Opening Keynote Address at the Seventh Annual Gulf Research Meeting

By His Excellency Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council

Cambridge University, Cambridge, United Kingdom

August 16, 2016

Dr. Abdul Aziz bin Saqer, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you once again for inviting me to this beautiful city and allowing me to say a few words. My friend Dr. Abdul Aziz, I speak on behalf of all of us gathered here when I say how grateful we are to you and your staff for organizing this annual event to debate matters of such importance and urgency in an atmosphere of academic calm.

H.E. Dr. Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani with National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President & CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony at the Seventh Annual Gulf Research Meeting in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Photo: National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

H.E. Dr. Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani with National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President & CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony at the Seventh Annual Gulf Research Meeting in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Photo: National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

This is now the sixth year that I have spoken here and in preparing for today I reflected on the intervening years. Despite some of the most challenging times, there is a consistent strand, namely that we are always striving to make our region a better and more secure place for all our citizens – we are looking at where we want to be.

Here, I think that the GCC vision that sums it up is: “To achieve and maintain prosperity in the widest sense of the word.” In other words, economic wealth for each nation and citizen; opportunities to satisfy personal aspirations; equal opportunities for health, education, employment, and social services, all within a safe and secure environment; and political stability.

This, with one important addition – which is “and to live in harmony despite differences in philosophy and ideology” – is surely the vision for the whole region? The citizens of the region are crying out for an end to violence and a return to normality, peace, and security – so why is this so elusive? Your workshops are wide-ranging, and all in one way or another will impact on this important question. Today, I will look at some of the social, economic, and political factors involved but concentrate mainly on security, with the hope of adding focus to your discussions.

Firstly, there are social issues where there are huge challenges, but probably the greatest social challenge for all of us is our youth – because they are our future. Without appropriate education, employment, and guidance they will be lost souls, easily manipulated, and prone to being turned into a destructive element in society. It is for this reason that the nations of the GCC place youth at the top of the social priority list. But I ask you to give thought on what can be done in a proactive way to consider helping the youth in the region’s trouble spots. They are a seriously endangered species!

Probably the greatest social challenge for all of us is our youth – because they are our future. Without appropriate education, employment, and guidance they will be lost souls, easily manipulated, and prone to being turned into a destructive element in society.

With regard to economy and future prosperity, I am confident that the diversification plans of our member states will stand us in good stead, especially as we recognize the importance of working together. The latest example of such a plan is “Saudi Vision 2030” in which the overall stated vision is “Saudi Arabia: the Heart of the Arab and Islamic World, the Investment Powerhouse, and the Hub connecting Three Continents.” This is a powerful national statement of intent but in many ways it sums up the future for all GCC states. Geographically we are central; historically, culturally, and through religion we are influential; and in terms of investment we have the resources to stimulate growth for ourselves, for the region, and globally.

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A Discussion with Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Al Zayani

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The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and its six member-countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – could hardly have been more in the news in recent days.

First, as noted in the analysis and assessment that follows, there was the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ meeting with and briefing by His Excellency Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, on September 18, 2015. National Council Founding President and CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony, the only American to have been invited to attend each and every GCC Ministerial and Heads of State Summit since the GCC’s establishment in 1981, presided, provided context, background, and perspective, and moderated the discussion and question and answer period.

GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani addresses a meeting organized by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and its U.S.-GCC Corporate Cooperation Committee on September 18, 2015, in Washington, DC. Seated to the right of the Secretary General is H.E. Shaikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Khalifa, Ambassador of Bahrain to the U.S., and seated to the left of the Secretary General is National Council Founding President and CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony. Photo: National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

Second, the Fifth Ministerial Meeting of the GCC-U.S. Strategic Cooperation Forum was held in New York on September 30, 2015, in conjunction with the opening of the 70th United Nations General Assembly. According to the Joint Communique following the meeting, the discussion examined issues including “the humanitarian and political crisis in Syria, the importance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the P5+1 and Iran, the Middle East peace process, and the need for a political solution to the conflict in Yemen.”

Third, was the National Council’s standing-room-only October 6 meeting with and briefing by HRH Navy Captain (Ret.) Prince Sultan bin Khalid Al-Faisal Al Sa’ud in The Gold Room of the Rayburn Building of the U.S. Congress’ House of Representatives. In the ninety-minute meeting, Dr. Anthony provided an introductory overview of Saudi Arabia’s position and role in regional and global affairs and led a spirited discussion session following HRH Prince Sultan’s remarks.

HRH Prince Sultan outlined his views, analyses, and assessments of Saudi Arabia’s heightened assertiveness on the national and regional defense fronts. Upon the conclusion of his remarks, the Prince fielded close to thirty questions. HRH Prince Sultan’s address, Dr. Anthony’s remarks, and the Prince’s response to questions will be posted to the Council’s website by the end of the week.

