The Gulf Response to Common Challenges

  • 13 August 2008

Two issues top the list of the many challenges confronting the Arab countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The first is the crisis over the Iranian nuclear program and its future development and the second is the problem with the foreign workforce and its attendant complications. The Gulf area is suffering from the tension and instability resulting from Tehran's nuclear file, especially in the absence of a peaceful resolution to it and the escalating rhetoric and threats surrounding it. The Arab Gulf countries are directly affected by its negative repercussions in the areas of security, economy, and the environment. Any military confrontation with Iran will have grave security repercussions for all Gulf countries at many levels. If the threat to close the Strait of Hormuz were to pass, it will undoubtedly have negative effects on Gulf economies. And since Iran's nuclear facilities are closer to some Gulf capitals than they are to Tehran itself, there are grave environmental dangers, especially if these facilities were militarily targeted.

The threat posed by strikes among the foreign workforce is no less serious. Bahraini Minister of Labor even considered the problem with immigrant workers more serious than a "nuclear bomb." The latest problems by these workers in more than one country, and the international notoriety they generate, sully the global reputation of the host countries and expose the complicated nature of the issue and its potential future developments.

The danger posed by these two problems to the Arab Gulf countries has many characteristics that necessitate a common response. First, everyone is faced with the same threat, although to differing degrees. Second, it is a complicated threat with numerous and intertwined dimensions that defy individual responses because it is larger than any one country can manage. Third, the threat is imminent and thus requires immediate action and coordination between different Gulf agencies. Fourth, and finally, the danger is ongoing and may have sudden consequences which calls for sophisticated conflict management strategies that would address all contingencies.

The GCC countries have achieved many development goals but live in a dangerous part of the world. Utmost coordination and cooperation between them is necessary to preserve these achievements in face of the impending threats. What makes things more urgent is the fact that these challenges are similar, common, and immediate.