Proposals for Union of Arab Gulf States Prompt Concern

The governments of the Gulf are discussing transforming the current Gulf Cooperation Council into an EU-style union. The move comes in an atmosphere of uncertainty and tension caused by the Arab uprisings and Iran's growing influence. As a first step, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might seek closer union.

Full discussions of the issue have been delayed until December.

GCC civil society groups have requested that their governments postpone the move and engage their people through a referendum. Iran has called for rallies against the proposed union of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain which it describes as an annexation of Bahrain (and its comments were in turn protested by Bahrain).

Across the Gulf concern has been expressed regarding the plans for a union.

GCC states. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Aiyah Saihati, a Saudi blogger and entrepreneur, slammed the plan:

Saudi’s attempt to create a union for the purpose of countering Iran, which is not a threat, is only to enhance the sectarian narrative. Shifting the narrative from democratization to a sectarian frame changes how potential protests in the country are handled. The smaller countries with denser resources are ahead of Saudi in some of aspects of development and already have partially and soon fully elected parliaments. Uniting with Saudi just means inheriting its dogmas and problems. It means diluting dense resources over a larger more problematic constituency as well as diluting power per square area if one considers the total area governed by Al-Saud. If I were Qatar, why would I dive in?

Kuwaiti Ghassan El-Wagayan tweeted:

@Ghassanw: Thank you but NOOOOOO thank you

In Bahrain, Ali Al Saeed asked:

@alialsaeed: Oh no, women drive in #Bahrain? How can there be a union with #saudi? Ban female drivers?! #GCCunion

Kuwaiti Mishal Al Mutire expressed his concerns:

@MishalALmutire: اكثر ما اخشاه من هذا الاتحاد كل صاحب راي بالمنامه .. يُحاكم بالرياض ! ‎‫#اتحاد_خليجي‬‏
What I fear most from this Union is [the possibility that] someone with an opinion in Manama could be tried in Riyadh!

Bahraini journalist Wafa Alamm wrote:

@wafaalamm: من يعتقد أنني ضد قيام اتحاد خليجي فهو مخطأ/ الاتحاد الخليجي مهم ولكن ولادته بدولتين فقط لظرف معين يفقده قيمته لانه يصبح معاق ‎‪#bahrain‬‏ ‎‪#GCC‬‏
Whoever thinks I'm against a Gulf union is wrong; the Gulf Union is important but its birth with just two states [responding to] a specific circumstance deprives it of value because it becomes handicapped

Journalist Mohammad Albaghli questioned the feasibility of the move:

@albaghli74: دول الخليج صار لهم 9 سنوات مو عارفين يتفقون على مشروع بسيط مثل الاتحاد الجمركي ،، اليوم يبون اتحاد خليجي شامل بين دول الخليج !! تتغشمرون ؟!
For nine years the Gulf states haven't been able to agree on a simple plan like the customs union… Today they want a complete Gulf union!! Are they kidding?

Madawi Al Rasheed, a Saudi professor of social anthropology, tweeted:

@MadawiDr: الوحدة الخليجية ليست عملية مصاهرة بين البنين و البنات بل مستقبل شعوب تطمح لوحدة من نوع اخر ‎‫#اتحاد_خليجي‬
Gulf unity is not like arranging an alliance between boys and girls, but the future of peoples aspiring for unity of another kind.

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