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December 16, 2013 No.
1043

Saudi Arabia, Oman Trade Accusations As Attempts To Advance Gulf Union Fail Once Again

By: H. Varulkar and N. Shamni*

Introduction

In December 2011, the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states approved the of initiative Saudi King Abdallah bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz to set up a Gulf Union, and progress from the stage of cooperation to the stage of full-fledged union as a single entity. The Saudi King attributed the need for the initiative to the escalating security threat faced by the Gulf States. Although the decision to form a union was unanimously adopted by the leaders of the Council's six member states, Saudi Arabia has still not managed to advance the initiative and bring it to fruition, apparently due to disputes between the states. Even when the initiative was first proposed there were reported reservations about it, primarily on the part of Oman. In March 2012 Omani Foreign Minister Youssuf bin 'Alawi explicitly said, referring to the initiative, that "Oman respects the opinion of her sister [states] but… it is independent and will remain so."[1] In April 2012, the Gulf press reported the intent to establish a Saudi-Bahraini union as a first stage towards establishing a Gulf Union, but this measure too proved unsuccessful.[2]

In recent weeks, due to the rapprochement that has occurred between the United States and Iran and the Plan of Action (POA) formulated in Geneva between Iran and the powers regarding the Iranian nuclear program – a development that sparked Saudi anger and concern[3] – Saudi Arabia renewed its efforts to promote a Gulf union. Fearing that the understandings between Iran and the West would increase the former's power in the Gulf at its neighbors' expense, and would allow it to intensify its interference in the their affairs,[4] Saudi Arabia resubmitted its Gulf union initiative to the agenda of the GCC summit that convened in Kuwait on December 10-11, 2013. Saudi Arabia hopes that this union would be a powerful diplomatic, economic and security bloc: a major regional and global player capable of deterring Iran and compelling the international community to engage with the Gulf states.

However, Saudi Arabia again failed to realize the initiative, after Oman publicly and firmly led the opposition to it. During the December 6-8, 2013 Manama Dialogue – an annual regional security forum that takes place in Bahrain and is attended by regional and international representatives – the Omani foreign minister expressed himself bluntly, emphasizing his country's opposition to the proposed Gulf union. He even threatened Oman's withdrawal from the GCC if the implementation of the union was approved – a statement that infuriated senior Saudi officials. The Saudi-Omani clash also found expression in both countries' official press. While the Saudi press emphasized the current necessity of establishing the Gulf union in response to the increasing threats from Iran, and assailed Oman for its position, the Omani press attacked what it called the haste in advancing the initiative. It should be noted that the recent GCC summit took place against a backdrop of Saudi anger towards Oman due not only to the latter's stance on the union, but also due to its role in mediating between Iran and the United States. Saudi Arabia feels that Oman worked behind its back and even betrayed it.[5]

Eventually, out of a desire to avoid a blowup, the summit decided to remove the issue of the union from its agenda and postpone deliberations on it once again. In the GCC summit's closing statement, it was agreed to establish a unified military command for the Council states, a Gulf academy for strategic and security studies and a Gulf Interpol. The closing statement also included a positive reference to relations with Iran, emphasizing the importance of improved cooperation with it "based on the principles of good neighborliness, nonintervention in internal affairs, respect for the sovereignty of the region's states, and avoiding the use of force or the threat to use force." The leaders also expressed satisfaction over the new tendencies displayed by the Iranian leadership towards the GCC states, while voicing their hope that this would have concrete expression, and welcomed "the preliminary agreement that Iran and the 5+1 signed" on the nuclear issue.

The closing statement included a paragraph on Gulf unity, which read: "The leaders received an update on the results on the consultations held hitherto on the Saudi king's initiative to move [beyond] the stage of cooperation to the stage of union… and instructed the Council of [Foreign] Ministers to continue the consultation and complete deliberations on the issue, with the participation of the Council chair, in conformity with the Supreme Council's decision on this issue at its 33rd summit that convened... in Bahrain in December 2012".[6] This paragraph, which mentions last year's decision "to continue consultations," clearly highlights the Saudis' failure in successive years to market the Gulf union initiative and gain the support of other GCC members. The senior Kuwaiti officials who hosted the summit, and GCC Chair 'Abd Al-Latif Bin Rashid Al-Zayani, promised in their declarations at the summit's conclusion that consultations on the topic would continue. The Kuwaiti Prime Minister said that "the idea will possibly crystallize further next year."[7] Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal told the Saudi daily 'Okaz following the summit that "the issue of Gulf union will be deliberated at the GCC leaders' summit next year."[8]

