GCC Summit: a Salafi Tribal Dream Team, Taqiyya and a Real Existential Threat……


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“Some in the al Khalifa elite appear to be willing to be subsumed into such a union and this is a startling reflection of their heightened concerns. Given the lack of oil and gas resources in Bahrain, the exodus of European banks seriously damaging confidence in this key industry, the profound socio-economic problems that lie mostly unacknowledged at the root of Bahrain’s political troubles, and the hardening political crisis, there are concerns as to Bahrain’s longer term viability as an independent economic entity. Saudi Arabia already gives Bahrain’s elite huge subsidies and support and there is no sign that this could be reversed soon. From the al Khalifa perspective, therefore, if those in Riyadh are not willing to simply continue the economic support without deeper political concessions, with no end in sight to the political and economic crisis, securing guaranteed long-term backing from Riyadh to maintain the status quo may seem sensible. Overall, while Saudi Arabia taking on Bahrain as a loss-making, politically unstable appendage with a majority Shiite population may seem to be unattractive, it is preferable to the alternative. They could conversely see the slow implosion of a fellow Sunni monarchy and the potential ascendance to power of the Shiites next door to Saudi’s Eastern province, which contains not only a majority-Shiite Saudi population but also most of the kingdom’s oil fields and facilities……….”

The Gulf GCC leaders are scheduled to meet in Riyadh next week. The Saudis and their supporters are trying to market the half-baked idea of a GCC “confederation”. They have been at it for months, ever since the al-Saud realized that inviting Jordan and Morocco into the GCC was a stupid idea (from their point of view not mine: I knew it won’t get anywhere). Morocco and Jordan have been toying with more democracy, something the Saudi princes could not allow (an elected government would release prisoners and pack some of the princes to prison). Saudi-paid journalists and affiliated tribes and Salafis in some Gulf states are encouraging the idea of closer ties to the Wahhabi kingdom. The Salafis especially, being advocates of the Saudi royals, are pushing for it. The pressure is being applied, but they won’t get anywhere.

In Kuwait

, for example, the Salafis claim they want more freedom from the (divided) ruling family, but that is a phoney argument, a Salafi-tribal taqiyya or deception. The Salafis and local Muslim Brothers and their tribal supporters, now a majority in the assembly, are advocating for the Saudi regime, the most repressive Arab regime in modern times. It is an oddity of the Gulf Salafis that they admire both the al-Saud princes and they admire the al-Qaeda terrorists. Their Dream Team would be to rejoin the two Wahhabi sides (al-Saud and al-Qaeda) and live happily ever-after. But Kuwait still has some sort of civil society and the people, most of them (at least the city folks) will not accept getting too close to their former Wahhabi invaders. The only invasions of Kuwait in modern times have come from Saudi Arabia and from Iraq (both in the 20th century). People don’t forget where they were invaded from.


was a shaikhdom not long ago. It became a kingdom a little over a decade ago. Now it is a full-fledged state of rebellion, has been so for some time. The rulers of Bahrain have tricked the people several times: at independence when they voted for a “constitutional” monarchy, then again over a decade ago when they voted again for a weaker version of the same system. The rulers are trying to do the same again, promise reform while they tighten the screws some more. In Bahrain, the al-Khalifa and their small core of supporters would do anything to keep the old corrupt prime minister in power and to keep their ill-gotten privileges, even at the cost of handing the once-progressive island to the repressive Wahhabi princes.

The Qataris

have been bitten before by their “current” Saudi allies. There was a Saudi coup attempt against the current Shaikh of Qatar in 1998. It failed, but several high-ranking Saudi intelligence officers spent ten years in a Qatari prison and some border-straddling tribes were implicated.


is suspicious of Wahhabi ideology which does not look kindly on the religion of most of its people. Besides, the Omanis have always preferred to face the sea (Gulf of Oman, Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea): less trouble from those directions in recent years.

The UAE has had border disputes with the Saudis since the days before independence from Britain (before there was a UAE). The al-Nahayan are highly unlikely to hand over any iota of their independence to the “sisterly” neighbors they have never fully trusted. The UAE has a dispute with the Iranians over Abu Musa and Tunb in the Gulf, but the real “existential” danger to all the smaller Gulf GCC states does not come from across the Gulf, not from beyond the Western fleets, it comes from across the land border. The rulers realize his, as do most of the people.

In the end

, they will all pay lip service to the idea of an “eventual” move to closer cooperation or coordination or whatever. With all the usual committees, commissions, councils, etc. My guess is they will form a body or a council for foreign policy that will be meaningless, an advisory council to the existing council of foreign ministers.