MIDDLE EAST BULLETIN: A Publication of Middle East Progress
Monday, October 15, 2007
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Today's News

Kuwait to Buy Patriot Missiles
by Agence France-Presse

Kuwait is to buy an unspecified number of Patriot missiles from the United States, Defence Minister Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah told the state news agency KUNA on Friday.

Sheikh Jaber, responding to questions about Washington’s sale of arms to Gulf allies, said "Kuwait has signed deals, not for airplanes, but for materiel such as ships and Patriot missiles."


Six Arab Gulf States to Announce Common Market in December
by The Associated Press

The six Arab states of the Gulf will announce the formation of a common market at year’s end during their annual summit, the secretary-general of the loose political and economic cartel said in remarks published Wednesday.

Abdul Rahman al-Attiyah told the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassah that the leaders of the six countries making up the Gulf Cooperation Council will meet in the first half of December in Qatar’s capital Doha. He said the common market was a major "step on the road to achieving Gulf citizenship."


Bahrain Ministry Defends Move to Meet Israeli FM Livni
by Habib Toumi (Gulf News)

Bahrain’s foreign ministry, under fire from political activists for a meeting between Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, the foreign minister, and his Israeli counterpart, has called for a new mentality in dealing with modern political realities.

The ministry in a statement on Wednesday evening admitted that Shaikh Khalid met Israel’s Tzipi Livni in New York last week on the sidelines of the 62nd United Nations General Assembly, but stressed that it was not a normalisation of ties with Israel and that the talks were within the confines set by the Arab League to explore peace possibilities with all concerned parties.


American Commander Urges United Front Against Iran
by Brian Murphy (The Associated Press)

The top US military commander for the Middle East is pressing Arab allies to form a more united front against Iran, seen by Washington as the region’s long-term threat. At military compounds and royal reception halls across the Persian Gulf, Admiral William Fallon is delivering personal appeals to Arab leaders to counter Iran’s ambitions to expand its regional influence and move ahead with its nuclear program. …

We are not looking for a new NATO-type alliance against Iran," Fallon said in an interview after talks with Bahrain’s defense minister, Sheik Khalifa bin Ahmad Al Khalifa. But the United States wants that "when they [Iran] look to the Gulf, they see a group united in response to Iranian hegemonic behavior," Fallon said.


Setting the Record Straight

Regional Repercussions

“Two equally flawed - yet equally widespread - misconceptions: first, the alarmist assumption that Iraq’s Arab neighbors are acutely threatened by unmanageable spillover from its problems in the form of refugees, terrorists, sectarian conflict, or irresistible impulses to military intervention; and second, the utopian assumption that those neighbors could somehow combine to stabilize Iraq, if only the United States could bring them together and figure out what diplomatic or other incentives they need to cooperate on Iraq.”
–David Pollock, Washington Institute for Near East policy, "With Neighbors Like These: Iraq and the Arab States on Its Borders," June 2007

VS.

"The policies and actions of Iraq’s neighbors greatly influence its stability and prosperity. … As worries about Iraq increase, the Gulf States are becoming more active. The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have hosted meetings in support of the International Compact. Saudi Arabia … took the positive step of hosting a conference of Iraqi religious leaders in Mecca. Several Gulf States have helped foster dialogue with Iraq’s Sunni Arab population. While the Gulf States are not proponents of democracy in Iraq, they worry about the direction of events: - battle-hardened insurgents from Iraq could pose a threat to their own internal stability, and the growth of Iranian influence in the region is deeply troubling to them."
–The Iraq Study Group Report, December 2007

Gulf Countries: The Ties That Stabilize

TODAY'S FEATURE

"Our greatest natural resource, contrary to popular opinion, is not oil and gas. It is the region's 180 million young people."

Innovation is a Path to Regional Prosperity

In a part of the world that’s crying out for political, social and economic stability, it might seem strange to suggest that the solution to many of the Middle East’s problems might be increased risk. But that is exactly what this region needs right now. More risks for peace, more risks for economic growth and more risks to ensure sustainable development.

