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Saudi analyst urges Confederation with Bahrain
BBC Monitoring Middle East
July 02, 2013

Saudi Arabia`s King Abdullah (R) welcomes Bahrain`s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa in Riyadh December 19, 2011. Leaders of the Gulf Arab States arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit. REUTERS

Report by Ahmad Abd-al-Hamid: “Saudi Writer Muhanna al-Hubayl to Akhbar al-Khalij: Confederation Between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain 26 a Necessity”

Muhanna al-Hubayl, Saudi writer and political analyst, has called for the creation of a confederation between the kingdoms of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, given its importance as a solution for the challenges currently facing both countries, in the light of their common fate. Al-Hubayl asserted that such union should be established on the basis of social partnership allowing a popular venture based on constitutional and citizenship rights. He expressed hope to see the Saudi Navy forces replace the US Fifth Fleet, as a step to preserve Bahraini national security, which is indivisible from the Arabian Gulf`s national security.

In exclusive statements to Akhbar al-Khalij newspaper, during his recent visit to Bahrain, Al-Hubayl warned against Iran`s ambition to control the Gulf region by ruling over the Shi`i sect, even if some Shi`i members or groups are not convinced by the Iranian project, which is destroying their national and legitimate interests, as well as their historic coexistence with Sunnis.

The Saudi writer underlined the need for a plan to integrate moderate Shi`is, given that Iran is leading the Shi`is to a very dangerous fate. Al-Hubayl also asserted that the Iranian scheme will shrink and that the mission will not be to incite society to oppress Shi`is, but to integrate them within the framework of a national and legitimate partnership aimed at building the state according to common interests.

On a separate note, Al-Hubayl said that the Islamic discourse must shift to a practical programme that is in the interest of the state, noting that the general programme should include all the components of society of all different persuasions, and that the candidate of the Islamic current ought to serve the society, not only his party.

Source: Akhbar Al-Khalij website, Manama, in Arabic 29 Jun 13

© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Bahrain said favours GCC union to preserve monarchy in face of Iranian threat
BBC Monitoring Middle East
July 15, 2012

Report by Joseph A. Kechichian: “Bahrain Favours Gulf Union.” For assistance with multimedia elements

A pro-government protester holds up a placard showing GCC flags that reads One Union One Youth as she shouts pro-government slogans in a rally to show support towards GCC Union in al Fatih Grand Mosque in Manama May

A pro-government protester holds up a placard showing GCC flags that reads: “One Nation, One Destiny” as she shouts pro-government slogans in a rally to show support towards GCC Union at Al-Fatih Grand Mosque in Manama on 19 May

Unlike Omani representatives, Bahraini officials welcomed Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abd-al-Aziz`s call to update the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) alliance into a full-fledged union, perceiving that only such an evolutionary mechanism may preserve the monarchy in the island kingdom.

Manama reacted positively to concrete initiatives proposed by the GCC advisory summit that met on 5 May , this year, though disagreements surfaced within the organization, chiefly from the Sultanate of Oman.

Bahrain adopted a diametrically opposed view, perceiving Iran as an existential threat, further motivated by the ongoing uprising that started in the spring of 2011. Towards that end, and aware that its meagre capabilities were nowhere sufficient to prevent a putative Iranian assault, or even a Tehran-inspired coup attempt, Manama supported several security umbrellas, ranging the gamut from the GCC to a significant American presence.

For Bahrain, the request for a token GCC unified military force, which saw the deployment of Saudi and Emirati forces on the island starting on 14 March, 2011, was a necessity. Still, Manama concluded that the substantive force that would be required to preserve the kingdom`s security and stability, would have to be western, especially American. In fact, it was not a mere coincidence that the US 5th Fleet was headquartered in Manama, a presence that created internal tensions among the country`s Shi`i population.

It must be emphasized that Bahrain`s alliance choices in the past were largely based on the preservation of the status quo to ensure regional stability, although the kingdom consistently sought to reinforce regional parity through both balance of power as well as deep-deterrence strategies, to contain its putative foe.

