While the world has been ‘buzzing’ over President Obama this past month, a very interesting development is taking place in the Middle East.
The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) announced on 10 May 2011 that Moroccan and Jordanian membership is being considered.
The GCC is made up of six Gulf countries: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The countries forged an economic and political alliance in 1981 in light of the Iranian revolution in order to protect its own security.
All six countries share a common cultural and linguistic heritage, which is immediately detectable from the way that Khaleejis (Gulf Arabs) dress and speak (differences between them are a matter of nuance.) They also share similar political systems, with Sheikhs, or Emirs, ruling as monarchs. GCC countries are economically powerful, collectively possessing one the world’s largest oil and natural gas reserves. Though they are still a far cry from being fully functioning democracies in the Western sense, limited democratic reforms have been taking place in some GCC countries, with Qatar being one of the most liberal.
So why have Jordan and Morocco join, countries that have a different cultural heritage, aren’t as rich and aren’t even in the Gulf?
Security seems to be the motivating factor. In light of the current unrest sweeping across the region, the GCC seems to be looking to protect its own stability by relying on regional partners rather than the US, who has welcomed calls for democratic reforms in the Middle East.
However, would Jordanian and Moroccan membership qualify the GCC to call itself the ‘Gulf’ Co-operation Council?