Take a look at the positive outcomes that have marked the recent histories of GCC countries: unprecedented economic growth, high levels of domestic and foreign investment, the drive for economic reform, the liberalization of trade. All of these have come about as a direct result of the bold vision and decisive action of leaders in the public and private sectors. Access the full article>>


Middle East Analysis

Strengthen Regional Cooperation

by Charles A. Kupchan, Council on Foreign Relations (Democracy: A Journal of Ideas)

As in Europe, South America, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere, rapprochement between traditional rivals, regional integration, and the development of a cooperative security architecture offer the best hope for a lasting stability in the Persian Gulf. The kernel for this regional security framework already exists: the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which was founded in 1981 by Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). …

The strategic environment in the Gulf is poised to change dramatically as the United States withdraws from Iraq. For starters, Iraq is no longer an expansionist threat to the Arabian Peninsula; thus for the first time, the GCC may well be able to work with Iraq , rather than against it. …
Of course, a truculent Iran poses a potent obstacle to developing a cooperative security order for the Gulf. If the regime in Tehran continues its belligerent rhetoric and proceeds with its nuclear program, the GCC would have to focus on collective defense against Iran instead of focusing on the collective security of the region… This prospect provides good reason for the United States to bring Iran to heel, not by bombing it, but by pursuing a cautious strategy of normalization that ultimately undermines its hardliners and guides Iran back to the regional fold. Access the full article>>

Bridging the Riyadh-Doha Gap

by Nicole Stracke, Security and Terrorism Department in the Gulf Research Centre in Dubai (Gulf News)

The meeting between Qatar’s Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani and Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz… came at a crucial time… The tension between the two Gulf neighbors, which had built up over a number of years, erupted in June 2002, when Al Jazeera, the Qatari satellite TV station, broadcast a debate on Saudi Arabia’s policy towards the Palestinian issue… In response, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador from Doha and boycotted the following GCC summit meeting in Qatar… The lack of coordination and conflict of interests and views between the two states has reduced the value of Gulf and Arab diplomacy and hindered genuine opportunities to settle outstanding problems.

This deal is an important step forward in Qatar-Saudi relations but, more importantly, it could also be a crucial step towards the further development of GCC unity… With rising tensions over the Iranian nuclear program, the spiraling violence in Iraq and the spread of terrorist threats into countries bordering Iraq, most GCC states are facing security challenges that make it necessary to put aside political differences and find a united position… Moreover, the U.S.-sponsored "Middle East Peace Conference" aimed at settling the Palestinian issue is likely to be held soon and this will require intensive diplomatic efforts from the GCC states to secure a positive outcome. Access the full article>>

Saudi Arabia: Law of God vs. Law of Man

by The Economist

The kingdom produces long-haired devotees of heavy-metal music, junk food and Harley-Davidson motorbikes. It also contributes the lion’s share of suicide-bombers in Iraq. It boasts a truly independent judiciary, and its sharpest lawyers carry degrees from the world’s top schools. But they practice in a system with few codified laws, run by a coterie of ultra-puritanical judges who believe their rulings, based on their own interpretation of religious texts, represent the will of God. …

In theory, the Koran is held to be the Saudi constitution, and Islamic sharia its law. In practice, a patchwork of royal decrees frames the way the monarchy functions. A few ministerial committees regulate important commercial disputes, but it is a body of some 700 clerics, chosen by each other from a pool of Wahhabi scholars, that defines sharia as they see it, and chooses how to apply it. Its rulings are often harsh, including beheading for the crime of witchcraft, but sometimes also lenient, as in cases of rape or wife-beating. …

This is why a recently announced overhaul of the legal system has been greeted with general relief. When the new rules go into effect, the country will have three tiers of courts, instead of the current two. Instead of applying their understanding of sharia to any case brought before them, judges will now preside over courts specialising in criminal, commercial, labour or family issues. … Yet they may be slow to take effect, if past experience is any guide. Access the full article>>

