Gulf Arab leaders Tuesday rallied behind Saudi King Abdullah’s call to form a “single entity” in their ongoing move to form a strategic bulwark against their increasingly aggressive rival Iran.
King Abdullah said Monday the security of Saudi Arabia and its Arab neighbors was being targeted, in an apparent reference to Iran, and called on Gulf Arab states to “move beyond the stage of cooperation and into the stage of unity in a single entity.”
The goal of greater union is embedded in the 1981 Gulf Cooperation Council charter, but became a point of serious discussion as the so-called Arab Spring has continued to reshape regional geopolitics.
The six-member GCC, holding its highest-level meeting since a wave of protests swept the Arab world this year, pledged closer military and security integration in a final statement read out on Saudi state television.
They agreed on “adopting King Abdullah’s suggestion of moving from cooperation to unity that would support our people overcome the challenges faced by the GCC,” the statement said.
Earlier this year the GCC members – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE – began serious discussions aimed at forming a unified diplomatic and security confederation.
They also moved to expand the union earlier this year – opening talks with Jordan and Morocco – hoping include all eight Sunni Arab monarchies.
Abdullah's call to create an Arab super-state comes only one day after GCC officials revealed they want to include Egypt in the alliance.
Saudi Arabia has long accused Iran of expansionist ambition and suspects Tehran of attempting to develop a nuclear bomb.
It has also pointed to allegations by the United States that Iran backed a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington as proof of Tehran’s aim to destabilize the region.
Tensions in Iraq where a Shiite government has risen to power led King Abdullah to tell US officials that the US-led invasion in 2003 had presented Iraq to Iran “on a golden platter.”
He also described Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki as “Iranian 100 percent.” For his part, Nouri complained to US officials that Saudi Arabia is funding a Sunni insurgency in the country.
GCC officials flexed their muscles in the Arab League earlier this month by targeting the embattled, Iran-allied regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for sanctions and making contact with Syrian opposition leaders.
The move raises serious questions for Israeli security officials who may see a unified Arab diplomatic and military confederation expand to its borders.
It is unclear what the inclusion of Jordan and Egypt in the GCC portends for the Jewish state's peace treaty with those nations. The other GCC member states have technically been at war with Israel since 1948.