Last November, the heads of state of six of the ArabianGulf countries - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - met in Qatar to review the progress and plans of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an organization that bids fair to transform the political and economic face of one of the most important regions in the world
At the gathering, the fourth such summit meeting, Kuwait's Abdullah Bishara, the GCC secretary general, capsuled the organization's potential in his answer to a reporter's question on how the GCC would settle disputes. Happily, he said, that matter is entirely academic - since it has no serious disputes either tabled or expected.
No one would suggest that this level of agreement is likely to be permanent - especially in the troubled Middle East - but some observers believe that hopes for GCC unity are grounded in reality. One, Dr. John Duke Anthony, of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, firmly believes in the future prospects of the council. "Unlike, say, the short-lived United Arab Republic, formed by Egypt and Syria in 1958, or the 1971 effort by Libya, Egypt and Syria to form the Confederation of Arab Republics, the GCC is not based on any ideology"
Another promising element in the GCC approach, Dr. Anthony says, is its pragmatic style. "Unlike some of the previous movements towards Arab unity, the GCC approach is less ambitious, less elaborate. Members have deliberately adopted a conservative and consultative style, and that could make the difference. You can, in fact, discern a pattern in their approach already: first deliberate, then ameliorate."
Dr. Anthony, who has attended all of the four GCC summit conferences, thinks the GCC countries have a "commonality of needs and a homogeneity of experience" which "makes cooperation not just possible but probable."
The GCC, of course, has a long way to go before it catches up with its European counterpart the EEC -European Economic Community or Common Market. Nevertheless, the Gulf Arabs, as this preliminary report suggests, have achieved more - in terms of political, economic and social integration - in their first two-and-a-half years of cooperation than the western Europeans achieved in their first 10. That, perhaps, is the fact to focus on. —The Editors