The 41st Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit comes at a time of unprecedented regional challenges. The War in Yemen has descended into a bloody stalemate, with horrific humanitarian consequences. As Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs continue to develop, tensions between Tehran and some GCC members continue to escalate, and two GCC states have normalized relations with Israel, a previously unthinkable development. In the United States, President-elect Joe Biden’s liberal administration is set to enter the White House, whose softer line on Iran will gratify some in the region but displease others.
However, the GCC’s biggest challenge has been in resolving the rift among its members. Three and a half years have passed since the beginning of the Qatar diplomatic crisis. As the blockade has continued, Qatar has established other trade routes and defense agreements, hardening its political and economic separation from its neighbors. This has created new challenges for the GCC. Foreign powers have been invited into the Gulf, the mutual defense pact among the GCC states is weakening, and an unprecedented societal division among the Gulf countries has effectively been set in stone.
If a diplomatic settlement could be reached in the summit, what would it entail? How would it differ from the 2014 Riyadh Agreement that resolved the last crisis? On the other hand, if an agreement could not be reached, how would it affect the GCC? What role has America’s presidential transition played in this process? And, agreement or no agreement, how will the summit impact the ongoing crises in Iran and Yemen?
Featured speakers: Dr. Dania Thafer (moderator), Dr. Mohammed Alrumaihi, Dr. Courtney Freer, Dr. Kistian Coates Ulrichsen, and Dr. Abdulla Baabood.