Bridging the Gulf: Kuwait and a GCC Union

Kuwait towers

By Wafa Alsayed, Research Analyst, IISS-Middle East

In February of last year, Ahmed al-Saadoun, Kuwait’s speaker of the parliament at the time dismissed the idea of a Gulf Union. In an interview with Al Arabiya, he stated that Kuwait, with its open political system, could not withstand a union with the more authoritarian Gulf states. However, since then Kuwait has undergone yet another chapter of political turmoil accompanied with harsh government reaction to public criticism of the state. Due to these developments, the government in Kuwait may be looking more favorably at the prospects of a Gulf union. The signing of a Gulf Security Agreement at the Bahrain GCC Summit in December may signal that, in the face of growing domestic upheaval, Kuwait is willing to restrict its public sphere, enter a union with other GCC states and coordinate more on security.

The GCC Security Agreement was first proposed in 1994. At the time Kuwait resisted it because it considered some of its articles to be in conflict with its constitution. The agreement was shelved for almost two decades and an amended version was reintroduced at the end of last year. Though Kuwait’s government reassured the public that the amended version is no longer in conflict with the constitution, the swift signing of the agreement along with the secrecy surrounding its provisions stirred a heated debate in Kuwait, with some warning that the country is falling in line with the rest of the Gulf on issues of internal security and domestic politics.

Read the full article in Al Arabiya


US still ultimate ‘offshore balancer’ in the Gulf

General James Mattis, Commander of US Central Command at the Manama Dialogue 2012

General James Mattis, Commander of US Central Command, at the Manama Dialogue 2012

In this latest post by one of the ‘Young Strategists’ attending the Manama Dialogue, Jean-Loup Samaan,  a researcher for the NATO Defense College, looks at US engagement in the Gulf through the prism of a Cold War concept.

Although Syria was undoubtedly the biggest issue on the agenda of the 2012 Manama Dialogue, another one was in the air: the seeming erosion of US leadership in international affairs in general and in the Gulf in particular.

Read the rest of this entry »


Debating regional missile defence

A StanA Standard Missile - 3 (SM-3) is launched from the USS Hopper (DDG 70) (Photo: US Missile Defense Agency)dard Missile - 3 (SM-3) is launched from the USS Hopper (DDG 70) (Photo: US MIssile Defense Agency)

A Standard Missile – 3 (SM-3) is launched from the USS Hopper (DDG 70) (Photo: US Missile Defense Agency)

By James Hackett, Editor of the Military Balance

Much press attention at this year’s Manama Dialogue will focus inevitably on the conflict in Syria and other consequences of the Arab Spring. But a set of other core issues also remain, including the threat perceptions of regional states, and Iran’s place in these calculations. Regional states, and international partners such as the US, remain concerned by Iran’s continuing drive to improve its ballistic missile capabilities, amidst  international preoccupation with Tehran’s nuclear programme. Given these uncertainties,  the development of regional military capabilities will likely figure high in delegates’ conversations Read the rest of this entry »


Manama Voices 2012: all about the Dialogue

The conflict in Syria will be one of the main themes of the 8th IISS Regional Security Summit, which is taking place in Manama this weekend (Friday 7 to Sunday 9 December 2012). Members of the Syrian National Coalition, the new unified opposition group, will be at the Manama Dialogue for a special debate on the civil war engulfing their homeland. Other sessions will explore the US role in the region, security in the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and increasing sectarianism.

Delegations from more than 30 countries will attend the Manama Dialogue. ‘While we bring together a huge amount of government delegations and very senior government officials’, says IISS Director-General and CEO Dr John Chipman in the above welcome video, ‘we also bring together leading strategists, academics and leaders of NGOs to engage and challenge the political leaders on the points they make.’

Stay tuned to this blog for more this week. News relating to Middle East security will be covered in the run-up to the conference; during the proceedings we will have reports, video clips and commentary from all of the sessions.


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