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Gulf non-cooperation: Inside the flailing GCC |NationalTribune.com

As fighting raged during the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war, neighbouring countries of the Gulf region decided it was time to organise militarily and economically to ensure strength in numbers. Thirty-nine years later, the union that became known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is in tatters because of a blockade imposed on one of its members,…

Gulf non-cooperation: Inside the flailing GCC |NationalTribune.com

As fighting raged during the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war, neighbouring countries of the Gulf region decided it was time to organise militarily and economically to ensure strength in numbers.
Thirty-nine years later, the union that became known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is in tatters because of a blockade imposed on one of its members, the natural gas-rich nation of Qatar.
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Is a resolution of the GCC crisis imminent?

The GCC was fractured on June 5, 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, along with Egpyt, a non-council member, severed all ties with Qatar and blocked air, land, and sea routes to and from the country.
Three years later, with the blockade still in full force, the fate of what once represented Gulf-Arab unity is now in question.
Bringing together Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, the GCC faces “unprecedented” challenges – including the repercussions from the coronavirus pandemic and the diplomatic crisis caused by the siege, Secretary-General Nayef al-Hajraf said in a statement marking the bloc’s 39th anniversary last month.

The beginning
The GCC was formed on May 25, 1981, in Abu Dhabi, UAE, as the bloody war between Iraq and Iran was at its peak and the region was still reeling from the Islamic Revolution in Iran two years earlier.
The goals were lofty.
The GCC’s aim was to coordinate resistance to outside intervention in the Gulf, and a Unified Economic Agreement was signed in November 1981 and ratified in 1982. One of its goals was to include free trade among member states in all agricultural, animal, industrial, and natural resource products of national origin.
It also sought to strengthen cooperation among its six member states and regulate areas such as economic affairs, commerce, customs and communications, education and culture, social and health affairs, information and tourism, and legislative and administrative protocols.
The GCC – a region with a population of about 50 million people, half of those expatriate workers – also aimed to stimulate scientific and technological progress, establish scientific research centres, and encourage cooperation with the private sector.
With its headquarters in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, the GCC allowed the free movement of citizens and capital, but restrictions on some economic activities were left in place.

Military cooperation
The GCC formed a joint military ground force known as the Peninsula Shield in 1984 to rapidly deploy if any of the members were attacked.

In 1987, GCC nations declared any assault on a member state tantamount to an attack on the entire group. Despite these moves, however, the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1990 was not met with Gulf troops.
The Middle East pro-democracy protests that erupted in 2011, known as the Arab Spring, were largely avoided in the GCC – with the exception of Bahrain.
In March 2011, about 1,000 Saudi soldiers entered the country to protect government facilities at Bahrain’s request, in line with the GCC defence pact. Dozens of protesters were killed, many arrested, and the uprising was put down.
Economics
Fossil fuels are the main driver of the GCC’s economic engine, accounting for about 90 percent of government revenues.
The GCC nations are facing their worst economic crisis in history amid the double shock of plunging oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) noted this week.
Overall gross domestic product (GDP) will contract 4.4 percent this year, despite indications the coronavirus spread has been successfully contained.
Saudi Arabia, the region’s largest economy, could see its real GDP shrink 4 percent this year and its deficit widen to 13 percent.
Qatar, the world’s largest producer of liquefied natural gas, will also suffer from low energy prices, but it continues to develop its share of the North Field, the world’s biggest gas deposit.

Because of the air, sea, and land blockade, Qatar has been forced to seek out new trade routes and partners, and opened up its $74bn Hamad Port.
Business between Oman and Qatar is booming since the siege was imposed. Over the past three years, Qatar has also developed stronger economic relations with Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan.
Reports have emerged that Qatar, Oman and Kuwait may establish a free-trade zone independent of the GCC.
GCC Secretary-General al-Hajraf, Kuwait’s former finance minister, said last week the Gulf crisis and the pandemic represent “a common concern for all countries of the council”.
“This matter makes it imperative for all of us as the GCC system to enhance joint action and collective preparedness to deal with the post-coronavirus world with its economic, health, security, and labour dimensions in order to protect our people and preserve their gains,” he said in a statement marking the GCC’s 39th anniversary.
Ostracising Qatar
The blockade was not the first time Qatar faced internal GCC sanction. In 2014, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors to Qatar over concerns about Doha’s independent foreign policy.
Efforts to resolve the current crisis are reportedly continuing, with Kuwait acting as the main mediator since the beginning of the crisis in June 2017.

Three months after the blockade was imposed, Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah told a press conference with US President Donald Trump: “What is important is that we have stopped any military action.”
The blockading nations immediately denied a military incursion had been planned.
James M Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, wrote in Modern Diplomacy that some Qatari officials believe “gaining control of Qatari gas reserves was a main objective of the Saudi-UAE boycott”.
Analysts have suggested the severe shift in GCC cooperation and solidarity occurred following the rise to power by Saudi Arabia’s current Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, after his father became king in January 2015. In tandem with the UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed, the two countries moved to dominate the political agenda of the Gulf grouping.
“The organisation has been usurped by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to coerce the smaller states into followership,” said Andreas Krieg, an assistant professor at King’s College London.
GCC break-up?
Speculation has been rife that Doha may split with the GCC, though a Qatari official denied such a move was imminent.
“Reports claiming that Qatar is considering leaving the GCC are wholly incorrect and baseless,” Deputy Foreign Minister Lolwah al-Khater said last week.

