This time it is not about Egypt, though I will get back to Egypt in the near future. It is about the GCC countries.
It is obvious that there is an unfavorable configuration developing rapidly.
The sense in the GCC Capitals is that the US may “sell” these countries in any moment. That the US is not a reliable “anchor” in the current violent storm in the region. And that the US is weak – at best – or that it will let these ruling monarchies down in any grand bargain with Iran.
Why this is a dangerous situation? Simply because it creates a psychological environment that can begets unneeded complications. The paranoia regarding the US led to the rejection of three US NGOs in the UAE, Riyadh ceasing to coordinate with its main alley regarding Egypt, the arrest of a royal Sheikh in RAK and many other incidents which reflect the general sentiment that could border panic.
Obviously there is a real challenge in this part of the world. But due to the extreme sensitivity and importance of these countries, mistakes should not be allowed.
You know the challenges as well as I do. Minorities ruling over majorities. Very closed ruling equation. Disregard of the deep changes occurring particularly in the middle class. A stagnant political and social environment. Unemployment real or disguised. Not very smart ways to address the youth ambitions. Discrimination against minorities. There is still quite a bit.
The main challenge is how to convince the rulers that this way of governing ceases rapidly to be the adequate way due to regional and global changes.
Mubarak used to mock Condoleezza Rice in every time she tried to explain to him the danger of not reforming the political and economic system as soon as possible. Mrs Clinton did not have a better luck with the former President. They do not seem to understand. But not to be able to understand after all what happened in Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Tunisia is frustrating.
But how could that be dealt with? If the impression that these guys have (that the US can abandon them and maybe turn against them) is calculated, and I do not think it is, the only way to address this stubbornness is by doubling the effort to explain that the situation is critical whether by officials, scholars or other Arab friends of the US and the GCC.
But obviously there is another view or views. I read recently an op-ed published in the Financial Times (23rd of April) by Emile Nakhleh who used to be the former director of the CIA Islam Strategic Analysis Program. Mr Nakhleh proposes that the US should pull its fleet out of Bahrain in protest after months of oppression of the Sheit majority by the ruling Sunnis.
I personally understand Mr Nakhlah’s frustration but I can not disagree more with what he wrote. The op-ed added to many other things intensifies the perception that the US will not hesitate in abandoning its allies in the Gulf. This perception can lead to further complication in a moment when maximum clarity is needed.
If you believe that I intend to stab you in the back, you will behave accordingly.
Fortunately we are not there yet. But it is very important not to allow the situation to get there. The kind of approach should be based on a concerted effort focusing on the real challenges that these rulers face. They should believe that there antiquities of redefining “us” against “them” ( Sunnis verses Shiites) is not going to carry them far. It will put any domestic issue on a regional level without even solving it.
Now is not the time to talk about pulling the 5th fleet out of Bahrain, it is the time to regain the confidence of these monarchies in a plan to get the GCC a soft landing into..one should say the future, but it is rather the present.
People should be preoccupied with that particular mission. The lack of confidence that is building up extremely fast is dangerous for both sides. In the other hand, regaining the confidence on the same old bases will deprive the region of a soft landing into the required change, therefore opening up a situation that will be very messy indeed."