Some of the self-evident examples and mere truths are to be pointed at. First, imagine the water surface of the Gulf! Around 250 thousand square kilometers only. A population expected to reach almost 300 million in few years, and eight shore , countries with a combined surface under 4.5 million square kilometers. Second, this narrow region is home to less than 5% of world’s population and consists of less than 1% of its surface. This particular spot contains 60% of the oil reserves and 40% of the gas reserves in the world. Currently, in this limited and defined area, 30% of the world oil and 12% of its gas are produced. And third, imagine for example a country like Japan, the third economy on earth, relying on the Gulf for 80% of its energy sources imports.
The Gulf region witnessed in less than a quarter century three wars, which have been more than bilateral, and almost more than regional. I am speaking about the Iraq-Iran war between 1980 and 1988, the first and second Gulf wars in 1990 and 2003, the recent and current wars in some nearby countries, such as Yemen, as well as the cold wars between the two banks.
On the shores of the Gulf, there are twelve international military bases where armies, planes, and ships are sent thousands of kilometers away, to a gulf where the maximum width of the water surface does not exceed 370 kilometers.
1) They are border waters,
2) They allow commercial exchange within the gulf countries as well as with the world,
3) And finally they are rich in resources with a total output surpassing 2 trillion US Dollars annually.
These three matters can equally be reasons for wars or pillars for stability.
When approached negatively, matters related to borders, commercial exchange and resources could destroy the region and its surrounding. In fact, border disputes encompass the entire region: the three islands dispute between Iran and the UAE; the Iraqi-Iranian borders at Shatt Al Arab (Arvand Rud), in addition to the border dispute in the Iraqi Governorate Maysan; the Saudi-Emirati border dispute over Al Udayd region and Shaybah oil field; the Saudi-Kuwaiti dispute over Um Al Maradim and Qurah islands; the Qatari-Bahraini dispute over Hawar islands…
All these disputes, without any exception, are linked to the factor of natural resources. Yet, they are often accompanied by the overlapping national identities in each State or within the different Gulf States. As a result of those two dimensions,
This transition requires the establishment of regional and extra-regional relations founded on equitable distribution of rights, and definite security of countries and peoples.
Such healthy, normal and peaceful relations entail several actions, among which: respecting states sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, as well as settling border disputes through dialogue; reducing military tensions, in particular, downsizing, the international military presence in the region until its cancellation; prohibiting all types of non-traditional weapons and committing truly and decisively to the use of technology for peaceful purposes and for the well-being of peoples; defusing internal crisis through increased respect for the freedom of people and basic, individual and public rights, through encouraging the culture of dialogue, and tolerance, internally and among the states and peoples; abandoning the policies of axis and the fatal extremism of identities, convincing the regional and extra-regional stakeholders to drop all accounts of dominance, monopoly and control of resources or people, at the risk of bloodshed across the globe.
Such goals, to be accomplished, require a range of methods and tools: Political, Diplomatic, Journalistic, Cultural, and Educational, as well as Communication with the people and the public opinion.
Unfortunately, after decades, or even centuries of conflicts, it is certain that a similar plan cannot come through automatically, nor overnight, because of a direct dialogue between two or more Gulf States and other foreign countries. We learn from history that such a big and vital plan calls for an institutional governing framework. That framework needs an active mediator, or a semi-founder, who is honest and capable of assuming the role.
The plan essentially stipulates the importance of creating the “Gulf Security and Cooperation Organization” that would include in addition to the Gulf countries the United States of America, China, India, the European Union, Russia and other stakeholders as observers or associated members. This international institution would take several necessary measures and steps to resolve the crisis and achieve the solutions we look for.
This concept urges all parties to adhere to the international law, UN Charter and UN Security Council resolutions. Also, parties involved should follow a step-by-step approach in building confidence and comprehension among themselves, aimed at establishing common grounds for solving disputed issues.
Today, Russia is the only country capable of holding talks with all Gulf capitals, and hosting their representatives. This is something those capitals must consider and benefit from, by working with Russia to launch a practical course of action to create the “Gulf Security and Cooperation Organization”, to guarantee the security and cooperation in the gulf countries and among their peoples, towards prosperity, development and peace, instead of continuous wars, destruction, chaos and tragedies.
The best reflection of this region’s crisis is the struggle in naming it. Is it the Persian Gulf, or the Arab Gulf? Let the cooperation begin with the name: Arab-Persian Gulf, the Gulf securing the well-being for its peoples, surroundings and the world.