Despite the failure, the Saudi press tried to present the summit as an achievement and a success, noting that the GCC was persevering on the path to unity and that "Europe also took 45 years to establish the European Union." There were also those who saw Oman's objection to the union as stemming from its desire to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

It should be noted that, except for Bahrain, which sided with Saudi Arabia and expressed full support for the union initiative, and Oman, which objected, the other GCC member states – Kuwait, the Union of Arab Emirates and Qatar – did not adopt a clear position on the matter and their representatives maintained a stony silence about it. Nevertheless, reports in the Arab press indicate that these three states too have reservations and fears about the idea of advancing towards a Gulf union.[9] An absolute majority of press editorials in these countries emphasized the GCC's importance and the need to overcome disputes between its members and promote their "integration," but avoided expressing an explicit position on the issue of a union.

This report will survey the clash between Saudi Arabia and Oman on the topic of Gulf union, which found expression in an exchange of statements between the countries' senior officials and newspapers, and efforts by the Saudi press to present the summit as an achievement and success, despite the Saudi failure.

Public And Unprecedented Saudi-Omani Clash

The Saudi-Omani clash was especially noticeable during the Manama Dialogue, held on December 6-8, 2013, a few days before the GCC summit. During the forum, Saudi Assistant Foreign Minister Nizar Madani said that "the GCC's transition from the stage of coordination and cooperation to the stage of integration and full unity is no longer a luxury but has become a pressing need... in order to preserve the GCC's achievements and confront regional dangers and threats." Madani added that the fundamental goal of setting up the GCC in the first place had been to reach the stage of full unity. With regards to Iran, he said: "The GCC countries have expressed willingness to open channels of communications with the Iranian neighbor and they will persist in this out of a desire to attain regional security and stability. He stated further that Iran's recent proposals regarding relations with the Gulf countries "could constitute the beginning of improved relations, provided that good intentions exist and that the [Iranian] words are accompanied by actions". He claimed that relations must be predicated upon mutual respect and that Iran must not intervene in the internal affairs of the Gulf countries. [10]

According to the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat, Madani's statements infuriated Omani Foreign Minister Youssuf bin 'Alawi, who responded in an undiplomatic fashion. He said that the Council members have hitherto failed to reach agreement on an economic system, which is the Council's most important foundation, and added: "We always leave matters for later… but when developments [in the region] begin to move rapidly, we [suddenly] begin talking about all kinds of joint activity." He added: "We [in Oman] categorically oppose this union… and the other [countries] do not appear to want it either." Referring to security preparations against Iran, bin 'Alawi said: "If the Gulf states are making any new preparations for existing or future [regional] disputes, then we [in Oman] are not party and will not be party to them".[11]

Bin 'Alawi continued his attack on the Gulf union initiative in press statements on the margins of the Manama Dialogue. He said to the French news agency AFP: "We will not prevent a Gulf union, but even if it is attained we will not be part of it… Simply put, we will secede."[12] In an interview with the Bahraini daily Al-Ayyam, Bin 'Alawi said that his country had diplomatic, economic and military reservations about the Gulf union plan. He argued that it was unnecessary to expand the Peninsula Shield Force because "the region is not in the state of war," and announced that Oman would not join the common Gulf currency, because it believed that comprehensive economic stability must prevail before this option was even discussed.[13]

The verbal exchanges between Saudi Arabia and Oman continued the next day, when Prince Turki Al-Faisal, formerly Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington, said at the Manama Dialogue: "Oman has the right to express its opinion, but I don't believe that this will prevent the union's establishment… The [decision to] set up the union is final, whether Oman decides to join it now, at a later stage or not at all. That is their decision".[14]

The senior Saudi and Omani officials continued their declarations upon arrival at the Kuwait summit. Oman's deputy prime minister, Fahd bin Mahmoud Aal Sa'id, said during the preparatory meetings: "Oman totally supports the success of all efforts to develop the Gulf's course, but via the current Council framework," i.e., not by means of a union.[15] Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz, who represented Saudi Arabia at the summit, said upon arriving in Kuwait that "the Gulf leaders' wisdom will lead them to the sought-for union".[16]

As stated, the issue of the Gulf union was eventually removed from the agenda of the leadership summit in order to avoid disputes. On the eve of the summit, Kuwaiti Minister for Cabinet Affairs Muhammad Al-'Abdallah Al-Sabah announced that the issue of the Gulf union "is off the agenda because it requires additional deliberation," and that it would be possibly discussed at an extraordinary summit in Riyadh once an agreement had been reached.[17]

The Saudi Press Ahead Of The Summit: The Union Is Necessary In Light Of The U.S.-Iran Understanding

The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Oman was also reflected in the press of both countries. Editorials in the Saudi government dailies stressed the need to realize King 'Abdallah's initiative for a Gulf union, especially in light what they called the escalating threats to the region, hinting at the rapprochement between Iran and the superpowers and fears of its growing political clout in the international arena. Some of the articles also harshly attacked Oman.

