x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Oman has right – and reason – to take own decisions on proposed union

Oman has its reasons – and the right – to reject or accept the Saudi proposal on GCC union, Abdelrahman Al Rashed writes in Asharq Al Awsat. Other topics: Yemen, Egypt

I can’t remember the last time the Sultanate of Oman made headlines. It’s a virtue in our part of the world where only the vicious and the victim make it into the media spotlight, said the columnist Abdelrahman Al Rashed in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

But a single Omani statement against the proposed GCC union this week was enough to attract the Arab media’s attention.

Oman’s foreign minister, Youssef bin Alawi, surprised the audience earlier this week at the GCC interior ministers’ conference in Manama when he declared that his country was against the Saudi-proposed move towards unity among Gulf nations.

“Normally, there are two antipodes at the Gulf Cooperation Council: an extremely loud Qatar and an extremely quiet Oman. Despite sharp contrasts between them, the council was able to assimilate them and, throughout the years, Oman was the most exemplary of all six members in view of its sustained relationships with almost all members,” he noted.

“As for the proposed Gulf union, I don’t believe it warrants such blunt dismissal,” the writer added. “The proposal has been on the table for about two years and member states are entitled to accept it, reject it or at least wish for it at their discretion.”

Justifying his country’s stance, the Omani minister claimed that nothing calls for a rushed decision to form a union at the present moment.

“True,” wrote Al Rashed. “But the GCC is 33 years old and the suggested union, which he objected to, would be at a much lesser degree than its formula that was mentioned in the preamble of the council’s memorandum of association over three decades ago. And in any way, the suggested formula is closer to the one that governs the European Union, under which no member state would be required to commit to anything against its wishes or interests.”

In fact, Oman’s quiet character and its success of building solid economic, educational and social foundations make it a perfect candidate for a GCC union. It is a large and strong state that doesn’t need to fear melting at the expense of a confederation.

“The sultanate is the second largest in terms of surface area among the GCC members and I dare say it is the best among them in terms of internal development despite its weaker financial resources,” Al Rashed said.

Oman has set its expenditure budget at $28 billion (Dh102bn) against its $36bn in revenue, which proved to be a successful and efficient policy. Hence, its chances for growth are big within an expanded economic cooperation in the Gulf.

Without expanded cooperation, the future seems bleak for everyone. Oman, much like all the other GCC members, faces serious economic and social challenges.

Yemen’s GCC dream will remain unfulfilled

Yemen’s dream to join the Gulf club will remain unattainable, Abdullah Iskandar wrote in yesterday’s edition of the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

The Gulf Cooperation Council seems to be beyond Yemen’s reach, although it was the Gulf initiative that helped find a political way out of the Yemeni crisis. The Gulf states, however, are still concerned about the situation in Yemen, the writer said.

The GCC seems like a distant dream to Yemen not only because of the huge economic disparity but also because of the differences in social and political structures. These are a cause for concern for the Gulf states that are particularly keen to maintain their stability.

With multiple sects, tribes, and unevenly developed areas, Yemen’s social fabric is very complicated. Added to that is a wild political life with all sorts of competing ideologies and parties. These factors combined to end the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who became a burden on his country as well as on the GCC.

Mr Saleh tried to play on these elements to stay in power and aligned himself with Islamists in the war on the South. That created a breeding ground for extremism. Also, the Houthis have clashed with the authorities and forged close links with Iran. Meanwhile, the GCC countries have been willing to help Yemen, but they are not ready to welcome it in their club.

Egypt’s June 30 event has affected region

A senior Egyptian politician argued that the June 30 event, which saw the removal of the Brotherhood from power in Egypt, has tremendous repercussions on the region, wrote Emad Eddine Hussein in the Cairo-based newspaper Al Shorouk.

Without the June 30 event, the political map in Syria would not have changed, Iran and the West would not have reached a deal and Tunisia’s Brotherhood would not have accepted to share power with the rest of the political actors, according to the politician.

The politician added that the demonstrations by scores of Egyptians against the Brotherhood’s rule on June 30 have affected international relations and redrawn political maps for the region.

The writer quoted the politician as saying that the fall of Egypt’s Brotherhood has forced the key players to reconsider their stance on the Syrian conflict. Before the June 30 event, these players used to say that the fall of the Syrian regime was only a matter of time. Not any more.

This politician thinks that the influence extended to Tehran because the US-Brotherhood axis was mainly targeting Iran and its expansion in Baghdad, Damascus and south of Beirut. But the collapse of the axis has accelerated western reconciliation with Iran, the writer noted.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk