The Gulf Cooperation Council, the GCC, has held its annual summit in Bahrain. There were a few leaders missing but nevertheless the council went ahead to talk about greater economic and security cooperation.
"I'm afraid the GCC has really lost its relevance for many of the member states .... The alliance has not been able to get its own act together and repeatedly postponed the key decisions on both security matters as well as economic issues. However, that is not to say they have not done a lot of things."
- Joseph Kechichian, Gulf News columnist
But how much of what they discussed will end in action?
The host, Bahrain's King Hamad, called for a 'security umbrella' to protect all the citizens of the GCC.
The leaders met at a time of uncertainty in the region, following sweeping political changes across the Middle East and poor relations with Iran over its nuclear programme.
Gulf countries were caught on the back foot by the wave of uprisings that swept through the Middle East.
Here is how the Council reacted to the seismic upheavals of the last two years:
- Most Gulf countries were particularly troubled by the revolution in Egypt
"I would not say "lost its relevance" - it is still very relevant. I think in light of all the turbulences sweeping the region and the continued perceived threat from Iran - it's still very much relevant. It has been disappointing to many people, especially the public, [who] had much higher expectations that the GCC was actually going to achieve more than it achieved so far."
- Riad Kahwaji, Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis
- Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah expressed support for long-time ally Hosni Mubarak and denounced the people who "were destabilising Egypt"
- When protests became violent in Bahrain, the GCC sent troops to suppress the unrest and presented the move as an act of defence against so-called 'external threats'
- GCC countries have also sought to shield other Arab monarchies like Jordan and Morocco from popular unrest
- Both countries were formally invited to join the GCC and offered financial aid
- In Yemen, a Saudi-brokered transition saw Ali Abdullah Saleh leave power but many say the old regime remains intact
- And in Syria, Gulf countries continue to offer material support for opposition forces trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad
Just how nervous are GCC countries about these changes? Are they really immune to the so-called Arab Spring? Are GCC countries ready for new realities in the region? Or is the council just a talking shop, as many claim?
Inside Story, with presenter Stephen Cole, discusses with guests: Saeed Al-Shehabi, a member of the Bahrain Freedom Movement and a political activist who was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Bahraini government; Riad Kahwaji, the director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis; and Joseph Kechichian, the Gulf News columnist and author of The Beguiling Gulf Cooperation Council. His newly-released book is Legal and Political Reforms in Saudi Arabia.