Gulf leaders will meet in Riyadh on Monday, and according to Bahrain’s de facto Information Minister, the announcement of a new, stronger union will be amongst its outcomes.
Not all six GCC states would necessarily be on board, but at the very least it would include Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. ”I expect there will be an announcement of two or three countries. We can’t be sure but I have a strong expectation,” Samira Rajab, Bahrain’s minister of state for information affairs, is being quote as saying by Agence France Press and Reuters.
She says individual sovereignties will be maintained, but the European Union-style body would make united decisions on foreign relations, security, military and economic policy.
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah called for a “phase of union within a single entity” last December.
Other sources have confirmed that a Gulf Union will be part of tomorrow’s talks, and Bahrain’s Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa was quoted as saying he expects union plans to move forward, calling it the “biggest dream of the peoples of the region.”
Al Khalifa also said the union in a necessary step under the “current circumstances,” evidently referring to the uprising that has continued in Bahrain since February 2011.
As Qatar-based regional analyst David Roberts points out in a article for Foreign Policy, the prolonged instability has severely impacted Bahrain’s economy. And there are fears amongst the ruling classes in Manama and Riyadh that Iran is eyeing regime change.
Such a bilateral union would normalize the Saudi-led military action in Bahrain to potentially pave the way for the permanent stationing of “GCC” troops in Bahrain, while signaling the death knell for any political resolution with Riyadh having a de jure say over such outcomes as opposed to its already potent de facto sway.
Reaction online has been skeptical, with some calling for a referendum on the decision:
— Ms.(@alabahrain) May 13, 2012
— Hazem (@Hazembh) May 13, 2012
Others questions the ramifications of such a union:
— Ahmed Al-Khaja (@ibn_alkhaja) May 13, 2012
It’s clear, thought, that the move is not without some supporters:
— M. K. Al-Binateej (@ATEEKSTER) May 12, 2012
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, the general manager of Saudi-owned broadcaster Al Arabiya, has also laid out his views on the matter. In an op-ed for Arab News, he says he won’t support a union that “would nullify the features of any Gulf society.” In specific, he refers to women driving and cinemas in most Gulf states, parliamentary elections in Kuwait and free media in Saudi.
What do you think of the idea of a Gulf union? Or a greater Saudi-Bahrain cooperative, for that matter?
Credit: Map of Gulf countries via Google Maps