Manama concluded that Iran was reaching for regional hegemony and that it openly sponsored subversion in Bahrain. Despite various pleas, before and after 1979, Manama noted the frequency of clandestine Iranian activities, and pointed out to Tehran`s nuclear programme that allegedly transformed it into an intransigent state. Moreover, Manama accused Tehran of encouraging and financially supporting Shi`i demonstrations in the country, whose many objectives included regime change.

Given its apprehensions, Bahrain redefined its national security agenda, and sought to enhance its regional integration through the GCC, which was the primary reason why it called on the alliance to deploy military forces under the aegis of the Darah Al Jazira in 2011.

Nevertheless, it remained to be determined whether the creation of a more robust GCC military force was in the cards, although Bahrain favoured the evolution of the GCC into a confederation that would further empower the alliance to act in similar instances.

Despite the confluence of interests between Bahrain and its GCC partners, the former was unwilling to solely depend on the alliance for its security requirements, which also posed a dilemma for Riyadh.

Instead, and in addition to substantial Western relationships, Manama hedged its bets through the development of a peripheral balancing mechanism, which was weaved around a string of loose, bilateral alliances based on the mutual interest of curtailing Iran`s hegemony. Remarkably, Bahrain - and, one could make the argument that the GCC as a whole - looked to India and Turkey to strengthen secondary security conditions.

Bahrain`s ties with India, in particular, illustrated what the small country envisaged. Notwithstanding the lack of any territorial contiguity, India was a nascent regional power, steadily improving its political and economic advantages throughout the Gulf region. Not only was New Delhi confident that Bahrain and its GCC partners - which hosted an estimated five million Indian expatriate workers throughout the six countries - could benefit from the first vestiges of regional polarity, but it also underscored its readiness to provide security assistance on a need to basis.

Towards that end, Indian naval and air force units visited Manama and other GCC capitals on a frequent basis, exchanging expertise and, more important, familiarising its officers with their Gulf counterparts.

In turn, this emerging polarity attracted both Iran, which depended on hydrocarbon sales to India now that the United States and the European Union imposed strict sanctions - and all GCC states. Indeed, India has shown a willingness to favour GCC countries, not only because of its large national population`s presence, but also because of its own global ambitions.

Naturally, and to better address its intrinsic political storms, Bahrain embarked on a long-term economic platform that emphasised growth and economic stability for the dual goals of preserving its attractiveness for its alliance partners, while retaining the means necessary to politically reform the kingdom.

What was unclear was whether Bahrain`s leadership actually sought to fully eliminate any wealth disparities between Sunni and Shi`i citizens, so as to deny would be detractors of their sectarian discourses and to expose the true engines of social unrest in the country.

Under the circumstances, it was fair to ask whether the GCC military intervention in Bahrain was a paradigm of potential GCC `deployments` to maintain the status quo? Indeed, the GCC supported the Al Khalifa ruling family as the latter confronted an internal uprising allegedly fuelled by Iran, because it could not jeopardise the unity of the organization.

Importantly, the decision on the proposed union, which could come as early as December 2012 when GCC heads of state gather for their annual summit in Manama, also reflected Bahraini expectations.

Source: Gulf News website, Dubai, in English 7 Jul 12

© 2012 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Proposed Bahrain-Saudi union to protect regional monarchies - Iran analyst
BBC Monitoring Middle East
May 23, 2012

Text of commentary by Hoseyn Ala`i headlined “The impact of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia`s union on Iran`s security” published by Iranian newspaper Jomhuri-ye Eslami on 17 May

Bahrain is a very small island in the Persian Gulf; its area is less than 700 square kilometres and its dimensions are much smaller compared to Tehran. However, its geopolitical importance is quite high. That is why this island has been of interest to the world`s superpowers throughout history and it has been the main factor for why Iran has been in conflict with dominating powers during the last 50 years.

Since the establishment of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council in 1359 [year starting 21 Mar 1980] in support of the Saddam regime during the Iran-Iraq War, Bahrain has had extensive collaboration with Saudi Arabia and the United States in supporting Iraq`s actions in attacking ships heading towards Iranian ports, and in making the Persian Gulf insecure. This country has provided the US military with parts of its territory for many years, and the general headquarters of the US Navy`s Fifth Fleet has been stationed at Bahrain`s Salman Port for decades. Since the separation of Bahrain from Iran, the country`s tribal government has mistreated the residents of this island and therefore has constantly sought to join Saudi Arabia and the United States in different instances in order to govern the population with an iron fist and remove any concern about the overthrow of the Al-Khalifa family with the support of the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has always considered Bahrain a part of its national territory and it believes that any change in the governmental structure of this country will have an important impact on the structure of the kingdom of Saudi; therefore, it fully supports the Al Khalifah family. On this basis, Saudi Arabia has linked Bahrain to its territory with the construction of a large bridge in the past few years so that it can send its military personnel to this island when it desires. The people of Bahrain are now facing the occupation of their land by the Saudi government and it is the Saudi rulers who prevent the establishment of democracy in Bahrain, with the help of the United States. The United States assumes that the establishment of democracy in Bahrain would lead to the removal of its military bases from this country. This fact has caused the United States to deem that its bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE are unsafe as well, which would ultimately mean that it has to eventually end its military occupation of the Persian Gulf. The withdrawal of US military forces from the Persian Gulf would then translate into the superiority of the Islamic Republic of Iran`s Navy.

On the other hand, the people of Bahrain have always wanted to have good relations with Iran for historical reasons. Imagining relations between Iran and Bahrain causes great concern for Saudi Arabia, because if the Al Khalifah family is overthrown in Manama, not only would there be no confederation between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, but the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council would be dissolved and Saudi Arabia would fall behind in its rivalry with Iran. In any case, the struggle over power to govern the Persian Gulf, which is the most important geopolitical energy region in the world, continues.

The United States and Saudi Arabia assume that if the people`s protests in Bahrain bears fruit, not only will the people have control over their own destiny, but it will also lead to the spreading of protests to other southern countries of the Persian Gulf, and this will disrupt the kingdoms and monarchies along the coast of the Persian Gulf and will help regional countries take control of Persian Gulf oil and gas resources.

Therefore, Saudi Arabia aims to propose the union between Persian Gulf countries, so that it can join Bahrain to its territory and ensure the continuity of the Al Khalifah regime. Hence, the union between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is a way to confront the change in the balance of power in the Persian Gulf and a way to protect monarchies and dictatorships in the region, and to ensure the continuation of US infiltration in the Persian Gulf.

Source: Jomhuri-ye Eslami website, Tehran, in Persian 17 May 12

© 2012 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Formation of Gulf Union to counter Iran – analysis
BBC Monitoring Middle East
May 22, 2012

Text of commentary headlined: “From Shield Island to Arab Union” by Iranian newspaper E`temad on 16 May.

The Gulf Cooperation Council`s aim is to develop into a union that can be seen as a method to confront Iran. In fact, this council has constantly followed an anti-Iranian policy. The Arab countries of the region sought to create some sort of a regional convergence against Iran, which implies that the attempt of this council for formation of a union was, in fact, the adoption of an anti-Iranian strategy. The Gulf Cooperation Council countries definitely seek to move against the interests of Iran, so they can reduce Iran`s infiltration and increase their own stature in the region. This is because the United States has left the region and now these countries are trying to fill the United States` absence by forming a union. However, the question remains as to whether or not they can fill this absence. In response, it must be said that they definitely cannot. Saddam`s attack upon Kuwait once again showed that the shield of this island [referring to the Arab countries in the region] is nothing but a “paper tiger,” and is quite powerless.

