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WASHINGTON – Saudi Arabia is leading the charge among U.S.-backed Arab Gulf Cooperation Council member countries to consider forming a union to offset rising concern over the influence of Shi’ite Iran, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
While the Saudis are pressing for such a union, the fact that no union was announced following a recent GCC meeting has bolstered Iran’s confidence to pursue extending its influence among the Arab GCC countries which are Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The GCC was formed 31 years ago as a security measure after the 1979 Iranian revolution and the subsequent eight-year war between Iraq, then led by Sunni Saddam Hussein, and Iran.
In the case of Bahrain, with which the Saudi Kingdom especially wants a union, the majority of the population is Shi’ite and members are governed by a Sunni monarchy that has resorted to violence against the demonstrations that have been ongoing in that country.
The Saudis and the Bahrain monarchy blame Iran for the internal turmoil among their populations. In fact, the Saudis, along with the UAE, have positioned troops to keep the monarchy in place in the face of the growing opposition to it.
Bahrain also is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
As expected, Iran has expressed opposition to such a union.
“Bahraini and Saudi rulers must understand that this unwise decision will only strengthen the Bahraini people’s resolve against the forces of occupation,” some 190 members of the Iranian parliament wrote in a letter for public distribution.
“The option of a GCC union has become urgent,” according to Bahrain Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman.
The Saudi urgency in wanting to establish such a union with Bahrain has been underscored by the increasing prospect that similar uprisings could occur not far away in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, which not only is predominantly Shi’ite but is the kingdom’s primary oil producing area.
The union concept is to be patterned after the European Union in which the GCC will seek “common approaches to defense, security, political and economic long-term interests,” according to a GCC communique.
In addition, the UAE has a long-standing dispute with Iran over a group of islands just off their respective coasts. It recently resurfaced to the point that Iran has threatened to move military forces to protect its interests.
For now, the GCC has approved a commission that will look into the union prospect. Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait openly have expressed interest in establishing the union among the GCC membership, although analysts say that all of the GCC countries have agreed on the Gulf union.
The question will be just how much influence to give Saudi Arabia in the union, considering that it is the most powerful country among them.
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