The Daily 'Al-Sharq': Escalating Threats Make The Union A Necessity

The December 8, 2013 editorial of the Saudi daily Al-Sharq, titled "No Longer A Luxury," highlighted remarks by Saudi Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Nizar Madani, who said that the Gulf Union was imperative in light of the regional dangers. The article stated that the minister's remarks at the Manama Dialogue "stressed Saudi Arabia's desire to reach the phase of the Gulf Union, because it is the interest of the GCC states, and because unity would grant the Gulf strength so it can continue being an active partner in Middle Eastern affairs... The Arab Gulf, with its possibilities and achievements, has become a target for threats by several elements, which makes the call to transition from the stage of cooperation to that of union a pressing matter… The union is no longer a luxury, but rather a challenge... in light of the increasing dangers around us. The Union has become the first and only option for Gulf citizens... [In fact,] it was the initial motivation for creating the GCC, which was established over three decades ago in order to [ultimately] reach the stage of full unity..."[18]

The December 9, 2013 editorial of the Saudi daily 'Okaz likewise said that the Gulf states now need a union "more than ever" in light of the challenges and new alliances in the region that create a new reality, and called on these states to "realize this supreme interest which supersedes their individual interests."[19]

The Daily 'Al-Madina': The Summit Is Historic; A Union Will Not Undermine The States' Independence

The editorial for the Saudi daily Al-Madina defined the summit in Kuwait as the most important in the GCC's history: "It is no exaggeration to say that the summit convening today in Kuwait could be the most important in the history of Gulf summits since their advent in 1981, considering the events and upheavals in the region and the appearance of new problems and dangers, which require urgent collective solutions and decisive resolutions..."

The article also tried to alleviate the Gulf states' fear that a union would harm their independence: "... If we examine the experience of the European Union, we find a group of countries that, for the most part, have vast political, economic and military capabilities, yet despite this, and despite their differences in language, religion and in [the political] parties [that rule them], they lean towards a union. Furthermore, this union does not harm their independence and does not lead to one country interfering in the affairs of another. On the contrary, the cooperation between the countries has only increased, which has enabled the E.U. to deal with challenges..."[20]

'Al-Iqtisadiyya' Editor: Oman Is Two-Faced; Financial Aid To It Must Be Stopped

In an especially fierce article, the editor of the Saudi daily Al-Iqtisadiyya, Salman Al-Dosari, accused Oman of being two-faced and called to stop the Gulf financial aid provided to it if it decides to withdraw from the GCC. He wrote: "[Apparently,] making a serious decision like withdrawing from the GCC seems like a simple matter to the Omani minister… After 33 years of a Gulf body, and after historic positions [taken by the] Gulf [states] in favor of their sister Oman, we unfortunately discover how much our Omani brethren appreciate the GCC.

"Refusing to join the Gulf Union program is the Omanis' fundamental right... But in light of Muscat's threat to withdraw from a rare union program in the Arab arena, we are required to open our eyes, since [there may be] recent changes in Omani foreign policy... The recent escalation by the Omani minister [at the Manama Dialogue] in Bahrain, and his undiplomatic response to the speech by the Saudi assistant foreign minister, indicate possible future surprises by the Sultanate of Oman.

"In March 2011, the GCC pledged to provide $10 billion in aid to Oman in the next 10 years – [that is] $1 billion per year. Being that three years later, Muscat still has $7 billion coming to it in the next 7 years, and in light of its threat to withdraw from the GCC, it is natural for this Gulf aid to stop... What is the grand motive that forced Muscat to sacrifice this aid that it so needs?... I do not think the Gulf union is the only reason for it...