Iraq and the Gulf States: The Balance of Fear

by Jon B. Alterman, senior fellow and director of the Middle East Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies, United States Institute of Peace Special Report

At the outset, the Bush administration’s ambitions in Iraq enjoyed only partial support among Iraq’s smaller neighbors… As far as the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were concerned, they just wanted Saddam Hussein gone. He had been their client, balancing against Iran in the 1980s, but his move against Kuwait in 1990 revealed him as a menace. However, their interest in an American “success” - especially the way the U.S. government defined “success” and its consequences - was limited at best…

In essence, these neighboring governments signed on for the military side of the U.S. effort, but not the political one… [Yet] these governments supported U.S. efforts in order to preserve the status quo - a weak and self-absorbed Iraq - rather than impose a new one… Long used to managing tensions in far from ideal conditions, the leaders of the countries neighboring Iraq have supported U.S. war efforts as a quest for stability, not radical positive change.

It is perhaps surprising to Iraq’s Gulf neighbors, then, that U.S. actions in Iraq have not brought stability so much as shifted the most serious challenges most of them face from external to internal threats. Counterterrorism cooperation drives many of these countries closer to an alliance with the United States, which also offers their only real protection against invasion or threats from regional rivals. Still, much of the bilateral partnership remains hidden. On a public level, events in Iraq have driven most governments in the region to distance themselves from the United States and express concern that U.S. actions are harmful to their interests. Access the full article>>

Heard on the Street

Resolving Arab-Israeli Conflict Top Priority

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Address to the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 29, 2007:

“The Arab world has made its commitment to peace loud and clear. The Arab-Israeli conflict has dominated all other issues for the past six decades. No regional crisis has greater potential to affect other regional conflicts or world peace than this conflict. As conflicts consume and squander the rich resources and capabilities of our region, they obstruct modernization, development and reforms needed in this region. Saudi Arabia, along with its Arab brothers, has welcomed publicly the important positive points that were included in US President George W. Bush’s invitation to convene an international peace conference, especially the call for an end to occupation and for negotiated solutions to the issues of Jerusalem, borders and refugees.”

Background Basics

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

U.S.-GCC military relationship
U.S. forces in GCC countries: 40,000
U.S. forces in Gulf waters: 20,000
2007 U.S. anticipated arms sales to GCC countries: $20 billion

Bahrain
Ethnic Makeup: Bahraini 62.4%, non-Bahraini 37.6%
Religious Makeup: Muslim (Shi’a and Sunni) 81.2%, Christian 9%, other 9.8%
Political System: Constitutional monarchy based on Islamic and English common laws, led by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.
Regional Role: Bahrain enjoys strong economic and diplomatic ties with other GCC member countries. Bahrain’s largest financial backers, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E., continue to be its strongest allies in the Gulf. Relations between Bahrain and Qatar improved after an International Court of Justice decision in 2001, which settled territorial disputes between the countries. Bahrain-Iranian tensions arose in 1981 after the discovery of an Iranian-planned coup in Bahrain and worsened with fears of Iranian participation in local unrest in the mid-1990s.
Role in the Middle East Peace Process: As a requirement of the U.S.-Bahrain free trade agreement in 2004, Bahrain ended its boycott of Israel. More recently Bahrainian Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa met with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni at the UN General Assembly in New York to discuss peace possibilities.

Kuwait
Ethnic Makeup: Kuwaiti 45%, other Arab 35%, South Asian 9%, Iranian 4%, other 7%
Religious Makeup: Muslim 85% (Sunni 70%, Shi’a 30%), other (includes Christian, Hindu, Parsi) 15%
Political System: Constitutional Emirate ruled by al-Sabah family.
Regional Role: Kuwait holds strong diplomatic ties with the other GCC countries as a result of support during the 1991 Gulf War. Kuwait allowed these countries to play a vital role in the reconstruction of Kuwait after the war. Kuwaiti-Iraqi relations have improved through diplomatic efforts since the beginning of the Iraq War, however Kuwait has yet to transfer much of its $565 million pledge in October 2003 to Iraq.

