World

Gulf Considers Political Union

On Monday the leaders of six Gulf monarchies held a consultative summit in Riyadh to discuss a project of political union that would bring together initially Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Participants will discuss a study on “a transition from cooperation to a phase of union” between members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which also includes the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar, said the secretary general of the group, Abdellatif Zayani.

The idea of ​​a union, launched in December by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, comes against a backdrop of tense relations with Iran, accused by its Arab neighbors of interfering in their internal affairs.

“The union option is an emergency” in the current environment, said Sunday the Prime Minister of Bahrain, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, whose country has faced for more than one at a protest movement People led by the Shiite opposition.

He added that the GCC countries should “strengthen their coordination in security and military by establishing a unified structure to ensure their defense.”

The Bahraini Minister of State for Information Affairs, Samira Rajab, had told AFP that the idea of ​​union had “been proposed by Saudi Arabia and (that) Bahrain had sustained”, leaving hear that the project should start with these two countries.

Speculation is rife about the project details: the Arabic daily Al-Hayat, quoting an official of the GCC, predicted “a declaration of intent on a union between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar”, to which then join the other GCC members.

The group has still failed, 31 years after its creation, to establish an economic integration among its members.

He struggles to achieve a customs union, symbolically coming into force in 2003 and the realization of which is now referred back to 2015, with a single currency project, originally announced for 2010, seems down.

Politically, the GCC monarchies come straggling: Only Bahrain and Kuwait have elected parliaments and political parties are banned in six countries.

The idea of ​​a common Saudi-Bahraini sparked turmoil in Bahrain where the head of Wefaq, the main Shiite opposition group, Sheikh Ali Salman, demanded that the project is first submitted to a referendum to the population, mostly Shia.

The Forum of civil associations in the Gulf, a liberal group, has also called for a referendum and called Riyadh and Manama to “reconsider this initiative (…) inappropriate”.

In Iran, the majority of members of parliament “condemned” the project.

“The Bahraini and Saudi leaders must know that this will strengthen the unity of the Bahraini people against the forces of occupation (Saudi, ed) and the crisis in Bahrain will be transferred to Saudi Arabia and push the region towards insecurity,” Iranian politicians have warned in a letter.

The tension between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia has worsened in 2011 after the deployment of Saudi forces in Bahrain to defend the Sunni dynasty faces a revolt of the Shiite majority in this country, accused of being supported by Iran.

This crisis was exacerbated with the suppression of the uprising in Syria, whose regime is an ally of Tehran, the growing influence of Iran in Iraq after U.S. withdrawal and the resurgence of a territorial dispute between the Islamic Republic and the Emirates over three Gulf islands.

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