By Mohammad Al Harithi
Two critical meetings to be held in the next two weeks may ultimately determine the status of the region in the coming period. The first being the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Consultative Summit in Riyadh on Tuesday, followed by the Camp David Summit with the US administration on May 12-13. These meetings come in the wake of the completion of Operation Decisive Storm, which saw the Gulf-Arab military alliance given unprecedented international political support. This backing now extends to Operation Restoring Hope.
The Gulf alliance to support Decisive Storm set the foundation for stronger cooperation among the GCC countries. In particular, Saudi Arabia’s close cooperation with the United Arab Emirates embodies an important model for the Arab world. Decisive Storm undoubtedly proved the depth of the relationship between the two countries, as evidenced by the popular support they enjoyed at home, and the commitment and mutual solidarity displayed by their leaders, contrary to inaccurate press reports. This included the frequent visits by Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces,to the Kingdom.
Shaikh Mohammed further confirmed the common ground between the countries in a statement following a visit to the Kingdom. “We see in the decisiveness and determination of King Salman the epitome of our collective and common efforts and interests to protect our gains, and (a chance to) raise the banner of our pride and dignity high as we deal with challenges facing the Arabs in Yemen.” It is this unified position that creates hope for the Arab world, led by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, other GCC members and Egypt.
Many researchers and experts have been studying developments in the region in an attempt to determine future scenarios. However, the complexity of recent developments threatening Arab countries — namely civil wars, deteriorating economic conditions, and growing extremism — have made such predictions increasingly difficult. Terrorism alone poses a real security challenge to the region. Recently, Saudi Arabia foiled operations led by the Islamic State (IS) group to blow up several vehicles on home soil, while in Iraq and Syria the terrorist organization continues to consolidate itself.
The risks are equally high for Gulf countries. Clear attempts by Iran to expand its influence in Yemen and the near-collapse of Aden would have had serious consequences for the future of this region. This is why the crown prince of Abu Dhabi has singled out the important role being played by King Salman to shape political and developmental processes in the region, which would have benefits for decades to come.
In light of this growing political cooperation, it is now more vital than ever to develop an advanced political, military and developmental framework that will help elevate the position of Arab countries regionally and globally.
Thus Decisive Storm has provided a chance to start a new political order in the region commensurate with ongoing changes. It is clear that Saudi-UAE political cooperation has played a crucial role in reuniting and strengthening the GCC countries. This new joint strategic cooperation between the two countries will ultimately protect the region from serious threats to its future interests.
The GCC Consultative Summit therefore provides an important opportunity to discuss the upcoming meeting with US President Barack Obama at Camp David. The meeting is critical because it may usher in a new direction for the US-Gulf relationship. This is especially so since the recent nuclear agreement with Iran; and as Gulf leaders feel that the US has given them the cold shoulder, with a focus away from the Middle East to other parts of the world. It may also provide an opportunity for Gulf states to normalize their ties with Washington, but with clear boundaries and obligations that do not allow any regional power to overextend or interfere in Arab countries. Operation Decisive Storm has ultimately allowed the Gulf states to concretize their own position. At Camp David, they will have the opportunity to display this new found unity and commitment to ensure the safety and security of the entire region.