The GCC and Buying Stability

 

What can GCC money buy?

Mathew Reed has a piece up on Middle East Progress looking at the amount of money spent by the Gulf monarchies on other countries:

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is busy. In March they announced a $10 billion bail-out for Oman and Bahrain, the two poorest member states suffering from upheaval. Following the Egyptian revolution, Saudi Arabia promised $4 billion for the new government and $1.4 billion for uneasy Jordan. Qatar followed suit by giving Egypt $500 million. In Libya, where rebels are gaining ground, Kuwait and Qatar each promised hundreds of millions of dollars. The Emiratis hosted international donor conferences, sent fighter jets to Libya, and promised $3 billionfor Egypt’s new government.

Four questions stand out. What are the donors’ intentions? Where is the money going? How much influence can they buy? And how much will be delivered? Careful review suggests these moves aren’t simply “counter-revolutionary,” as some claim. In fact, the money is going to revolutionary causes also, once again proving Gulf power politics are strategically flexible—not just rigid or reactionary… [my emphasis – Chris]

With so much money changing hands, a bigger question looms: How much influence can the GCC buy? The answer is not much, but this is no fault of theirs. Recipient countries are not beholden to donors especially if those recipients are self-interested autocrats. Why so? When regimes face existential crises their concerns narrow greatly. If money fails to curb unrest, leaders choose reform or violence. Expect them to respond in their own interest if faced with this choice. Consider how much money the US spends on foreign aid and its modest returns and the GCC’s generosity seems less important.

After the Saudi intervention in Bahrain, the massive aid packages that have been handed out by Riyadh as well as the invitation to the Jordanian and Moroccan monarchies to join the GCC, it is easy to see Saudi as counter-revolutionary. Yet its early support for intervention in Libya and its recent condemnation of the Assad regime in Syria – not to mention its attempt to moderate a transition in Yemen – demonstrate Saudi Arabian policies to be strategic. In some instances, Riyadh is motivated by the desire for stability (Yemen), other times by a desire to reshape regional politics (Syria) and still other times for the maintenance of the status quo (Jordan and Bahrain.)

In other words, Saudi Arabia is looking out for Saudi Arabia and is making its moves by doing what it does best – buying support with billions of petro-dollars.

Photo from Cabala Muse

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