1976, when Saudi Arabian leader, King Khalid, visited Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE to bring into force such a decision, but the pressure from Iranian Shah Pahlavi on the Persian Gulf leaders, especially Bahrain and UAE sheikhdoms leaders caused failure in achieving this goal.
In 1976, at the fourth session of the Persian Gulf States foreign Ministers Conference in Muscat, Oman’s Sultan Qabus, because of its dependence on Iran’s Shah recommended the creation of a special force for defending the Strait of Hormuz but Iraqi regime tabled this suggestion. Between 1976 to 1979, a number of security agreements were signed between Saudi Arabia and its Arabs neighbors such as the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain, establishing permanent foundations of cooperation, but these efforts, however, could not provide the kind of permanent security needed in the Persian Gulf, since Iran, the leading military power of the region at the time, was not included.(A. C. Cordesman, 1984, pp. 395-398)
At last the Iranian revolution in 1979 and Iran-Iraq war in 1980 brought the six Arab Persian Gulf States to establish a regional security organization (GCC) without the participation of the two main northern states (Iran & Iraq) in the Persian Gulf, so following the Islamic Conference Organization (ICO) meeting in Saudi Arabia in early January 1981, the six conservative Arab Persian Gulf states signed an agreement for establishing the “Gulf Cooperation Council” including the main Islamic countries such as Egypt, Afghanistan, Iran and Libya at the ICO conference. In the final ICO conference declaration the Persian Gulf leaders stated about the Persian gulf security as the first indication of a joint policy, “our collective conviction that security and stability of the Gulf as well as the safety of its waterways are the absolute responsibility of the Gulf states without any foreign interferences.”(Taeif, 1982, p. 1) But in practice, subsequent developments of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council were shown that the motto of “Non-interference of foreign powers in the Persian Gulf Security” did not achieve.
3.10.3 Declared and undeclared objectives of the GCC
There are declared and undeclared reasons that the coastal Arab states of the Persian Gulf decided to establish [Persia] Gulf cooperation council in 1981. The main undeclared reasons from point of view of Persian Gulf scholars, who are close to the Iranian government’s viewpoint, are that:
1) The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan intensified the concern of the conservative monarchies on the stability and security of their regimes. 2) Iran – Iraq war and the fear of its spread in the region; 3) challenges of Iranian revolution that involves: a) Continued struggle between Iran and the United Arab Emirates on three islands of Abu Musa, the greater and the lesser Tunbs from 1971; b) Iran’s program to develop its military arsenal and its ambition to acquire atomic energy and nuclear weapons of mass destruction; c) Iran’s support for Jihadist groups and liberation movements around the world especially in coastal sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf; d) the ideology of Islamic republic that wanted to export the Islamic revolution to Arab Persian Gulf countries that all of them had non democratic governments; e) Iranian struggle over Israeli Arabs peace process ; f) historical Iranian ambitions to expand their influence to the Persian gulf region as the sole hegemonic power. j) Arab sheikhdom’s claim that new Islamic Republic regime in Iran conducted itself as an Islamic critic of themselves and pursued an active policy to destabilize the Persian Gulf states h) And the main reason was US-Iranian relation whereas US wanted to contain the threats of Iran to regional security that was involved in the security of Western access to the Persian Gulf oil (Al-suwaidi, 1996), And finally impact of Camp David accords on the Arab world that was Kissinger methodology and the Carter administration identified it as its primary foreign policy goal the resolution of the conflict between Israel and Egypt (Troxler, p. 7).
The priority goal of the GCC was emphasizing the economic affairs and non-military cooperation. The reason for this policy was that the GCC member states didn’t want to provoke the feelings of the new revolutionary regime in Iran. But factors such as deterioration of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia and protecting Shiite extremist groups in Bahrain by Iran brought into the open the underlying security concerns of GCC states and non-military organization of GCC transformed into a security institution (Joseph Albert Kechichian, 1985). The GCC officials emphasized that the main purpose of the GCC was to lay the “foundations for Gulf unity” in the fields of “economic and finance, education and culture, social affairs and health, communications, information media, nationality and passports, travel and transportation, commerce, customs and the movement of goods, and finally, in legal and legislative affairs” (Kuwait-News-Agency, 1981).
