Monday, May 16, 2011

Morocco And The Gulf Cooperation Council

By Mohammad El-Ashab 
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 15/05/2011 

Beyond the immediate meaning of Morocco joining the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), this choice overcomes geographic realities and economic division, towards clarifying the features of the new directions in the Arab world, which will have many an implication, and on several levels. In fact, this move is tantamount to a quantum leap in the concepts of collaboration and cooperation. It is not the timing alone that underscores the importance of this endeavor, which once used to be a farfetched dream. The decision – that was undoubtedly taken in light of further communications, consultations, and analyses – is considered as a historic achievement.

On the one hand, this decision consolidates the unity of the Arab world, which was not affected by any deterrents or setbacks. It has reformulated the elements of common traits, whether in religion, language, and historic constituents, thus turning them into incentives, all in order to rethink the major Arab project that has so far remained unachieved. The so-called division based on geographic location has thus ended. So did the so-called contradiction between what is known as the Oil Arabs and the Water Arabs. We are now witnessing a single entity with different sources and extensions on the Arab, Asian, and African levels without the need to consider the geographic dimension, the per capita income or economic growth as obstacles.

And on the other hand, it strategically defines the political and security related challenges. It also renews the alliances born from the Arab womb rather than its surroundings, and curbs the attempts of some regional powers, which had tried to impose their agendas as a result of Arab retreat and restlessness. This in itself is an indication to the formation of a new strategic awareness, which will enable the Arab actors, including the Gulf citizens, the Middle Easterners, or the Maghreb citizens, to play a major role. This role will perhaps meet the successful experience of the GCC countries, which have demonstrated high abilities in endurance and in taking advantage of the experiences to anticipate changes.

The decision was probably surprising because it was unexpected, or, to say the least, the decision was taken following a planning period. Indeed, Jordan had previously made a similar request years ago while Morocco was eyeing the European horizon rather that the Arab extension. Thus, one can say that the regional and Arab factors that helped in shaping this position go beyond the effect of the present phase. In other words, the security concerns were not a pretext. In addition, the pressure of the changes currently being witnessed by the Arab street does not necessarily sum up all the questions because it was possible to respond to these challenges in the Gulf framework alone, without the need to seek the support of any external forces.

Contrary to the theories indicating that the reason [for this decision] is the similarity among regimes – i.e. monarchies –experience has actually showed that joining a regional structure is open, regardless of the political structures. This is the case of the Arab League or the Islamic Conference Organization. It seems that the strictness of the Gulf was not due to the similarity among the regimes, but rather to the similarity of interests and objectives. In this sense, joining this Gulf bloc is possibly based on joint characteristics in terms of the challenges and choices the members face. But as the initiative was at the Riyadh Gulf Summit, this implies that the decision was quintessentially a Gulf one. The decision might also have been dictated by some considerations that might lead to the formation of new features of Arab solidarity. This implies that the issue transcends the Gulf region and that this group will be playing a larger role on the Arab arena and on the regional level. This role will have positive repercussions on several levels.

In a related context, the future of the Arab league must be closely observed, and one can look into the horizon of the upcoming strategic alliances that the Arab world will be witnessing. In addition, one can note the future repercussions of this kind of events. Indeed, this is not about momentary alliances based on circumstantial calculations, as it goes beyond that to include the restructuring of the Arab reality based on broader challenges. These are as broad as the borders that might bring Rabat for instance closer to Riyadh or to Manama, than to any of the capitals of the traditional surrounding.

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