The Saudis are beginning to push the idea of a “GCC confederation” again. This time the push is directly from Saudi media (which is all official and semi-official, unless the publisher is in exile). This writer in Saudi daily al-Riyadh is making it sound urgent to establish the al-Saud hegemony over the smaller states of my Gulf, in preparation to swallowing them into the Kingdom without Magic.
As I wrote last week, the idea has been floating around the Gulf states in recent months, and it is being revived these days. Pro-Saudi Salafis and a handful of pro-Saudi media writers (some of them most likely surrogates encouraged or funded from Riyadh) are calling for a ‘confederation’ of the GCC Gulf states. One irresponsible columnist even called for a “quick confederation”, and he was covered extensively and gleefully by Saudi media. None of these worthies advises seeking people’s consent through referendums, or a vote on the issue: such is the state of watermelon opinion-makers on my Gulf. The potentates are seen as owning the countries to do with whatever they wish. One or two have become obsessive compulsive about it, repeating this frequently. They use fear of Iran as a factor, as well as stoking suspicion and fear of local Shi’as (minorities in all the GCC except Bahrain). The pro-Saudi tweeters (or possibly Saudi agents) are also pushing this idea.
I opined last year that it will not get anywhere. The Gulf states range politically from an absolute monarchy system to a partial democracy (I am not including Bahrain among the latter). The Saudis may think that this will solve the problem of pressures for democracy and accountability. A solidly despotic regime on the Saudi mold would be a strong front against Western and Arab pressures for openness, they probably think. It would also bring all other GCC states down to the Saudi and Bahraini levels in the treatment of their minority Shi’a (Shi’ites). That last point is very important for the Wahhabi Kingdom without Magic. For the Salafis around the Gulf it would mean that all GCC states become socially Saudi-like: more power for the clergy, no social reforms, women safely kept at home. And no politics: absofuckinglutely no politics! Salafis would gain more ‘political’ power as their patron regime, the Saudis, would dominate the new confederation as a prelude to swallowing it.
One early serious problem with such a scheme is that the rulers of the smaller states are not as stupid as the Salafis and Saudi surrogates in their countries think. They are all protective of their own turf and would never accept such a plan, although one or two media outlets may pay lip service to it. The al-Nahayan of the UAE are almost as autocratic as the al-Saud and would never give up one iota of power to their own people or to foreigners. As for Oman, it has always had little real interest in any form of integration, always looking across the Persian-American Gulf and the Indian Ocean. Then there are the peoples of our region who value their independence and way of life, in spite of all the media noise that hint at the sun actually shining out of the ass of some Saudi prince or another. In other words, such a plan is not only impractical, but dangerous for the peoples of the Gulf states. It is DOA. Only the al-Khalifa of Bahrain may agree to such a hegemony, but then any regime that invites occupation and torments its own people would go far to cling to absolute power. br>
Therefore, I repeat my recent fatwa that this plan is a hair-brained scheme or, as we would say on the Gulf, “مشروع بطيخ” a watermelon scheme.