Fourth, only two hours after the National Council’s program on Capitol Hill, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Senator Robert “Bob” Corker from Tennessee, conducted a hearing on“The U.S. Role and Strategy in the Middle East: Yemen and the Countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.”Accompanied by six of his fellow Senators, he did so in the context of, among other things, President Obama’s summit with the representatives of all six GCC countries this past May at Camp David. Committee members also examined the GCC countries’ leadership in the ten-nation coalition fighting to restore the legitimate government of Yemeni President Hadi.

H.E. Dr. Abdul Latif Al Zayani, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, addresses a meeting of the United Nations Security Council concerning the situation in Yemen in September 2013. Photo: United Nations.

In addition, the members asked questions about where the United States and the GCC countries stand with regard not only to the conflict in Yemen. They also voiced their concerns about the situation in Syria and the respective approaches by Washington officialdom, on one hand, and the capitals of the GCC countries, on the other, to the challenges that an assertive and increasingly emboldened Iran poses to the region’s peace, security, and stability.

A recurring issue was GCC countries’ perception of a U.S. disengagement from the region, which American officials, with mixed success to date, have been at pains to deny. Coupled to this issue is what many in the GCC believe is an unspoken American intention to increase the position and role of Iran’s involvement in the region. Were such an eventuality to occur, numerous among the GCC’s analysts are of the view that it could come only at the GCC region’s expense.

Two outstanding resource specialists, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Mary Beth Long and former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche, delivered statements and fielded questions from the Senators for two hours.Their respective testimonies along with a video of the Hearing are available on the Foreign Relations Committee website.

All four of these developments serve to underscore the timeliness and relevance of GCC Secretary General Al Zayani’s following analyses and assessments at the National Council’s recent meeting and briefing.

 


A Discussion with Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary General H.E. Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani

September 18, 2015

On Friday, September 18, 2015, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and the Council’s U.S.-GCC Corporate Cooperation Committee convened an informal seminar with GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani. Present, in addition to GCC ambassadors to the United States, were national security, defense, and other foreign affairs analysts and practitioners as well as scholars and select graduate students from area universities.

Dr. Al Zayani’s remarks focused on issues and interests of current and ongoing importance to the GCC and its six member-countries: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In a private meeting later with National Council President and CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony, the Secretary General agreed that the following summarization of his key points and perspectives could be published in keeping with the Council’s educational mission.

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“Envisioning the GCC’s Future: Prisms for Perspective” – Remarks from GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Al Zayani

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Seldom is one able to gain insight into the foreign policy issues and objectives of any grouping of nations through the mind of one of its leaders. Even rarer is one introduced to the analyses and assessments of a leader of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). [The GCC is comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.]

Such is the occasion in this instance. The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations is privileged to publish an address by GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani. On August 24, 2015, Dr. Al Zayani addressed a capacity audience at Queens’ College, University of Cambridge, convened for the Sixth Annual Gulf Research Meeting (GRM).

GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani addresses the Sixth Annual Gulf Research Meeting in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani addresses the Sixth Annual Gulf Research Meeting in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Photo: Gulf Research Center.

Dr. Al Zayani’s remarks covered a broad range of topics. Principal among his focus were the implications for regional peace, security, and stability of the extraordinary trends and indications confronting the GCC in the past year. These included the domestic and international dynamics of violent extremism, Iran, Syria, and Yemen, together with other issues and challenges as well as opportunities.

Dr. Al Zayani, a native of Bahrain, is the fifth head of the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based GCC Secretariat General. He has held the post since December 2010. He holds a doctorate from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

Of particular significance is that this was the fifth time for Dr. Al Zayani to address this annual meeting. The hundreds (fewer than twenty of whom were Americans) that he briefed and met with represented no ordinary assemblage. They encompassed what, by any standard, is the foremost yearly gathering of Arabian Peninsula and Gulf specialists known to convene anywhere.

Included among the international scholars, academics, researchers, analysts, authors, consultants, and other foreign affairs practitioners was a growing number of young researchers from the GCC region, Yemen, and Iraq, who represent the emerging generation of those destined to lead and manage the region’s future. Each of the participants came together this year, as on every previous occasion, for three full days of meetings, discussions, and debates. In so doing, beyond examining the present and coming state of affairs with regard to a virtual smorgasbord of topics, they also proposed and recommended solutions to some of the most vexing geopolitical, cultural, socio-economic, and foreign relations issues of the contemporary era.

What entices all who engage in the GRM’s exceptionally well-selected and choreographed seminars is their abiding interests and involvement in a variety of issues anchored in Arabia and the Gulf. This is the exact same focus of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ recently concluded academic seminar for its Annual Washington, DC University Student Summer Internship Program in association with 22 sister organizations and the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University. 25 interns, out of an applicant pool of 125 candidates, participated in this summer’s program.

