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GCC lures Jordan, Morocco for security and economic gain
GCC’s move to bring Jordan, Morocco is said to be prompted by unrest and Iran threat; Jordan buffer needed to prevent contagion to northern Gulf
May 15, 2011 10:54 by Reuters
The GCC, an alliance of oil-producing states grouping Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman, was founded in 1981 after the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It is linked by economic, military and trade ties.
While its attempts at economic integration and a common currency have been marred by political rivalries and rifts, the bloc moved swiftly to protect its members from revolts sweeping the region, sending troops to Bahrain to help the ruling Sunni Al Khalifa family quash popular Shi’ite protests.
In joining the GCC, Jordanian officials hope for help for their country’s struggling economy under a Marshall type plan similar to a $20 billion package the GCC had already committed to help Oman and Bahrain, which have been hit by unrest.
While Jordan might expect financial benefit, the mismatch between its strained economy and those of the wealthy oil exporters may put another brake on efforts to harmonise their economies.
Plans for Gulf currency union are already stalled by political differences and are unlikely to progress for years.
The rise in oil prices has been a major cause of Jordan’s growing budget deficit and officials hope closer ties with the GCC could earn Jordan, an energy importer to the tune of $1.4 bln last year, discounted oil prices.
But ultimately Jordan’s ability to lend security help to fellow Sunni dynasties as domestic unrest unfolds, or in any broader regional confrontation, was a factor, analysts say.
The kingdom, with a record of stability despite signing an unpopular peace deal with Israel in 1994, has one of the best trained armies and security forces in the region.
It has already played a key role in bolstering security forces in several Gulf states, such as Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Hundreds of security experts are already seconded to some Gulf Arab forces.
Security sources say Jordanian ex-army officers have been sent to Bahrain, which faced widespread unrest in March from Shi’ites calling for greater political freedoms, a constitutional monarchy and an end to sectarian discrimination.
The Jordanian army has one of the largest UN peacekeeping forces while its intelligence department is perhaps the CIA’s most trusted partner in the Arab world.
Under lavish U.S. funding, the kingdom has trained thousands of police officers from the Palestinian territories and Iraq and beyond to Afghanistan where it has the largest contingent of ground troops by any Arab country.
“Jordan can play a major role in the stability of the Arab Gulf region. It has been there in one way or the other. But now Jordan will become part of Gulf security in a more formalised way,” Jordan University’s Tell said. (By Suleiman al-Khalidi; additional reporting by Souhail Karam in Rabat; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)
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