Commentary and fantasy about the GCC expansion

Published May 18th, 2011 - 13:53 GMT

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The Jordan bid is easy to understand, with its shared borders and historic ties to Saudi Arabia. Tribal divisions between the two were imposed only by colonialism. In terms of geography, Jordan is a natural choice for GCC membership. It even has its own ‘Gulf’ of Aqaba.
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Image 1 of 10: The Jordan bid is easy to understand, with its shared borders and historic ties to Saudi Arabia. Tribal divisions between the two were imposed only by colonialism. In terms of geography, Jordan is a natural choice for GCC membership. It even has its own ‘Gulf’ of Aqaba.

Morocco is a more surprising choice, but its monarchy has strong ties to Saudi Arabia and other GCC members. Morocco brings no Gulf to the table but, it has been joked, offers cous-cous and diversity, even a wider selection of wives for Gulf men partial to marrying foreigners.
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Image 1 of 10: Morocco is a more surprising choice, but its monarchy has strong ties to Saudi Arabia and other GCC members. Morocco brings no Gulf to the table but, it has been joked, offers cous-cous and diversity, even a wider selection of wives for Gulf men partial to marrying foreigners.

The move is designed, it is said, to strengthen the Arab economy and promote Arab solidarity.  Jordanians and Moroccans are more excited at the prospect of going ‘tax-free’.
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Image 1 of 10: The move is designed, it is said, to strengthen the Arab economy and promote Arab solidarity. Jordanians and Moroccans are more excited at the prospect of going ‘tax-free’.

Move over ‘mansaf’, in with Kabsah! One traditional national dish might be traded for another in the process of integration for Jordan into the Gulf culture and habit. Tagines from Morocco would be another prospect.
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Image 1 of 10: Move over ‘mansaf’, in with Kabsah! One traditional national dish might be traded for another in the process of integration for Jordan into the Gulf culture and habit. Tagines from Morocco would be another prospect.

More commonly people’s attention is being diverted by thoughts of oil and money as natural consequences or gains from the expansion. Jordanians and Moroccans have got their eyes on better salaries and better economic prospects when they join the gold-paved mall-lined deserts of Arabia.
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Image 1 of 10: More commonly people’s attention is being diverted by thoughts of oil and money as natural consequences or gains from the expansion. Jordanians and Moroccans have got their eyes on better salaries and better economic prospects when they join the gold-paved mall-lined deserts of Arabia.

Some members of the fledgling members (if the deal is finalized) are concerned by the threat to their wardrobes that might be incurred if their status as ‘Gulfy’ is conferred. Swapping jeans and more western dress for the famous thobe or dish-dasha.
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Image 1 of 10: Some members of the fledgling members (if the deal is finalized) are concerned by the threat to their wardrobes that might be incurred if their status as ‘Gulfy’ is conferred. Swapping jeans and more western dress for the famous thobe or dish-dasha.

Apart from the welcome removal of the unpopular entry visa that will save lengthy applications and long airport queues, some Jordanian objectors see nothing new, mocking a (theoretical) transfer from one dust-ridden climate that marks the heavy Jordan air, to  the sand-storms of the Gulf states.
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Image 1 of 10: Apart from the welcome removal of the unpopular entry visa that will save lengthy applications and long airport queues, some Jordanian objectors see nothing new, mocking a (theoretical) transfer from one dust-ridden climate that marks the heavy Jordan air, to the sand-storms of the Gulf states.

The invasion of the 4 wheel drive! Let’s not forget the implications for the automobile sector.  New member states expect to see their respective countries roads flooded with the Gulf car of choice: the GMC or other cruisers suited to the terrain.
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Image 1 of 10: The invasion of the 4 wheel drive! Let’s not forget the implications for the automobile sector. New member states expect to see their respective countries roads flooded with the Gulf car of choice: the GMC or other cruisers suited to the terrain.

Some fear a threat to the continued success of the GCC, some fear the death of the Arab League and some are simply unhappy that they were not polled or consulted – like in a referendum say.
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Image 1 of 10: Some fear a threat to the continued success of the GCC, some fear the death of the Arab League and some are simply unhappy that they were not polled or consulted – like in a referendum say.

Some in the Gulf – not to mention names but word on Gulf street says Qatar, Oman and Kuwait- would prefer Turkey joining, as it might make a better buffer to the Iranian interest in the Gulf States.
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Image 1 of 10: Some in the Gulf – not to mention names but word on Gulf street says Qatar, Oman and Kuwait- would prefer Turkey joining, as it might make a better buffer to the Iranian interest in the Gulf States.

Word on the Arab street, when not debating the latest on the Arab revolutions, and the state of catastrophe in Yemen or Libya or Syria, has turned to the new bid to expand the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).  Scrutiny lies with the two potential new candidates for entry into this Gulf state league, namely Jordan and Morocco.  The twitter-sphere is buzzing (or tweeting) with humorous remarks, as well as more grave concerns around the implications of such a shift, for both sides of the equation: the new members and the former block.

 

Just as when the European Union was expanding in gradual stages, the discussion is centering on concerns and advantages from the perspective of the 6 Gulf state members as well as those bidding to be taken into the fold. Will this move dilute the dominant ‘Gulf’ character or politics of the incumbent States. Will this expansion create, or cement, a Cold War of Arab alliances in the Arab world that polarizes the Middle East between the Royal Monarchies or ‘Royal Club’ as it’s being hailed, and the Shiite threat of Iran?

 

Both applications, or invitations, at this time are being reviewed and finalized, and the status of signing up remains up in the air (dust-infested air if you’re anywhere in Jordan or the Gulf states at this time). Just now, the intrigue is running rife, with rumor and predictions on the implications to the Arab world and beyond. More question marks are raised than answers, at this still speculative stage.

 

While suspicion rests with the larger strategic notion behind this latest proposal, ( is Jordan to be the buffer for the Iran threat that Iraq failed to be?) a lot of attention is being given to the more personal gains and imagined changes on the ground.  So with the six core nations- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman- set to become 8, here are some of the reactions and concerns on the first expansion since its founding in 1981.

 

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