Eight Kings To Form Club of Arab Monarchs
The Saudi capital Riyadh
Leaders of the six Arab Gulf states have welcomed bids by Jordan and Morocco to join the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The GCC comprises Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, which between them supply about 20% of the world’s oil. It was formed in 1981 to coordinate political and economic policies. More recently, this has extended to defence and security too. In April 2011 the GCC sent troops into Bahrain, where the monarchy faced protests calling for democratic reform.
The GCC leaders' decision will result in an extended alliance including Jordan and Morocco. Both these kingdoms have seen limited protests and calls for political reform and constitutional monarchy during the "Arab Spring". In the GCC itself, as well as the Bahrain unrest, there have been small-scale protests in Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Expanding the GCC is aimed not only at countering unrest across the Arab world but also strengthening the oil-rich Arabian kingdoms against what they perceive as the regional threat from Iran, their powerful neighbor across the Persian Gulf. They have accused Iran of fomenting the insurrection in Bahrain and of seeking to destabilize Arab regimes.
Iran denies involvement in the protests, saying it only gives Bahrain protesters "moral support".
In the impoverished Republic of Yemen, the GCC has been mediating, to no avail so far, to persuade rival factions to sign a transition deal aimed at ending months of anti-government unrest.
Yemen, which stands in stark contrast to its wealthy neighbors in the Arabian Peninsula, has limited observer status in the GCC.
Arab kings must "stick together"
Although Jordan and Saudi Arabia share close ties through common tribal and family links, the links are less evident between the Gulf states and Morocco, at the other end of the Arab world.
But they do have at least two factors in common - the Arabic language, and the system of monarchy.
The Dubai-based Gulf News cited Shaikh Jaber Al Khalifa, a political analyst, as saying that putting the eight monarchies in the Arab world under a single umbrella would be a positive step. "When political systems with common visions and ideas work together, you should expect good results because they are not held back by divergent political ideologies."Continued on the next page