Gulf unity a matter of urgency
The Gulf states union an essential exigency in times of turmoil but its future is still unclear
At the opening of the annual Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh on Sunday, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah called on fellow member-states to move from cooperation to union within a single Gulf entity.
"But can the GCC be transformed into a union? And do the member-states feel that it is a crucial step?" asked Tariq Al Homayed, the editor-in-chief of the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.
"The fact is, since the start of the Arab earthquake, or what is called the Arab Spring, the GCC states have been the only sturdy edifice in our region, despite all attempts destabilise it," he suggested.
In previous months, Bahrain was at the centre of turmoil as allegedly Iranian-backed popular uprisings shook the small kingdom for some time before they were quelled in a GCC decision to send its military arm, the Peninsula Shield Forces, as a deterrent. Saudi Arabia too was the target of systematic incitement campaigns and plans that have been successfully foiled so far.
"On that account, a Gulf union isn't a mere luxury, it is a security, economic and political necessity of the utmost urgency," said the writer. "It is a matter of life and death for all member states, especially that they all face the same source of danger: Iran. Add to that, the menace of the mounting chaos in most Arab countries, which would have many political repercussions."
The union of the GCC member states is crucial. It needs no committees, conferences or any waste of time. It is a union that has to come out of a collective sense of impending danger. It is a matter of pragmatism and awareness. It is a momentous need to remain free of internal competitiveness or political altercations that have been known to doom many a project within the GCC.
"The GCC member states only have to perceive the common dangers lurking around them to come together in a real and influential fusion that surpasses any establishment that is born out of lengthy procedures and committees," he added.
The situations surrounding the GCC don't augur well, especially that the vision for the future is blurry. No one knows what will become of the situation in Iraq with its degenerating political process. Egypt is still far from stable and the same goes for Yemen that is held together at the moment by Gulf band-aids. Syria too represents a source of danger in addition to the global economic crisis among many other causes of concern.
"This all calls for coordinated, if not united, Gulf policies. What is at stake here is our security as well as our peoples and our oil," opined the writer before he concluded with a question: "Will the GCC states recognise the threats and move swiftly to stave them off or will they again waste time and yet another opportunity?"
Syria's last chance for a peaceful solution
Syria's agreement to sign the Arab League's protocol was more of a forced marriage, opined the columnist Mazen Hammad in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.
Syrian officials were quick to point out concerns that the protesters would target the Arab observers and they spoke at length of modifications to the protocol that guaranteed Syrian sovereignty.
Burhan Ghaliun, the head of the opposing Syrian National Council abroad, said Damascus' acquiescence to the Arab demand is a manoeuvre to stave off the dangers of the UN Security Council.
"But in reality, it was the Russian encouragement that was behind the Syrian regime's consent," the writer suggested. "Moscow advised the regime to agree to the Arab solution for the mere reason that it is preferable to any other international solution that would entail Nato's military interference."
"As good as the step is, it is insufficient," he added. "The cat-and-mouse game between Syria and the Arab League still carries on and is capable of sabotaging any proposed solution."
But the success or the failure of this move depends on the regime's willingness to provide a safe environment for the observers and allow them to formulate objective reports on what is happening in Syrian cities.
This is Syria's last chance for a solution within the Arab framework. Should it fail, internationalisation will be inevitable.
South Sudan visit to Israel is dangerous
Salva Kiir Mayardit, the president of Southern Sudan, arrived in Israel on Monday night for a 24-hour visit. It was a visit that came as no surprise, and was rather expected. What was unexpected, however, is the official Arab indifference to such a development that could lead to an alliance threatening Arab national security, said the editorial of the pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al Arabi.
Mr Mayardit chose Israel as a significant destination because, in his opinion, it is a model of success. He confirmed that he would be cooperating and working closely with Israeli officials to promote bilateral relations.
"It is painful to realise that there were Arab countries that supported the separation of Southern Sudan and offered the new country more money and weapons than Israel ever did. Nonetheless, the president turned his back on them and decided to go to Israel," said the paper.
Sadly, Israel outsmarted the Arabs in this respect. For years, it worked diligently to dismantle Sudan to serve its strategic ambitions by infiltrating the national security of the Arab world.
To choose Israel over more than 20 Arab countries could prove to be a dangerous gamble that would have grave repercussions on his poor people who are building a country from scratch.
* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem
Updated: December 22, 2011 04:00 AM