"Since the founding of the GCC, the five [other] Gulf states have accepted with understanding the Omani policy, which is based on facing inward, and its declaration that it does not wish to be [identified] with any side, even though this it is illogical in such a tense region... Ultimately that is its policy and it must be respected. But unfortunately, sister Oman speaks [one way] and acts another. An example is that its officials visit Iran more than Riyadh or Abu Dhabi... If Oman sees its future outside the halls of the Gulf body, then there is no point in trying to appease it... Oman should leave the GCC so as not to be an obstacle to the other members. Its withdrawal could be better for everyone."[21]

Two Cartoons Published On Bahraini Akhbar Al-Khalij On Successive Days:


The "Gulf union" ship throws a lifeline to the Arabs, whose current lifeline, the GCC, is threatened (Akhbar Al-Khalij, Bahrain, December 12, 2013)


The GCC is lost and the Arab union ship has sailed (Akhbar Al-Khalij, Bahrain, December 13, 2013)

Saudi Columnist: We Will Not Guarantee Oman's Security

Fury at Oman was also apparent in articles by Saudi columnists, for instance by Al-Riyadh columnist Mutlaq Al-Mutairi. He wrote: "The notion of a union stems from the sense of danger surrounding the Gulf, especially [the danger posed by] the Iranian neighbor. If sister Oman does not see it as a danger, then it must assume responsibility for the Iranian [danger]… and undertake the important role of eliminating this threat and providing the Gulf States with the necessary security. This requires it to receive clear recognition from Tehran of the Arabness of the Gulf and the independence of Bahrain, and to prevent Iranian expansion in the region..."[22]

Al-Jazirah columnist Jasser Al-Jasser called to establish a Gulf union even if it includes only a few members, and warned Oman that the union countries would not guarantee its security: "All residents of the Gulf expect a firm position that will include a declaration of a union, even if it only has two, three or four member states. Those who do not want it are free [to decline], and will be accountable to their people if [the latter] are exposed to security dangers in the future. We must stress that the countries of the Gulf union will not undertake to guarantee [the safety] of others who were deceived by [Iranian] smiles and neglected the fate of their countries for the sake of promises that have already proven to be false many times."[23]

The Bahraini Press Sides With Saudi Arabia

Bahrain has been intensely supportive of a Gulf union ever since the initiative was first proposed by the Saudi king in 2011. In April 2012 it was even reported that Saudi Arabia and Bahrain would form an initial union which other Gulf countries could subsequently join.[24] Then as now, Bahraini officials, including the king, his son and the prime minister, among others, spoke of the importance and necessity of a Gulf union. Bahraini King Hamad bin 'Issa Aal Khalifa said upon arriving in Kuwait for the 2013 summit that the peoples of the region wanted the summit to pave the way to this hoped-for result.[25] The Bahraini prime minister, Khalifa bin Salman Aal Khalifa, said: "It is time to form a Gulf union without delay," and called it a guarantee of security whose political and strategic outcomes would realize the aspirations of the Gulf states.[26]

The Bahraini press, like its Saudi counterpart, mobilized to convince the public of the necessity and importance of the move.

Editor of Bahraini Daily: The Gulf Union – A Popular Demand And Necessary Historic Decision

Anwar 'Abd Al-Rahman, the editor of the Bahraini daily Akhbar Al-Khalij, published an open letter calling on the leaders of the GCC states gathering in Kuwait to announce a union of their countries. He wrote: "Honorable kings and leaders of the GCC countries, this is an open letter to you... hoping that you will take a historic decision that the peoples of the region await – namely, the transition to the stage of a union… This means that the states should begin taking substantial steps to transition to the union stage. This demand does not mean that [the move] will be approved today and implemented tomorrow. What we need is to start taking actual steps... that will help us to build the unified state in the future...

"This is a current popular demand... There is no difference between the peoples of the GCC states in terms of language and religion, and they share customs, traditions and family ties. Throughout history they were part of one geographic framework and therefore the calls for unity are merely calls to return to [our] roots. [Furthermore,] the economic situation and the regional and international changes require us to aspire to establish a strong bloc that could influence those changes... The many events that have befallen the Arab Gulf, especially the Iran-Iraq War and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, have proven that [establishing] the Gulf bloc is an inescapable necessity...

"This move could unite the Gulf's voice and position regarding several regional, Arab and international issues, [with the future] unified state having a presence in international circles and actively participating in shaping the future of the region. [For example,] had this union already existed, it would have definitely been a party to the talks and agreement signed between the 5+1 group and Iran on the Iranian nuclear program..."[27]


The Iranian snake finds the breach in the Gulf unity, in the form of Oman (Akhbar Al-Khalij, Bahrain, December 10, 2013)

The Omani Press Criticizes The Rush Towards A Union

The Omani press reiterated the stance of the country's regime, criticizing the hasty advancement towards a union when the GCC has not yet realized many of its plans and goals. The articles stressed that Oman has always supported Gulf cooperation and continues to support it, but its goal is integration of the countries and not necessarily a union.

