The member states of the GCC entered into a defense pact in 1984 which meant that they would defend each other in solidarity against an attack from outside. In the early 2000’s, the GCC decided that the PSF Regional Protection Force (in English) would be modernized and expanded from 5,000 to 22,000 men. When the threat of a US invasion of Iraq erupted in the spring of 2003, the Supreme Defense Council decided to move part of the PSF force to Kuwait. It remained there for two months but never had to be put into battle. According to Abbreviationfinder, GCC stands for Gulf Cooperation Council.
Despite repeated joint military exercises and a common surveillance and warning system, defense co-operation has also been sluggish. The protracted border conflicts within the GCC and differing views on how a common defense should be financed have had an inhibiting effect.
Defense integration has also been hampered by the use of competing military systems by member states. After many and long preparations, GCC 2001 was able to celebrate that it had come a long way in the development of a common air defense. Following several terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia in the spring of 2003, the Supreme Defense Council began discussing the possibility of creating a regional robotic defense system.
In the field of energy, there is a committee that coordinates policy, research and pricing in the oil and natural gas industry. The countries also have a common oil bank, where states that for various reasons have to interrupt their production can be “borrowed” to fulfill supply agreements.
The GCC has also developed a number of common guidelines for education, health care and agriculture, for example with regard to water, animal vaccines, fertilizers and pesticides. There is also a fisheries committee to combat overfishing in the Persian Gulf.
In 2000, the members agreed to reduce the number of guest workers in the region with the help of higher taxes on foreign labor and a stricter quota system. According to unofficial estimates, foreign workers make up more than a third of the total population in the GCC area. Each of the member states has continued to pursue and expand policy lines aimed at reducing dependence on migrant workers.
A railway network that would connect all the Member States, connect them with Iraq and from there reach the world has been planned, but not realized.
In the autumn of 1996, the GCC introduced a special statute to curb criticism in the press. The charter formalizes the regional censorship that prevails among the GCC countries and which in practice means that, for example, a newspaper in Qatar cannot express criticism of Saudi Arabia’s royal house. However, radio and television have not been subject to similar restrictions, which has meant that the Qatar-based outspoken television station al-Jazeera (al-Jazira) has been able to continue broadcasting political debates, much to the annoyance of regimes within both the GCC and the rest of the Arab world.
Collaboration with other organizations
The GCC has exchanges with a large number of international organizations, including a number of specialized bodies within the UN system and the Islamic Conference (OIC) and others.
For the Western world, economic and political cooperation with the GCC has always been considered necessary, not least given that the countries control about half of the world’s known oil resources.
The United States has more or less developed military and economic cooperation with all the countries in the GCC, and the member states agreed behind the US-led UN force that drove Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991. The GCC also joined the international campaign against terrorism as the United States President George Bush began the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. The invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003 was also supported by the GCC. Several of the countries leased territory for American invading forces.
In the early 2000’s, negotiations were underway on bilateral free trade agreements between the United States and all GCC countries except Saudi Arabia, which angered Saudi rulers. The justification was that bilateral agreements disrupted existing arrangements. After Bahrain signed an agreement with the United States in the autumn of 2004, the then Saudi Crown Prince refused to attend this year’s summit. Relations with the EU have mainly concerned the discussion on a free trade agreement, an issue that has been debated for many years.
Since 2015, several of the GCC’s member states have been directly involved in the civil war in Yemen, which both strains cooperation within the GCC and makes it unlikely that Yemen will be admitted as a member country.
As in other Arab organizations, the Israeli-Arab conflict has been a central issue. The GCC has sided with the Palestinians and provided financial support to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). However, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that began in the early 1990’s led to the GCCStates softened anti-Israel policies. Several countries ended the boycott of companies that traded with Israel. Qatar and Oman established some ties with Israel, but when the peace process failed during the al-Aqsa uprising (“second intifada”) in 2000, they distanced themselves back to Israel under pressure from other Arab countries. Following pressure from the United States, the news came in 2020 that both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain had decided to recognize Israel and start cooperation in various areas. In this context, Saudi Arabia, the great power of the Arabian Peninsula, placed itself in the role of interested spectator. Saudi Arabia had apparently chosen not to impede a development towards improved relations with Israel.
The Israeli question must be seen in the light of the GCC’s complicated relationship with Iran, whose Shia Muslim revolution in 1979 and subsequent regime is feared by the Sunni royal houses on the Arabian Peninsula. During the 1990’s, the United Arab Emirates and Iran came into direct conflict with each other when Iran occupied some islands in the Persian Gulf over which the countries have long had joint control. The GCC Council of Ministers has unsuccessfully taken several initiatives to try to resolve the conflict.