None of the GRM’s presenters and other participants needed reminding of the extraordinary impact that this region has had and continues to have upon all of humankind. Nor, despite this, are they unaware of how the region’s peoples, cultures, economies, governmental structures, foreign relations, and systems of political dynamics constitute for millions worldwide the most often misunderstood and unfairly maligned of any on earth. Enter the Gulf Research Center, the GRM’s host convener.

The GRC, founded by Saudi Arabian Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, organizes and administers these Annual Gulf Research Meetings in association with Cambridge University. (The National Council entered into a Cooperative Agreement with the GRC this past year). No stranger to Washington, DC, Dr. Sager has addressed several National Council Conferences and Capitol Hill Seminars for Members of Congress, Congressional staff, media representatives, members of the diplomatic corps, and the broader U.S., Arab, and other foreign policymaking communities.

Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, Chairman of the Gulf Research Center, welcomes participants to the Sixth Annual Gulf Research Meeting (GRM). Since the first GRM in 2010, over 1,200 papers have been presented in 86 workshops and scholars from 86 countries have participated in the event.

Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, Chairman of the Gulf Research Center, welcomes participants to the Sixth Annual Gulf Research Meeting (GRM). Since the first GRM in 2010, over 1,200 papers have been presented in 86 workshops and scholars from 86 countries have participated in the event. Photo: Gulf Research Center.

The GRC has catapulted into one of the foremost of its kind in a very short period. Based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with regional offices in Geneva, Switzerland, and Cambridge, United Kingdom, the GRC, in addition to its association with the National Council, has partnered with dozens of research and academic institutions in virtually every corner of the globe.

By special arrangement with Dr. Al Zayani, the National Council is privileged to share this edited version of his remarks to this year’s GRM.

Dr. John Duke Anthony
Founding President and CEO
National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations
Washington, DC

 


“Envisioning the GCC’s Future: Prisms for Perspective”

His Excellency Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council

Remarks to the Gulf Research Center’s Sixth Annual Gulf Research Meeting at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom

August 24, 2015

Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you once again for giving me the chance to return for the fifth occasion to this beautiful city to say a few words about some of our common concerns. In preparing for today, I looked back at my previous four talks. Reading them showed me clearly how the global and regional situation has worsened. Old tensions remain. New challenges abound. Two things struck me. The first was the optimism with which I spoke in 2012 about Yemen and my hopes for success of the GCC Initiative. The second was the pessimistic tone of my speech last year. I called then for a total realignment of thought to break the cycle of regional instability. In seeking solutions, my parting words were “do not be afraid to think what in the past would have been the unthinkable.”

Then and Now

So where are we today? Da’ish (Arabic for what many loosely refer to as the “Islamic State”) continues as the single greatest challenge for us all. Syria awaits, amid unabated devastation and bloodshed, a solution. The stubborn violence in Libya is ongoing. The so-called Middle East Peace Process is all but dead. Uncertainties over Iran’s destabilizing ambitions linger. Yemen is in the throes of a serious conflict. Our region continues to be the single worst breeding ground for extremism and harboring terrorism. At the same time, it has become the greatest importer of foreign fighters. Add to this the steep drop in oil prices, which has done nothing to enhance stability. Not a happy story, is it?

And yet in a strange sort of way, within all these dynamics, “the unthinkable has been thought!” There has been a clarification on certain issues. For instance, the initial stages of a final agreement on the Iran nuclear program, which is probably the best possible political solution for this thorny issue, has been signed. The unlikely alliances countering Da’ish are bonding more closely. The full impact of extremism is forcing the global community into a more cohesive counter stance. Lastly, the situation in Yemen is worse in terms of violence than it was last summer, but at least something is being done about it. It is these topics – the macro implications of the nuclear agreement, Da’ish and extremism, and the micro implications of the situation in Yemen – that we will consider.

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Dr. John Duke Anthony on the GCC as an Opportunity

Statement from Dr. John Duke Anthony, Founding President and CEO, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations; Member, Secretary of State Kerry’s Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy and its Subcommittee on Sanctions; and Adjunct Professor, Defense Institute of Security Assistance Management; on occasion of the C3 Summit 2013 in New York.

Wael Fakharany, Ransel Potter, and other distinguished speakers and guests, I am honored to have been asked once again to address you at this second annual C3 Summit in New York. I am also pleased to be asked to identify an opportunity largely overlooked by the rest of the world and especially by many in the United States that will continue to have an extraordinary impact on global affairs. Such an opportunity is the little known but growing and increasingly formalized American relationship with the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member-countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Arabian Peninsula

The GCC and its members arguably represented such an opportunity from the beginning of its establishment in May 1981. Certainly, the region they inhabit then as now is the one area more than any other on the planet to which the United States has mobilized, deployed, and led an internationally concerted coalition of the world’s armed forces three times in the last quarter century.

Even so, and despite the GCC countries wishing it were otherwise from the outset, and despite also the European Union (EU) and its member countries taking advantage of the opportunity practically from the beginning, often at America’s expense despite the latter’s economic and strategic comparative advantage, the United States mainly failed to do so.

Instead, for reasons arguably anchored in the deep-rooted and pervasive American negative stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims, and an undeclared suspicion of the potentially controversial use to which the extraordinary resources of such a collectivity might one day be put, one set of American Executive and Legislative Branch leaders after another paid little heed to the Riyadh-based GCC General Secretariat. Neither did Washington officialdom take seriously or respond credibly and respectfully to the members’ various overtures to try and place their relationship with world’s strongest power, and vice versa, on the firmest foundation possible.

Now, however, this has largely changed. At least on the economic and strategic fronts as they relate to America’s and the GCC’s respective quests for greater regional and global security and stability, and the respective potential for increased prosperity at both ends of the relationship, there is the end of an error and the beginning of an era quite unlike any before.

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Dr. John Duke Anthony on the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum

Third Ministerial Meeting of the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum in New York City on September 26, 2013. Photo: U.S. State Department.

Yesterday marked another significant event in the evolution of the U.S. relationship with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. GCC Foreign Ministers, GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met in New York for the Third Ministerial Meeting of the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum. The forum was established in March 2012 “to deepen strategic cooperation and coordination of policies to advance shared political, military, security, and economic interests in the Gulf region, foster enhanced stability and security throughout the Middle East, and strengthen the close ties between the GCC and the United States.”

National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President and CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony, the only American to have been invited to each of the GCC’s Ministerial and Heads of State Summits since the GCC’s inception in 1981, remarked that: “This meeting represents another significant step toward placing the relationship between the U.S. and the GCC on a more solid and enduring foundation. The growing U.S. awareness of the GCC is vital. It is hard to imagine an organization, geographically significantly larger than all of Western Europe combined, that has a larger global reach — in terms of its internationally-oriented policies and positions, in terms of its actions and attitudes — regarding its members and billions of other people’s issues, regarding its members and billions of other people’s legitimate needs and concerns, and regarding its members and billions of other people’s legitimate interests and national development processes as well as foreign policy objectives.”

Gulf Cooperation Council

Dr. Anthony added that, “[l]est one regard the GCC as a still evolving and relatively insignificant entity when it comes to major matters of importance and interest to the world, one need only ponder the following. For example, the GCC, in cooperation with the League of Arab States, the United States, and NATO, played a formidable transitional role in the situation in Libya in 2011; the GCC countries were the first to pledge billions in economic stabilization support, humanitarian aid, and developmental assistance to Egypt’s massively impoverished people; the GCC’s central role — personally and especially that of GCC Secretary General Dr. Al Zayani — in brokering the peaceful transition in Yemen’s presidential power in 2011; and the GCC’s extraordinary example of monetary, fiscal, and overall financial and economic stability from 2008 onwards despite the economic upheavals in practically every place else in the world.”

Posted below are links to remarks by Dr. Abdel Aziz Abu Hamad Aluwaisheg, GCC Assistant Secretary General for Negotiations and Strategic Dialogue, made at the National Council’s 21st Annual Policymakers Conference on Arab-U.S. relations on October 26, 2012, along with the full text of a Joint Communique issued following the Third Ministerial Meeting for the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum September 26, 2012 in New York.

Remarks from Dr. Abdel Aziz Abu Hamad Aluwaisheg at the 21st Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference:

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GCC Information for Reference

As the 33rd Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Ministerial and Heads of State Summit approaches on December 24-25, 2012 in Manama, Bahrain, the Arabia, the Gulf, and the GCC Blog presents for reference a listing of GCC-related posts from the past several months.

“A Window onto the Gulf Cooperation Council” – Remarks by His Excellency Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani

“A Window onto the Gulf Cooperation Council,
Together With a View Regarding Its
Involvement Of Late With Yemen”

Remarks by

His Excellency Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani,
Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council

to the

Gulf Research Center’s Third Annual Gulf Research Meeting,
University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom

July 11, 2012

Introduction by Dr. John Duke Anthony,
Founding President and CEO of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations

 

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations is privileged to publish the remarks made earlier today by H.E. Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, who has granted his permission.   The occasion is the three-day Third Annual Gulf Research Meeting (GRM) presented by the Gulf Research Center (GRC) with offices in Jeddah, Geneva, and Cambridge, UK.   Founded by Dr. Abdalaziz Sager less than two decades ago, with the overriding strategic maxim of “Knowledge for All,” the GRC has rapidly become a leading institute specializing in research, education, seminars, workshops, publications, and consultancy.

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