The editorial of the Omani daily Al-Watan criticized those maligning Oman and questioning the sincerity of its intentions. It said: "Oman's efforts, and the important role it has fulfilled with its sisters, the GCC states, in order to create this Gulf framework, [indicate] Oman's honesty, its role in preserving the dynamism and vitality of the Council, and its support of its brethren in the other Council states... Ever since this Gulf stronghold [the GCC] was established, Oman has made sure to assist it, support its consolidation, and substantially cooperate with [our] brethren in a real, tangible and visible manner...

"Therefore, in order to ensure that the Council in its current form bear the anticipated fruit, that the foundations of its stability are completed… and out of [Oman's] policy that is based on cooperation, tight relations, respect and integration [among the GCC states], Oman has expressed its objection to [the move of] rashly declaring the Council's transformation into a Gulf union. This is a position undoubtedly supported by many brethren in the Council states, and it answers those who try to fish in murky waters and to distort the reality of Oman's reliability and sincerity towards [the issue of] Gulf unity. [Oman] believes that, despite the public efforts and steps, Gulf residents expect additional achievements that would give the GCC its true meaning and clear form, so that they feel the spirit of true Gulf citizenship, [and] that the fate of the region is one and that everyone is following one path to achieve the goal.

"Therefore, [the attempt to] leapfrog over these issues, which grant the GCC its purpose, [and rush] towards this name or that title, cannot be explained as anything other than an attempt to evade [problems], even if it has good intentions..."[28]

The Goal Is Integration, Not Union

Articles in the Omani press emphasized the desire to maintain the GCC in its present form while increasing the "integration" (Arabic takammul) among its member states. One daily stated that "there is need to increase Gulf integration based on the [existing] model that has been successful for over 30 years, without [skipping over] steps or leaping [blindly] towards the unknown."[29]

Omani columnists expressed a similar stance, arguing that the components necessary for a union are not in place and that the GCC has not yet realized its goals as a cooperation council.[30]


While other GCC states consider the union, Oman objects (Al-Ittihad, UAE, December 10, 2013)

The Saudi Press After The Summit: It Was A Success; The European Union Also Took Decades To Establish

The day after the summit, the Saudi press hailed it as a success, despite Saudi Arabia's failure to convince its fellow GCC members to discuss the union plan and approve its implementation. The editorial of the Al-Watan daily stated: "It has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the six [GCC] countries… are still thwarting any attempt… to foil [the establishment of] this important regional framework, and have conveyed a strong message to anyone thinking of foiling it…"[31]

The editorial of the daily Al-Sharq also sought to present the summit as a success and to justify the decision to delay the establishment of the union. It said: "…At each [GCC] summit the leaders take important steps towards achieving the union that everyone anticipates, and if it is late in coming, this is better than never achieving it at all… The Gulf states have made significant progress in their preparations for cooperation. The most important thing is achieving this cooperation, regardless of whether it is called 'cooperation' or 'union.' The establishment of a [joint] military leadership for the Gulf states, [which was decided upon] at the Kuwait summit, is an important step at the present time towards [achieving] a union… The Gulf states have not been tardy in attaining unity; after all, the European Union took nearly 45 years to [establish]… Perhaps the Gulf states require more time to establish the institutions of this union upon a solid basis…"[32]

'Al-Riyadh' Editor: The Summit Was A Disappointment

Al-Riyadh editor Youssuf Al-Kuwailit, on the other hand, expressed disappointment with the outcomes of the summit. He wrote: "As expected, the Gulf summit in Kuwait was calm, and [words of] politeness and flattery [were said]… [However, the summit] placed aside issues that could have taken it from a stage of cooperation to [a stage of taking] real responsibility and meeting challenges in a spirit of togetherness… So the issue of [founding] a union was absent, and was forwarded for discussion [in some other forum]. This is what we have grown accustomed to in [the summits'] closing statements in the last 30 years, which established various committees on crucial issues… These issues and others are still being discussed at committees, reflecting the well-known saying that 'establishing a committee on some issue means announcing the death of that program!..."

