GCC Eyeing Egypt in Caliphate Drive
Egypt is on the list of countries that could join the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a senior Kuwaiti official revealed Monday.
Humood Al Radhwan, head of the GCC directorate in Kuwait's foreign ministry, made the statement as he commented on the progress of the negotiations on Morocco and Jordan joining the alliance.
"We support Jordan and Egypt joining the GCC as full members, but only after two years," Al Radhwan told Kuwaiti daily Al Rai ahead of the GCC summit in Riyadh next week.
"The GCC countries share close geographic, linguistic and religious features. The Gulf society is fully integrated and there is no real distinction between a Kuwaiti and an Emirati, for instance. We do have harmony with Jordan [and Morocco], but we need two years of partnerships before we look into their cases and expand on their membership until we reach full integration.
"I must here point out that Egypt is on the list of joining the GCC, and that it has priority," he said, quoted by the daily on Sunday.
The GCC - UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia - began actively seeking to expand its membership as the Arab Spring took hold as a means of creating a strategic ballast against Shiite Persian Iran, its primary rival for regional hegemony.
GCC members have also begun laying the groundwork to transform the joint economic forum into a diplomatic and military confederation - which, with Jordan and Egypt inducted into its ranks, would put the newly forged Arab super-state on Israel's western and southern borders.
It remains unclear, however, what impact the inclusion of Jordan or Egypt would have on those nations' respective peace treaties with Israel. The current GCC members have technically been at war with Israel since 1948.
Regional observers note that while Jordan and Morocco are both monarchies - a point of commonality they share with the current GCC members that eased the decision to begin their integration - Egypt is ostensibly a democracy.
Nontheless, adding Egypt - a regional military power and the Arab world's most populous country - would provide the alliance with considerable strategic depth in any future confrontations with Iran or Israel.
According to Al Radhwan, there were slight differences on how to address inducting new members, "just like there were divergent views on whether to present full assistance to Bahrain and Oman or to give it annually."
The official was referring to the GCC pledge in March to set up a fund worth more than $20 billion, as an aid package for Bahrain and Oman to upgrade housing and infrastructure over 10 years and generate jobs.
Al Radhwan said that Kuwait had agreed to financially support Jordan and Morocco, but added that the amount had not been decided.
"We have not decided on how the funds will be provided, either. They can be given directly or through development funds that will undertake huge projects in both countries to help them out of their economic crisis," he said.
In late November, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar set up a $2.5 billion sovereign investment fund to support Morocco's tourism sector.
Some analysts suggest the Saudi Arabian-led GCC is slowly moving to create a modern Islamic Caliphate.