Realignment in the Middle East?

Marc Lynch describes the expansion of the Gulf Cooperation Council:

The Gulf Cooperation Council surprised virtually everyone yesterday by announcing that it would begin membership talks with Jordan and Morocco.  While actual membership is likely a long way off, the announcement signals a new alliance in the region which conspicuously omits Egyp, along with more obvious candidates for GCC membership such as Yemen and Iraq.  This expanded GCC would of course no longer really be an organization of states in the Gulf. Nor would it be a club for small, rich oil producing states. Instead, it seems to be evolving into a club for Sunni Arab monarchs — the institutional home of the counter-revolution, directed against not only Iran but also against the forces for change in the region.  Where the United States fits in that new conception remains distinctly unclear….

The two things which Jordan and Morocco do have in common with the GCC states, of course, are a Sunni monarchy and a pro-Western alignment. The creation of a Sunni King’s club would bring the region back even more viscerally than before into the classical Arab Cold War of the 1950s and 1960, when conservative monarchies faced off against pan-Arabist republics.  Neither Jordan nor Morocco really faces the same sectarian Sunni-Shi’a issues as do most of the Gulf states, however, despite King Abdullah of Jordan’s “Shi’a Crescent” ramblings of the mid-2000s and his enthusiasm to be part of any pro-U.S. and anti-Iranian alliance available.  Iran simply doesn’t loom as large for Morocco as it does for, say, Bahrain or Saudi Arabia.  The real point here would seem to be a promise of GCC, or more specifically Saudi, assistance to those non-Gulf monarchies in order to prevent them from going too far in meeting popular demands for reform.  Such a Sunni King’s Club would be a counter-revolutionary institution, one which would work directly against hopes for change in the Arab world.

Lynch isn’t sure whether it represents a major alignment or not, but it’s interesting to consider this in light of both the anti-Israel and anti-US resistance bloc (Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas), Shia influence in Iraq, and the recent revolutions.

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