The GCC: an attention-grabbing announcement; Saudi Arabia: strategic challenges; Other GCC states: balancing acts; Yemen: overly eager?

AThe GCC: an attention-grabbing announcement The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, also known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprises Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The council formed a common market on 1 January 2008. Founded in 1981 in response to the Iranian revolution, much of the GCC’s policy agenda since then has been shaped by Iran’s activities. None of the council’s member states possesses a significant nuclear infrastructure. All lack power and research reactors, and none has all the components of the fuel cycle. For the most part, GCC members also lack trained personnel, a nuclear regulatory structure and a record of transparency and non-proliferation credentials. Prior to late 2006, some of these states had investigated the development of nuclear energy, but none of the studies commissioned had progressed beyond a preliminary stage. Some GCC states were not members of the IAEA or lacked safeguards agreements, and apart from Kuwait’s, all GCC states’ safeguards agreements included a provision holding most IAEA inspection measures in abeyance, indicating their lack of nuclear infrastructure and nuclear ambitions. Indeed, in January 2006 Saudi Arabia had suggested that nuclear power, with all its environmental risks, could be dangerous if introduced into the Gulf region. Joint nuclear study However, in September 2006, GCC Secretary-General Abdulrahman al-Attiyah called for ‘the Arab nation’ to work together on a nuclear programme in order to avoid being left behind by others in the region. In December 2006, Saudi Arabia’s Chief of General Intelligence HRH Prince Muqrin stated at the IISS Manama Dialogue that the GCC was to examine civilian nuclear energy. A few days later, at its heads of state summit, the GCC announced that it would undertake a study for a joint programme in the field of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

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