US-GCC fatal attraction By Pepe
There's no way to understand the
larger-than-life United States-Iran psychodrama,
the Western push for regime change in both Syria
and Iran, and the trials and tribulations of the
Arab Spring(s) - now mired in perpetual winter -
without a close look at the fatal attraction
between Washington and the GCC. 
stands for Gulf Cooperation Council, the club of
six wealthy Persian Gulf monarchies (Saudi Arabia,
Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab
Emirates - UAE), founded in 1981 and which in no
time configured as the prime strategic US backyard
for the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq
in 2003, for the long-drawn battle in the New
Great Game in Eurasia, and also as the
headquarters for "containing" Iran.
Fifth Fleet is stationed in Bahrain and Central
Command's forward headquarters is based in Qatar;
Centcom polices no less than 27 countries from the
Horn of Africa to Central Asia - what
the Pentagon until
recently defined as "the arc of instability". In
sum: the GCC is like a US aircraft carrier in the
Gulf magnified to Star Trek proportions.
prefer to refer to the GCC as the Gulf
Counter-revolution Club - due to its sterling
performance in suppressing democracy in the Arab
world, even before Mohammed Bouazizi set himself
on fire in Tunisia over a year ago.
to Orson Welles in Citizen Kane, the
Rosebud inside the GCC is that the House of Saud
sells its oil only in US dollars - thus the
pre-eminence of the petrodollar - and in exchange
benefits from massive, unconditional US military
and political support. Moreover the Saudis prevent
the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
(OPEC) - after all they're the world's largest oil
producer - to price and sell oil in a basket of
currencies. These rivers of petrodollars then flow
into US equities and Treasury bonds.
decades virtually the whole planet has been held
hostage to this fatal attraction. Until now.
Gimme all your toys The GCC,
essentially, is the core of the empire in the Arab
world. Yes, it's essentially about oil; the GCC
will be responsible for over 25% of global oil
production within the next few decades. Their tiny
ruling classes - from monarchies to business
associates - function as a crucial annex to the
mighty projection of US power all across the
Middle East and beyond.
among other things, why in October last year
Washington closed a juicy US$67 billion deal - the
largest bilateral deal in US history - to supply
the House of Saud with a prime collection of brand
new F-15s, Black Hawks, Apaches, bunker-buster
bombs, Patriot-2 missiles and warships.
explains why Washington will shower the UAE with
thousands of bunker-buster bombs, and Oman with
Stinger missiles. Not to mention another juicy
mega-deal - worth $53 billion - with Bahrain,
which has not gone through yet because
human-rights associations - to their credit - have
fiercely denounced it.
And there's the
redeployment - or, in Pentagon speak,
"repositioning" - of 15,000 US troops from Iraq to
The rationale for all this
weaponized orgy is provided by the usual suspect
logic; the necessity of building a "coalition of
the willing" to "counter Iran". Why Iran?
Half-jokingly, because Iran is not part of the GCC
- that is, a pliable US satrapy, just like in
those jolly good times under the shah.
Adam Hanieh, professor of development
studies at the School of Oriental and African
Studies (SOAS) in London and author of
Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab
States has been one of very few global
analysts trying to decode the centrality of the
GCC in the imperial strategy. In a crucial
interview, Hanieh outlines all one needs to know.
And it's not pretty. 
As Asia Times
Online has extensively documented, the Arab Spring
was virtually dead on arrival in the GCC. In Oman,
Sultan Qaboos basically distributed loads of cash.
In Saudi Arabia, there was fierce pre-emption and
sustained hardcore repression in the Shi'ite
majority Eastern province, close to Bahrain, where
the oil is.
And in Bahrain itself, there
was not only hardcore repression - with documented
detention and torture of hundreds of pro-democracy
protesters - but an outright invasion by Saudi and
The invasion may have given
the GCC the sweet taste of an actual physical
expansion. Morocco and Jordan - although not
exactly in the Gulf as basic geography rules -
were "invited" to be part of the wealthy club;
after all they are duly reactionary Sunni
monarchies, not "decadent" secular Arab republics
like Libya and Syria.
A fair question is
why the Arab Spring has not touched Jordan - since
the same socioeconomic volcano that convulsed
Tunisia and Egypt is also active. The key part of
the answer is that the GCC - even more than
Washington, European capitals and Israel - is
terrified that the Hashemite throne might fall.
For immense GCC wealth it's a piece of
cake to control Jordan - a small country, where
most of the population is actually Palestinian,
with a tiny organized opposition (no wonder;
Jordanian intelligence imprisoned or killed any
dissidence). For the GCC that's pocket money
compared to the billions of dollars earmarked for
Egypt and Tunisia so they don't dare becoming
There was no way for the GCC
other than to become Counter-revolution Central
after the initial democracy rush in North Africa.