The other question is will this union ever be formed? Or is it just to send a message or to show the mindset of countries like Saudi Arabia? In response, it must be said that the formation of this union seems farfetched as these countries are extremely in conflict with one another. The conflicts between Qatar and Saudi Arabia have extended nearly to battle and some were even killed during border disputes. The conflicts between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is such that Saudi Arabia has prohibited the currency of United Arab Emirates to enter its country, because on the back of UAE currencies there are maps of the borders between Emirates and Kuwait, which are the main cause of their border disputes. The conflicts are extreme to the extent that the produced oil from the disputed border is shared among these two countries. The totality of these conflicts gets in the way of forming a union between them. History has proven that such a union has never lasted among the Arab countries. If we recall, Egypt, too, sought to form regional unions and established several unions including a confederation with Libya and Syria, which failed; subsequently, the five countries of Mauritania, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria formed a few unions which failed as well. In addition, the federation which was formed between Syria and Egypt lasted for only two years and was dissolved again. This fact indicates that there is a problem in forming unions among Arabs, mainly because the decision-making process takes place only through the leaders of these countries and not by the people and through a referendum. Hence, these unions fail because they are not backed by the people. This union will have the same fate. The reason why Saudi Arabia has recommended this union is that it seeks to play a leading role in the region and it would like to be on top of this confederation; however, regarding the acceptance of this decision by Bahrain, while other countries oppose this plan, it must be said that Bahrain seeks to send out the message that it is willing to give away the country to Saudi Arabia, but it is not willing to hand it to the revolutionary people of Bahrain. This is an unethical message, based on which the statesmen of one country talk to their own people with arrogance while they are willing to surrender to Saudi Arabia.

In any case, based on historical experience, it must be said that the formation of this union seems unlikely and such a plan has been brought up only to send out specific messages. Albeit, most countries has disagreed and even though Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, has announced that the countries have decided upon studying this proposal and will declare the outcome afterwards, the failure in reaching a final decision during the last meeting of this council shows the volume of their disagreements. In regards to why Bahrain has accepted the proposal, it must be said that Bahrain has a unique geographical situation and population, in which most of the Bahrainis are Shiite, but it is governed by a Sunni government. Therefore, if Bahrain joins Saudi Arabia, the Shiite Bahrainis, who are in the majority at the moment, will turn into a minority in Saudi Arabia, given that Saudi Arabia`s population is mostly Sunni and Shiites are in the minority. Considering that this union will be considered a confederation, the identity of the governments are maintained. Hence, the aim of the government of Bahrain for joining Saudi Arabia is to maintain its own identity, while developing its minority (Sunni) into a majority, which are the games that these governments play.

Source: E`temad website, Tehran, in Persian 16 May 12

© 2012 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Bahraini Salafist MP calls for confederation with Saudi Arabia
BBC Monitoring Middle East
February 10, 2012

Saudi Arabia`s deputy foreign minister, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah (R), and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) secretary general, Abdul Latif al-Zayyani, exchange a traditional kiss by rubbing noses on the sidelines of a meeting to discuss dialogue between the six-nation GCC and Russia in Abu Dhabi on November 1, 2011. GETTY

Report by Habib Toumi: “Bahrain lawmaker calls for Gulf Confederation

Bahrain should not wait for other member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and should proceed to form a confederation with Saudi Arabia as a first step towards a wider Gulf union, an influential Bahraini lawmaker has said.

Bahrain should make the first move towards the union that will be joined by the other members of the GCC,” MP Adel Al Mouawda said.

Saudi King Abdallah Bin Abd-al-Aziz Al-Saud in December told fellow GCC leaders that the alliance should move from the stage of cooperation to the stage of union within a single entity.

His call sparked a flurry of official and popular praise in Bahrain where a 25-kilometre long causeway links the two countries. A committee of representatives from the six GCC member countries was set up to look into the move.

The veteran lawmaker representing Al-Asala, the expression of Salafism in Bahrain, said that the Bahrain-Saudi Arabia confederation had become a necessity.

“This is a crucial issue and cannot be procrastinated or delayed as the conditions in the region are becoming vitally sensitive and critically ominous.There are too many intricately dangerous layers in the region and no country can handle them without support from others,” he said.

“There are also impediments and divergences on the foreign policies of some GCC countries that may stall the move towards a Gulf confederation,” he said.

According to Al-Mouawda who was asking the foreign minister Shaykh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al-Khalifah whether there was a roadmap towards a Gulf confederation said that the GCC people were keen on a new union.

“We have the same identity and the same social, cultural and economic fabric. We can learn from the European Union and as long as there is determination, there should be no obstacle,” he said.

Source: Gulf News website, Dubai, in English 30 Jan 12

© 2012 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.




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