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Fighting Terrorism in the Gulf is a Societal Responsibility

In the GCC’s forty-year history, its past experiences have taught the citizens of the Gulf that political stability does not dispense with the need for firm and resolute rule, and the wisdom of stability is vigilance. At their core, states and homelands are only safeguarded by citizens, and statesmen must be capable of differentiating between just and unjust actions using a country’s norms and laws, with the end goal of a strong, stable, and just society.

Recent events in Kuwait have underscored the importance of this mission, and therefore the need for Kuwaitis to keep a watchful, vigilant eye and to closely follow current affairs. For good or ill, the Gulf region is in the midst of rapid changes that open the doors to many possibilities; some of these possibilities could jeopardize the stability of the region, and undermine the security frameworks that were made by the GCC states, which, aided by their strategic location and abundant natural resources, gave them a role in the region and the ability to influence Middle Eastern discourse.

Why the GCC Still Matters

The influence of the GCC states has recently increased in the region’s conflicts, which has given them additional importance in international affairs. Therefore, it is crucial for statesmen of the GCC to remain cautious, as the accelerating changes in the region have substantially impacted domestic affairs. An example of this was seen by the recent crackdown on a cell of Kuwait’s Hezbollah group, an organization that openly and militantly opposes the GCC and has continued to support the Houthi militants in Yemen, even as they have been primarily responsible for that country’s devastation. With the continuation of this challenge, the GCC states’ leaders have reached the conclusion that new measures are needed to preserve the bloc’s unity and security. Crucially, this is not achievable except through strict mechanisms to deter all conspiracies that target the Gulf states’ security, a topic that was broached during the GCC Interior Ministers’ meeting in Bahrain on November 14. The six GCC states’ Ministries of Interior are working closely to provide a common understanding of the threats facing the six states.

It is important to mention that vigilance conditions are not limited to authorities’ procedures. In addition to the authorities, community actors should play a role in raising awareness about the security situation in the GCC. These groups must work to expose anyone or any group who supports Hezbollah and its terrorist acts against the GCC states. This mission is particularly vital because Kuwait’s Hezbollah is well-funded and supported by Iran, even as Iran has attempted to downplay its role in the group’s organization during its talks with Saudi Arabia in Baghdad.

Terror Metastasizes

Iran’s interference in the domestic affairs of other countries has not stopped in the Middle East. Last week, the government of Colombia announced that it would monitor Hezbollah’s activities within its borders, as the Colombian government accused the group of criminal activities and extradited many of its members. The terrorist organization is also working in Venezuela, where it has been heavily involved in the narcotics trade, according to the Colombian Ministry of Defense. Even Paraguay, halfway across the continent, has become a place for Hezbollah’s drug deal and money laundering, and led to a major operation exposing the cells and arrests of prominent Hezbollah members in Asuncion. Given that Hezbollah is clearly capable of creating strong networks in Latin America, it can be assumed that their networks in the Gulf region are stronger still, considering the geographic proximity and knowledge of the region.

The people and authorities of the Gulf understand that they have an extra burden in international security. Once again, this responsibility is not limited to the Ministry of Interior or the security branches; citizens are aware that they are partners in protecting their nations against terrorism, including through countering terror financing that is masked as charitable or humanitarian aid but in reality is used to fund arms transfers and terrorist activity.

Against this threat, political leaders of differing convictions, but acting in good faith and in the best interests of their country, must unite. The Emir of Kuwait’s recent pardon of the exiled opposition is important to solidify unity in pursuit of a peaceful and prosperous future. Kuwait and the GCC states have passed the stage of warnings regarding terror; they have now entered into a stage of open confrontation against it. This is in line with steps made by several countries in the fight against terrorism.

Since their independence, the GCC states’ political trajectories have been uneven and complicated. They have traversed exploitation, threats, aggression, and now terrorism. Throughout this time, the GCC’s leaders have taught their people the meaning of cautiousness and deterrence and the importance of security. In the current atmosphere, these lessons are more vital than ever.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Gulf International Forum.

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His Excellency Ambassador Abdulla Bishara was the first Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council between 1981 and 1993. He also held several positions in Kuwait’s Foreign Ministery: Permanent Representative to the UN, Kuwaiti Ambassador to Brazil and Argentina, and Foreign Service Officer. Currently, he is the president of the Diplomatic Center for Strategic Studies and a board member of the advisory body of the GCC Supreme Council.

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