As Hanieh emphatically stresses, the ruling
autocrats in the Gulf couldn't care less about the
impoverished masses in MENA (Middle East-Northern
The culmination of this process
has been the birth of a new geopolitical monster -
NATOGCC. That embodies the key role of Qatar and
the UAE in the NATO invasion - and destruction -
of Libya. Libya was an all-out GCC special - from
actual cash and weapons dispensed to the "rebels"
to actual operatives, intelligence and last but
not least, political legitimacy, via that fake
Arab League vote legitimizing a no-fly zone vote
at the United Nations (only nine out of 22 Arab
League members voted yes, and six of them were
GCC; the other three were bought, and Syria and
Algeria were against it).
And now a tragic
joke reigns supreme; the GCC trying to intervene
and actually financing hardcore Sunni
fundamentalists in Syria under the cover of
helping pro-democracy protesters. When the meek UN
secretary general Ban Ki-moon urges President
Bashar al-Assad to stop the violence against
Syrian protesters and says the time of dynasties
and one-man rule in the Arab world is coming to an
end, obviously he believes the GCC is a colony in
one of Saturn's rings.
After the NATOGCC
win in Libya, no wonder they are on a roll. The
GCC strategy of regime change in Syria is the
preferred way to weaken Iran and the so-called
Shi'ite crescent - a fiction jointly concocted
during the George W Bush administration by the
Playstation king of Jordan and the House of Saud.
And that leads to an inevitable question;
what are two of the top BRICS - Russia and China -
doing about all this?
Enter the dragon
The immensely powerful
secretary of the National Security Council and
former head of the FSB (the successor to the KGB),
Nikolai Patrushev - a frequent visitor to Iran -
has already warned of a "real danger" of a US
strike on Iran; the US, he says, is "trying to
turn Tehran from an enemy into a supportive
partner, and to achieve this, to change the
current regime by whatever means".
Yet for Russia, regime change in Iran is a
no-no. Russia's deputy prime minister and former
envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, has already stated,
unequivocally, "Iran is our close neighbor, just
south of the Caucasus. Should anything happen to
Iran, should Iran get drawn into any political or
military hardships, this will be a direct threat
to our national security."
So on one side
we have Washington, NATO, Israel and the GCC. Not
exactly an "international community", as the spin
goes. And on the other side, we have Iran, Syria,
a fed-up-with-Washington Pakistan, Russia, China,
and scores of countries linked to the 120-member
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
position in relation to the GCC that is a source
of endless fascination. China's Premier Wen Jiabao
has just visited the three key GCC members - Saudi
Arabia, UAE and Qatar.
Imagine Wen Jiabao
telling Crown Prince Nayef (King Abdullah's
half-brother) in Riyadh that Beijing wants "strong
and reputable" Chinese companies to invest
fortunes in ports, railways and infrastructure
development in Saudi Arabia - part of their
increased cooperation "in the face of changeable
and complicated regional and international
trends". Imagine Nayef salivating over his mighty
moustache, stressing the House of Saud is indeed
willing to "expand cooperation" in energy and
What adds spice to the mix
is that Beijing also happens to hold a strategic
relationship with Iran - and enjoys a healthy
trading relationship with Syria. So as far as the
Middle East and Central Asia are concerned,
Beijing is betting - unlike the Pentagon - on a
true "arc of stability".
As Xinhua has put
it in its unrivalled all-inclusive style, what
matters for the Beijing leadership is for China
and Southwest and Central Asia to take "full
advantage of their respective strengths and
jointly strive for common development". How come
no one in Washington can ever come up with
something as simple as this?
that whoever dominates the GCC - with weapons and
political support - projects power globally. The
GCC has been absolutely key for US hegemony within
what Immanuel Wallerstein defines as the world
Yet let's take a look at the
numbers. Since last year Saudi Arabia is exporting
more oil to China than to the US. This is part of
an inexorable process of GCC energy and commodity
exports moving to Asia.
By next year
foreign assets held by the GCC could reach $3.8
trillion with oil at $70 a barrel. With all that
non-stop "tension" in the Persian Gulf, there's no
reason to believe oil will be below $100 in the
foreseeable future. In this case GCC foreign
assets could reach a staggering $5.7 trillion -
that's 160% more than in pre-crisis 2008, and over
$1 trillion more than China's foreign assets.
At the same time, China will be
increasingly doing more business with the GCC. The
GCC is increasingly importing more from Asia -
although the top source of imports is still the
European Union. Meanwhile, US-GCC trade is
dropping. By 2025, China will be importing three
times more oil from the GCC than the US. No wonder
the House of Saud - to put it mildly - is terribly
excited about Beijing.
So for the moment
we have the pre-eminence of NATOGCC military, and
USGCC geopolitically. But sooner rather than later
Beijing may approach the House of Saud and quietly
whisper, "Why don't you sell me your oil in yuan?"
Just like China buying Iranian oil and gas with
yuan. Petroyuan, anyone? Now that's an entirely
new Star Trek.