3.10.4 The main concerns of GCC states regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran
There are many cases that caused an uncertain relationship between Iran and the GCC countries, the main misconstrued in view of the GCC states of the Persian Gulf region are:
1) The GCC states believe that after the overthrow of Saddam’s regime in Iraq, the new Iraqi government has acted poorly towards the security issues of the Persian Gulf so its resulted in more interference of Iranian regime, taking a more active role in the Persian Gulf security arrangements especially after the victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, hardliner president, in 2005.
2) The second concern is on Iran’s WMD programs. The GCC states believe Iranian’s nuclear program, can encourage Islamic republic to try to frighten the Persian Gulf states. In response to Iranian’s nuclear program, the GCC states renewed their discussions with US on some of the common defense systems (Krane, 2006).
3) Iranian support for Shia expansion. Islamic revolution was an Ideological revolution and its main aim at first was exporting revolution to the world especially neighbors of Islamic republic such as GCC countries, so leaders of these states were frighten to be overthrow by their opposition groups that were influenced and helped by Iranian government. When the Shia government took the power in Iraq after fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Iraqi Shia government supported Shia Islamist factions. Otherwise, rise of Shia extremist groups in new Iraqi regime caused concerned of the GCC states, because in view of the GCC member states, the Iraqi Shia parties would prompt growing Shia demands to take power inside the GCC states. In recent Bahraini parliamentary election in November 2010, Shia groups took power and they are hoping to assert Bahraini Shia rights against the Sunni-dominated government of Bahrain.
4) The expansionist ambitions of the Iranian. For a long time GCC states or the Arab states of the Persian Gulf in general, have suffered the Iranian expansionist ambitions at present time and at the regime of the former shah. First, Pahlavi Shah sought to turn the Persian Gulf into an Iranian lake. The Pahlavi Shah’s period of expansionist advanced into the Persian Gulf in the late 1960s, when the Shah claimed on Bahrain and then in 1971 captured three small islands of Great and Leaser Tunbs and Abu-Mousa in the strait of Hurmoz that were in dispute between Iran and the Trucial States (later the United Arab Emirates). Later after Islamic revolution in 1979; Islamic Republic of Iran tried to export the Islamic Revolution into the sheikhdom’s territories and kingdoms so Iran began push into the GCC states at the beginning of the Islamic regime in Iran in 1979. In both cases Iraq had stepped in to deter Iranian’s willingness.
3.10.5 Interaction between the GCC states and the U.S.
The cooperation between GCC and US enabled the United State to operate military action against Iraq in 2003. The GCC states hoped that post – Saddam Iraq would be a powerful country, but the post Saddam Iraq was less stable than the GCC states initially expected, so nowadays the defense cooperation between US and GCC states that was put in place after the Desert Storm operation in 1991 renewed with emphasis on Iran’s rising power. During the Iran – Iraq War (1980-1988), the GCC summit conferences had supported the Iraqi regime by several declarations at the end of each summit and the GCC pursued various methods to achieve this end, including 1) direct financial and military assistance to Iraq; 2) building of an oil pipe line through Saudi Arabia for Iraqi oil 3) transshipment of Iraqi imports through the port of Kuwait (Troxler, p. 15). Also the GCC states helped US military forces performing operation in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
After first Persian Gulf War (Desert Storm) in 1991, there were bilateral defense relations between the U.S. and each Persian Gulf state except Saudi Arabia. These pacts focus on “facilities access for U.S. forces, but also for U.S. advice, training, and joint exercises; lethal and non-lethal U.S. equipment pre-positioning; and arms sales” (Hajjar, 2002, p. 20). After Saddam’s removal from power in 2003 these contracts still remain and none of the Persian Gulf coastal states has moved to suspended or ended these formal pacts.
One of the most important goals of the U.S. in the Persian Gulf is arms sales and defense services. This strategy has two benefits for US, first; it will help in protecting the Persian Gulf states from growing threats from Iran and second, these purchases have big effects on the US economy.
Many US military personnel are working in the army of the GCC states. There are in “Saudi Arabia about 400 U.S. military personnel, mostly to train Saudi military and National Guard, about 90,000 of the Army are in Kuwait, about 1800