“Such rumours must have originated from people’s despair and disappointment with a fractured GCC, which used to be a source of hope and aspiration for the people of the six member countries. As we are reaching the third year of the illegal blockade on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain, there is no wonder why the people of the GCC are doubting and questioning the GCC as an institution.
“Qatar hopes the GCC will once again be a platform of cooperation and coordination. An effective GCC is needed now more than ever, given the challenges facing our region,” al-Khater said.
With discussions continuing, Kuwait’s Prime Minister Shaikh Sabah Al Khaled said on Wednesday “hopes are bigger than before” of ending the Gulf crisis.
“We used to move one step ahead and return two steps backwards. But now if we move forward a step, it is followed by another step,” Al Khaled told local media.
But one Western official in the Gulf, quoted by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, was far less optimistic.
“The regional conditions aren’t really there for some big rapprochement at the moment. My sense is this is the same old merry-go-round.”
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COVID-19: US passes ‘unfathomable’ 200,000 death toll |NationalTribune.com

Sorry, we can’t find the page that you are looking for. Don’t let that stop you from visiting some of our other great related content.EXPLORE MOREPalestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel dealsPalestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.At UN,…

COVID-19: US passes ‘unfathomable’ 200,000 death toll |NationalTribune.com

Sorry, we can’t find the page that you are looking for. Don’t let that stop you from visiting some of our other great related content.EXPLORE MOREPalestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel dealsPalestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.At UN, Qatar emir questions world inaction on Israeli occupationQatar’s leader says Israel continues to carry out ‘flagrant violation of international resolutions’.Lebanon: Hezbollah arms depot blast caused by ‘technical error’Lebanon’s official news agency said explosion took place in southern village of Ein Qana, about 50km south of Beirut.
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Iran says ‘internal agents’ may be responsible for Natanz blast |NationalTribune.com

Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year. On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the…

Iran says ‘internal agents’ may be responsible for Natanz blast |NationalTribune.com

Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year.
On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the roof to collapse and parts of the building were blackened by the blaze.
“One of the strong theories is based on internal agents being involved in the incident,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters at a news conference, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).

“The issue is being seriously reviewed by the country’s security organisations and we will announce the results after things are clear.”
It is the first time an Iranian official specifically pointed to the possibility of an inside job for the blast.
In late August, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed the damage to the facility was the result of “sabotage”.
“But how this explosion took place and with what materials … will be announced by security officials in due course,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at the time, citing “security reasons” for not disclosing further information.
‘Sabotage is certain’
In early September, Kamalvandi announced Natanz saboteurs “have been identified” but refrained from discussing further details, including whether internal agents were complicit.
On Tuesday, Rabiei also reiterated that “sabotage is certain” but the incident still needs to be investigated due to its complexities.
The desert Natanz site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities regularly monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
Following the explosion, international media reports indicated Israel may have been behind the attack. Israel has been deliberately vague, neither confirming nor denying involvement while stressing the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.

“Everyone can suspect us in everything and all the time, but I don’t think that’s correct,” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said days after the attack.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also said “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear capabilities”, adding to that end, “We take actions that are better left unsaid.”
IAEA-Iran relations
September’s announcement that Iran knows the saboteurs behind the Natanz explosion came one week after IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the country.
The trip was successful, leading to Iran granting access to two suspected former nuclear sites that the UN watchdog wished to inspect.
“In this present context, based on analysis of available information to the IAEA, the IAEA does not have further questions to Iran and further requests for access to locations other than those declared by Iran,” the IAEA and Iranian officials said in a joint statement following the visit.
In a speech during the 64th session of the General Conference of the IAEA on Monday, the president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi referred to the Natanz incident.

“These malicious acts need to be condemned by the agency and member states,” he said via video conference, adding “Iran reserves its rights to protect its facilities and take necessary actions against any threat as appropriate.”
Salehi also urged the UN watchdog not to compromise its “impartiality, independence and professionalism”.
Iran, UN and the United States are locked in a major disagreement centred around the landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in May 2018.
The US on Sunday declared it reinstated all UN sanctions on Iran, an announcement that was roundly rejected by the United Nations Security Council as lacking legal basis.
The US is trying to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.
Iran, which has always maintained it never pursued nuclear weapons, accepted the nuclear deal that removed all UN sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The US reneged on the deal, unilaterally imposing a harsh campaign of sanctions that have hit almost all the productive sectors of the Iranian economy. US sanctions have also targeted Iranian officials and organisations.
In response, starting exactly one year after US sanctions were imposed and other parties failed to guarantee economic benefits promised Iran under the deal, Iran started gradually scaling back its nuclear commitments.

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Palestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel deals |NationalTribune.com

Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel. Palestinians see the deals that the United…

Palestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel deals |NationalTribune.com

Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel.
Palestinians see the deals that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington a week ago as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn nations breaking ranks and normalising relations with Israel.
Palestine was supposed to chair Arab League meetings for the next six months, but Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah that it no longer wanted the position.
“Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council [of foreign ministers] at its current session. There is no honour in seeing Arabs rush towards normalisation during its presidency,” Maliki said.
In his remarks, he did not specifically name the UAE and Bahrain, Gulf Arab countries that share with Israel concern over Iran. He said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had been informed of the Palestinian decision.

Palestinians rally against Bahrain-Israel normalisation

The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.
Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state, in exchange for establishing ties with it.
In a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Gaza-based Hamas movement were due to hold reconciliation talks in Turkey on Tuesday.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting. Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of unity deals agreed since then.
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies
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