Amid all the decisions on closer ties reached at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Kuwait this week, the one that might prove to be the most valuable is the creation of a regional think-tank to look at common security threats. The establishment of the Gulf Academy for Strategic and Security Studies, to be based in the UAE, is expected to lead towards the integration of the six nations’ military capabilities to create a coordinated defence against attack.
The importance of this coordination ought not to be underestimated, and neither should the difficulty of achieving it. The Gulf nations face the twin difficulties of having a long coastline and close proximity to potentially hostile neighbours. If a threat emerges, the response will need to be swift or the considerable investment in defensive capabilities could fail to achieve their primary goal. Any nation that attacks will seek to exploit gaps and deficiencies in the Gulf nations’ defences. One of the primary task of the new think tank should be to identify, address and eliminate such vulnerabilities.
Anti-missile defences are clearly the first line of response, to be followed by each nation’s air force. But at present, each of the six GCC nations has operated these independently. An integration of command and control, if implemented correctly, will improve both the response time and also ensure there are no gaps between the areas covered by each nation. Such integration will require a coordination of radar coverage and radio communications. Potentially the most significant – and problematic – factor in reducing the response time will be to have a serious officer in charge, authorised to respond if a genuine attack is detected. Inevitably, this will mean delegation of a decision with profound implications for each nation to someone who, for five out of the six nations, will not be a citizen.
This is just one of the challenges facing those seeking to coordinate the GCC’s defences, to meet a threat that by its nature cannot be met by Peninsula Shield, the Gulf nations’ longstanding combined military force.
Peninsula Shield has helped keep the Gulf nations safe by acting as a deterrent to potential aggressors. The coordination of the GCC nations’ anti-missile defence systems will have the same effect. If a hostile nation sees that the GCC stands as one, it will think twice about an attack.