The solution for Qatari crisis must come from within the GCC
The crisis with Qatar calls into question the necessity and efficiency of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It also raises questions about the future of this regional body when the interests of a member country do not align with the interests of the other five members.
Those who argue that the GCC was born as a reaction to specific circumstances and consequently must disappear since those circumstances no longer exist are worth considering. In 1981, the Gulf countries banded together in reaction to what they perceived as threats from regional agendas of Iran and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Now that these agendas are outdated, the GCC has fulfilled its purpose and must be retired, the argument goes.
The reality is that, through its dynamic character, this Gulf experiment developed a new vision for a regional entity based on mutual interests and common policies. The result has been a far cry from previous attempts to build Arab regional entities on the basis of unproductive ideological beliefs.
Citizens of the Arab world, from east to west, have likely never felt the consequences of decisions by the Arab League on their daily lives or their futures. The GCC experiment, however, made an obvious difference in the lives of Gulf citizens. It established a shared culture and created political, legal and administrative traditions that can no longer be ignored as passing fads.
It might be unwise for GCC members to use the argument that the body is unnecessary as an excuse to enact totally independent policies. It would be a major step backward just for the sake of insisting on what has been a minor aspect of the GCC for the past 36 years.
The Qatar crisis has shown that the GCC has evolved from a body focused on maintaining unity to one that is paying the price for merely remaining in place and enduring. In other words, the GCC, despite the crisis, has moved from the period of biological compatibility based on tribal relations and anthropological similarities to a period in which unity is defined by modern logical standards rather than primitive blood and cultural ties.
The dramatic aspect of the Doha crisis is the tip of the iceberg of a reality that GCC members tried to hide for three decades. The reality is that individual interests of the members are often constructed on political and social philosophies out of sync with official GCC discourse.
There are telling axioms regarding Qatar worthy of attention and analysis. The first has to do with the strength of bilateral interests between the GCC members in comparison with the strength of each member’s interests with the rest of the world. We need to find out the degree to which GCC members see their own security and stability dependent on the collective entity’s security and stability before they perceive them dependent on the security and agendas of non-GCC capitals.
The boycotting countries do not appreciate Qatar’s unusual relations with Iran nor do they like its supra-GCC relations with Turkey. They also do not tolerate Qatar’s unique relations with political Islamist groups. These criticisms are signs of structural failure in the founding spirit of the GCC.
The GCC’s failure to find a purely internal collective solution to the crisis with Qatar does not necessarily erode its political and economic importance for the region’s countries. Suffice it to note that some world capitals were unable to come up with solutions to the crisis. Even the major world powers could not break the consensus of the Gulf countries on their approach to resolving the crisis. The Gulf countries and the international community are behind the Kuwaiti mediation.
We are hearing voices from the Gulf discreetly announcing the end of the GCC. The political world, however, has seemingly become convinced of the necessity of keeping the GCC alive and united because it represents a strategic necessity for security and peace in the world.
The crisis in the Gulf seems to argue in favour of keeping and reinforcing the GCC rather than dismantling it. It is important, however, to keep in mind that the problem is internal to the Gulf countries and requires a solution from inside the Gulf, a solution that is in line with and protective of the Gulf’s specificities and sensitivities. Imported solutions would be useless.
The international reaction to the Gulf crisis with Qatar has revealed the limitations of the major powers in imposing their own solutions to international crises. These powers tried in vain to interfere in the Gulf crisis. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for example, had to settle for just the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Qatar on tracking the flow of terrorist financing. The solution to the problems must come from inside the GCC.