The Gulf Cooperation Council: a case of shaky power politics

Since the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, the Gulf Cooperation Council has stood as the main competitor of Iran regarding regional affairs. Emboldened by Saudi Arabia military buildup during the last decade, the GCC has been developing its own defense architecture aimed at sustaining stability within Member States as well as countering any Iranian moves that could further strengthen Tehran’s foothold in the region.

The action of the GCC on regional stage peaked in 2011 when UAE and Saudi Arabia spearheaded a military intervention in Bahrain with Peninsula Shield Force troops, intended to support Bahraini King Hamad's suppression of Shia popular protests and deter Tehran to prop up any subversive Shia groups.

Yet, since 2011, the GCC has kept a low profile in regional security because of lopsided relationships as well as political rivalries between Members. The more Iran and Saudi Arabia have gained competing with each other, the more Oman has strived to thwart GCC's over-assertive policies towards Tehran, in a bid to maintain good relationship with its Persan neighbour. The war against Houthis in Yemen is a case in point : it has included so far 5 out of 6 GCC members but not Oman.

GCC’s future as an effective player in regional security depends on its proper implementation of 2013 institutional reforms including a unified military command. Such a command could be a game-changer in the confrontation with Iran and its allies but will only remain virtual as long as GCC Members priviledge their own national interests over a common approach of defense matters.