varying levels. The decrease of oil prices at high rates represents another economic challenge with a composite form for the Gulf leaders in Muscat, in addition to the declaration of the “Cooperation Council” the suspension of free trade negotiations with the “European Union” after long years after its start without reaching any tangible results.

No doubt that these complex challenges and variables place the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council in front of a historical responsibility, but what inspires hope are two matters: the first is the clear and deep awareness from all the countries of the Council of the dangerous nature of the situation, and that the confrontation of the surrounding challenges could not happen effectively except through a common strategy. The second matter is that the “Muscat summit” happens in light of more positive relations between the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, especially after overcoming some of the differences and the tensions that it faced in the previous period, and perhaps the recent meetings of the “Saudi – Qatari coordination council” represents an important indicator in this matter.