Oman
Ethnic Makeup: Arab, Baluchi, South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi), African
Religious Makeup: Ibadhi Muslim 75%, other (includes Sunni Muslim, Shi’a Muslim, Hindu) 25%
Political System: Monarchy based on Islamic law and English common law, led by Sultan and Prime Minister Qaboos bin Said al-Said
Role in the Middle East Peace Process: Oman has consistently supported Middle East peace initiatives. In 1994 the country hosted the first meeting of the Water Working Group, a project of the 1991 Madrid Conference. Oman and Israel opened mutual trade offices in 1996, they later closed in 2000. At the recent UN conference, Livni met with Omani leaders to discuss the November summit and appeared together in public with Sayyid Badr, Omani secretary-general of the foreign ministry, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Middle East Desalination Research Center. This was the first joint public appearance of Israeli and Omani officials.

Qatar
Ethnic Makeup: Arab 40%, Indian 18%, Pakistani 18%, Iranian 10%, other 14%
Religious Makeup: Muslim 77.5%, Christian 8.5%, other 14% (2004 census)
Political System: Emirate based on Islamic and civil law codes, led by Amir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani
Regional Role: Strained relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia has hindered success of GCC initiatives as member countries were forced to choose sides. This uneasy relationship arose out of border disputes and foreign policy disagreements. Reconciliation began on September 23 when Saudi King Abdullah met with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. These talks focused on the spreading violence in Iraq, the growing role of Iran in the Middle East, and the U.S.-sponsored November peace conference.
Role in the Middle East Peace Process: Foreign Minister Livni met with Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani on September 25 during the UN General Assembly. The talks were the highest-ever level of contacts between Israeli and Qatari officials. The countries discussed Gulf countries’ role in supporting the Palestinians in advancing the peace process.

Saudi Arabia
Ethnic Makeup: Arab 90%, Afro-Asian 10%
Religious Makeup: Muslim 100%
Political System: Monarchy based on Islamic law, led by King and Prime Minister Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud
Regional Role: As the protector of the two holiest Islamic sites, Saudi Arabia plays a crucial role in both the Islamic world and Gulf region. Saudi Arabia’s role in post-war Iraq is controversial as the country agreed to forgive 80% of Iraq’s $15 billion debt, however it has failed to deliver its $1 billion pledge for reconstruction aid, along with being accused of allowing foreign fighters to enter into Iraq and supporting Sunni militia groups. In February 2007, Saudi Arabia brokered the Mecca Accords which created a Palestinian unity government. In March, the country hosted the annual Arab summit, focused on mediating between Lebanese oppositional forces and the government and curbing Iranian influence in Iraq.
Role in the Middle East Peace Process: The country plays an increasingly important role in the peace process. In March 2002 then Crown Prince Abdullah put forward what became the Arab Peace Initiative, a proposed regional approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Saudis sought to reinvigorate the initiative in 2006 as part of their growing role in the Middle East. The U.S. sees Saudi participation in the November conference as important.

United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.)
Ethnic Makeup: Emirati 19%, other Arab and Iranian 23%, South Asian 50%, other expatriates (includes Westerners and East Asians) 8%;
Religious Makeup: Muslim 96% (Shi’a 16%), other (includes Christian, Hindu) 4%
Political System: A federation of seven states share power with the central government, led by President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai HH Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid al-Maktum, and Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Muhammad bin Zayyed al-Nahyan. The legal system is based off a balance of Islamic law and civil courts.
Regional Role: The U.A.E. wields significant influence throughout the Gulf region and international system, politically and economically. The country pledged $215 million in economic and reconstruction assistance to the Iraqi government in 2003. Additionally, U.A.E gains great international influence through foreign investment in the country and managing oil and gas resources.

Middle East Progress appreciates the support and cooperation of Americans for Peace Now, Geneva Initiative, Israel Policy Forum, and New Israel Fund.