Later in the article, Al-Kuwailit wonders if the Gulf states are aware of the danger posed by Iran, especially now that the U.S. has decided to drop the Middle East in favor of other regions, and concludes that "the summit did not meet the expectations."[33]

Saudi Analyst: If Oman Wants To Mediate Between Saudi Arabia and Iran It Must Be More Neutral

In his column in Al-Hayat, analyst Khalid Al-Dakhil criticized the manner in which Oman had expressed its objection to the union, saying that it reflected Oman's bias in favor of Iran. He said that this stance stemmed from Oman's desire to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia, but that it could fulfill this role only if it adopted a stance that is truly neutral, and if it remembered that Iran is the source of the problem in the region.

He wrote: "The problem is not [Oman's] stance vis-à-vis the union but rather the way it has expressed this stance, and its timing. After all, Oman's objection to the union is known. What is new is the unprecedented threat by the Omani foreign minister, Youssuf bin 'Alawi, that Oman will withdraw [from the GCC] if the proposal is approved. Moreover, this threat comes against the backdrop of disputes sparked by the agreement between the U.S. and Iran, and following reports that Oman was the one who hosted the secret talks between Washington and Tehran at which the foundations for this agreement were laid, and had not informed any of the GCC states about any aspect of these talks…

"Oman wants to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and it is welcome to do so, as long as [it meets] certain demands. First, it must not go too far in pandering to Iran at Saudi Arabia's expense. It must also understand that the improper balance of power [that currently exists in the region], which favors Iran, especially since the fall of Iraq, is the main reason for the region's political instability. Hence, Oman will not properly fulfill its role [as mediator] unless it takes one of two options: it must persuade Iran to give up its dash to arm itself, its nuclear weapons, and its use of the trump card of sectarianism, or else it must adopt the principle of restoring the balance of power among the countries of the region…"[34]

*H. Varulkar is Director of Research at MEMRI; N. Shamni is a research fellow at MEMRI.


Endnotes
:

[1] Al-Yawm (Saudi Arabia), December 8, 2013.

[2] Elaph.com. April 24, 2012.

[3] See MEMRI Inquiry& Analysis No. 1032, "Saudis Infuriated, Insulted By U.S. Efforts At Rapprochement With Iran," November 1, 2013.

[5] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), December 10, 2013.

[6] Al-Hayat (London), December 12, 2013.

[7] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 12, 2013; Elaph.com, December 12, 2013.

[8] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), December 12, 2013.

[9] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), December 8, 2013, December 10, 2013.

[10] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), December 7, 2013.

[11] Al-Hayat (London), December 8, 2013.

[12] Al-Raya (Qatar), December 8, 2013. To the Saudi daily Al-Hayat bin 'Alawi said: "Our position is not a negative one, because we will not prevent the union's [establishment] although we could do so, for Council decisions are accepted by consensus". Al-Hayat (London), December 8, 2013. (According to Article 9 of the GCC Charter, substantive decisions by the organization's Supreme Council must indeed be carried unanimously. See: www.gcc-sg.org/eng/indexfc7a.html).

[13] Al-Ayyam (Bahrain), December 8, 2013.

[14] Al-Hayat (London) December 9, 2013.

[15] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 11, 2013.

[16] Alarabiya.net, December 10, 2013.

[17] Al-Hayat (London), December 11, 2013.

[18] Al-Sharq (Saudi Arabia), Dec 8, 2013.

[19] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), December 9, 2013.

[20] Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), December 10, 2013.

[21] Al-Iqtisadiyya (Saudi Arabia), December 9, 2013.

[22] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), December 9, 2013.

[23] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), December 10, 2013.

[24] The Saudi-Bahraini union may have also been intended to strengthen the regime in Bahrain, where a Sunni minority rules over a Shi'ite majority and there are constant demonstrations by the Shi'ite opposition.

[25] Alarabiya.net, December 10, 2013.

[26] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), December 10, 2013. The Bahraini government likewise stated that the challenges and threats facing the GCC states make the union a crucial necessity and an inescapable strategic choice. Akhbar Al-Khalij (Bahrain), December 9, 2013.

[27] Akhbar Al-Khalij (Bahrain), December 10, 2013.

[28] Al-Watan (Oman), December 8, 2013.

[29] Oman (Oman), December 9, 2013.

[30] Alomaniyah.com, December 9, 2013. Oman (Oman), December 10, 2013.

[31] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), December 12, 2013.

[32] Al-Sharq (Saudi Arabia), December 12, 2013.

[33] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), December 12, 2013.

[34] Al-Hayat (London), December 15, 2013.