Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

AUC Forum Considers Arab States of the Gulf

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

AUC Forum Considers Arab States of the Gulf

Article excerpt

AUC Forum Considers Arab States of the Gulf

Recent changes within the Arab states of the Gulf and their neighbors were examined at the American University in Cairo's Forum, "Changing Economies: The Gulf States Five Years After the War," held May 30, 1996 at the Union Club in New York City. Elias K. Hebeka, executive vice president of operations-worldwide, Revlon, Inc. and AUC trustee, presided over the panel which included three of America's leading experts on the Gulf region.

In his overview, Dr. John Duke Anthony, president and CEO of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, stressed that although there are obvious similarities among the Arab states of the Gulf -- all are oil-producing countries ruled by monarchical regimes which have a direct impact on the U.S. economy -- there also are striking differences between the northern and southern Gulf states.

There are striking differences between the northern and southern Gulf states.

The elites in the northern Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait, are linked by a similar ancestral background. They have enjoyed a longer period of independence, a better modernization experience, and have extensive dealings with the United States.

By contrast, the southern Gulf states of Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are less cohesive in their cultural background and tend to look toward Iran and South Asia for a shared heritage. Dr. Anthony concluded, "It is in the southern Gulf that we need, as Americans, to work harder, develop knowledge and understanding...in order to bring our country up to par in dealing with our interests and concerns."

Fareed Mohamedi, director of global oil markets at the Petroleum Finance Company, Ltd., described the current condition in the Gulf as "the holiday is over." This "holiday," Mr. Mohamedi explained, was a political and economic deal forged between the rulers and the ruled. In return for a political monopoly, the rulers gave the people strength in the form of oil revenues, secure jobs in the government, education, housing and health care. While civilians were granted deals and contracts by the government, it led to the growth of a foreign labor force which is now becoming a problem in the region.

"The Holiday is Over"

According to Mr. Mohamedi, the economic holiday started to unravel in the 1980s with the decrease in oil prices, and it was further affected by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which had a demoralizing impact on the region. …

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