During the turmoil of the Arab uprisings of 2011, the Saudi king came up with an interesting idea, what Americans would call “a dilly”. He invited two unlikely Arab kingdoms to join the Gulf Cooperation Council– GCC: humorless Jordan and faraway but certainly more exotic Morocco. Even though the two countries are not located on the Persian Gulf, unlike for example Iraq or Iran or even the United States Navy. Anyway, I opined loudly and persistently that it will never happen, that it was a knee-jerk reaction by the Saudis to the Arab turmoil around them. I suggested that they will end up at most with a sort of watered-down ‘association’. As it happened the Arab turmoil turned the wrong way, and the princes used their money wisely to influence events in Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, Libya, and Yemen. Or so they thought. There was even some loose talk of membership and maybe association with military-ruled Egypt. Yemen was never mentioned at that time.
The invitations to the kingdoms of Morocco and Jordan were quietly shelved. The assumption was that Yemen can also forget about it. Now that the country is in turmoil, its former president is on the run, the issue comes up. Reports claim that the former president AbdRabuh Hadi is formally applying for membership of the GCC. The man is not even the true president as his term expired last year and he decided to unilaterally extended his own term, in true Arab fashion. I suppose it could be a way to show that he and his ministers are acting like a real ‘government’. Even after escaping first Sanaa and then Aden to the safety of Riyadh.
It will be interesting if the Saudis encouraged them to apply, or if they decided to spring a spring surprise while the Saudis are busy in their own power struggle. It is possible they resorted to this after failing to raise the expected popular militia in support of the air campaign: the opposition to Houthi-Saleh is mainly Southern Independence, Al Qaeda, and some tribal elements.
Either way, his chances of joining the GCC now are zero, mainly because Hadi will never return and rule in Sanaa. He has as much chance to join the GCC as Erdogan of Turkey has of joining the European Union. This is not to say that Yemen does not fit into the GCC, culturally and historically it could fit. But Yemen has three handicaps:
(1) it is a republic not a monarchy, presumably with an elected president;
(2) it is very poor, and;
(3)it is a large country that has more citizens than Saudi Arabia. Which means it can be the most populous country of the GCC, with all the economic and financial pressures that would create on the rest of the GCC.
So, if I were a joking type, which I probably am not, I would suggest that
Yemen Hadi has a better chance to join Europe than the GCC and Erdogan Turkey has a better chance to join the GCC than the European Union. I bet you know where this is leading……….
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum