JNN 14 May 2012 Manama : Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are expected to announce closer political union at a meeting of Gulf Arab leaders on Monday, a Bahraini minister said, a move dismissed by the Shiite Majority opposition as a ruse to avoid political reform, and to make the Majority Shiite Population of Bahrain a Minority By Merging into Saudi Arabia and other PGC States.
The decision is part of a strategy to increase integration within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as the organization’s six nations Worry about Iran’s power in the region and trying to counter the threat by Merging the PGC States with in , so can show a bigger Power and Muscle against the Shiite Uprising with in the PGC states, especially in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might initially seek closer union, local media have said, as both share a concern about discontent among Shi’ite Muslims against their ruling Wahabi dynasties, and accuse Shi’ite Iran of fomenting it – a charge Iran denies , while it supports the revolutions in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia Morally as it is the Popular demand of the Shiite Population against the Injustices done on them.
Saudi security forces entered Bahrain in March 2011 ahead of a crackdown on pro-democracy protests which had been led mainly by majority Shi’ite Muslims against the Wahabi Al Khalifa monarchy, a U.S. ally.
“I expect there will be an announcement of two or three countries. We can’t be sure but I have a strong expectation,” Samira Rajab, Bahrain’s minister of state for information affairs, told Reuters on Sunday. Two of the countries mentioned were Saudi Arabia and Bahrain; Rajab did not name the third.
“Sovereignty will remain with each of the countries and they would remain as U.N. members but they would unite in decisions regarding foreign relations, security, military and the economy.”
Despite appearances of unity, there are deep divisions within the GCC, which also includes Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, as its officials meet in Riyadh on Monday for day-long talks.
Saudi Arabia fears that Bahrain’s pro-democracy movement has the potential to spill over into its own Shi’ite-populated Eastern Province region, home to major oilfields.
In December 2011, Saudi King Abdullah called on the council members to move “beyond the stage of cooperation and into the stage of unity in a single entity.”
Reports say Saudi Arabia will merge initially with Bahrain in order for the six-member Arab council to reach unity.
This comes while some members of the council have expressed concern about Saudi Arabia’s possible dominance over the other five countries if the council becomes unified.
A Qatari official, whose name was not mentioned in the news reports, said on Friday that Doha “sees this all as Saudi’s way of undermining the [Persian] Gulf States bilateral relations and forcing its own agenda.”
But significant political obstacles loom. Some members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, worry that convergence might spell dominance by the group’s largest member, Saudi Arabia.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a surprise visit to an island claimed by the UAE last month, stoking fears among Gulf rulers of growing Iranian influence since the 2003 invasion of Iraq brought Iran’s allies and fellow Shi’ites to power there.
With its Fifth Fleet in Manama, the United States sees Bahrain’s Al Khalifa family as an ally in stemming Iranian influence in the Gulf, even though Washington has not said it believes that Iran is behind unrest in the kingdom.
Last week, Washington said it would resume arms sales to Manama, drawing condemnation from international rights groups.
Iranian media attacked the plan. “Saudi Arabia’s aim in legally occupying Bahrain is to stop the influence of Shi’ites – the majority of the island – on the Shi’ite residents in the eastern regions of Saudi,” the semi-official Mehr news agency said.
“The aim of the Saudi regime in the future is the exclusion of Shi’ites in Bahrain.”
Bahrain’s leading opposition party Wefaq said Saudi intervention was aimed at stopping democratic change.
“The issues facing Bahrain are local, not regional. There is little the Saudis can do: they sent troops but failed because the crisis is still going on, and that’s because it requires a political solution,” said senior Wefaq official Jasim Husain.
“Any agreement must get the people’s approval, not least in Saudi Arabia. I suspect this supposed union is just rhetoric.”
Pro-democracy protesters burned tires and clashed with police in Bahrain on Saturday, demanding the release of opposition leaders and rights activists.
Opposition activists say the death toll in the unrest has risen from 35 when martial law ended last June to 81, as police make heavy use of teargas and birdshot pellets. The government says many of the deaths were caused by the protesters’ or bystanders’ pre-existing poor health.
Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Pro Saudi hardline prime minister, is believed to oppose concessions to the Shi’ite opposition. He backs the idea of a union.
“The great dream of the peoples of the region is to see the day when borders disappear with a union that creates one Gulf,” the official Bahrain News Agency quoted him as saying on Sunday.
Speaking after foreign ministers met in Riyadh, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s foreign minister, told Reuters on Sunday the plans for a union were ambitious.
“All aspects of union are on the table, between all members,” he said.
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are already joined at the hip, though the island’s social liberalism could come under threat if a merger took place.
Saudi Arabia allows Bahrain access to an oilfield it owns, providing 70 percent of its budget, while Saudis have traditionally flocked to Bahrain for weekend relief from Islamic restrictions on gender mixing, female driving and drinking alcohol.
Justin Gengler, a researcher based in Qatar, said hardliners including the prime minister, army chief and royal court minister see a union as a way of stopping the empowerment of Shi’ites and preserving the privileges of the ruling family.
A monetary union project has faltered, and other differences also run deep however.
The Arab Spring uprisings have been a challenge for Gulf rulers. Saudi Arabia took action to stop the spread of unrest to Bahrain after being shocked to see Hosni Mubarak fall in Egypt without American intervention to save him.
Rajab said there were “reservations” among some GCC members over the union, while the deputy head of Bahrain’s appointed upper house of parliament said he was skeptical.
“I have my doubts,” said Jamal Fakhro. “It will not be an easy achievement to have one foreign policy between six countries, unless it’s limited to specific issues.”
Real Picture :
There is a history of inter-Arab feuding in the region. Saudi Arabia has in the past bickered with Qatar over its support for the Al Jazeera satellite news channel, which has criticized Riyadh’s ruling family, and it has had tensions with the UAE over closer economic union and a border dispute. The UAE, meanwhile, has suffered friction with its neighbor Oman, which last year accused the emirates of running a spy network in Muscat, a charge the UAE denied. “The elites in the GCC saw this call to unity as a reaction to the Arab Spring. But the support in some countries will be weak. There are no united policies in defense or foreign policy,” said Abdullah Al-Shammari, a Saudi political analyst.
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