ABU DHABI — The Gulf Cooperation Council has been warned of threats to its energy supplies.
A leading analyst has asserted that political instability would threaten the huge crude oil and natural gas reserves in the six GCC states. The analyst cited the rising unrest in other Arab League states, which so far have resulted in the overthrow of the regimes in Egypt andTunisia.
"Political instability makes negative impact on energy protection, stability in energy is crucial as political stability," Salman Sheikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center, said.
At a symposium in Qatar on Feb. 13, Sheikh reviewed theats to the Gulf region. He told an audience at Georgetown University-Qatar that much of the region was threatened by water and food shortages, which could spark another Arab-Israeli war.
"A better future is based on strategic peace than an innovative war," Sheikh said.
The speakers said GCC states would require their huge energy reserves to maintain stability. They said the the future of GCC security must be defined by its economies rather than militaries.
"Oil will continue to play an important role in the Gulf states," Mehran Kamrava, dean of Georgetown University-Qatar, said.
So far, the most vulnerable GCC state to civil unrest has been Bahrain, which contains the smallest energy reserve. Kuwait has also been threatened with protests inspired by the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.
NATO has also warned of threats to Gulf energy security. The alliance's deputy secretary-general Claudio Bisogniero said regional security could be bolstered by cooperation between the GCC and NATO.
"Security and energy are more interdependent," Bisogniero told a NATO conference on Feb. 15. "The war in Iraq, the new piracy phenomenon in the Gulf of Aden and the sabotage of energy transportation are only examples of this new relation between energy and security."
U.S. concerned its military presence vulnerable to unrest in Kuwait
ABU DHABI — The United States, with a major military presence in the Gulf Arab state, is closely monitoring rising unrest in Kuwait.
The State Department has warned the American community in Kuwait to avoid anti-government and other demonstrations in the Gulf Cooperation Council sheikdom. The department said any gathering could quickly target Americans.
"We remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence," the U.S. embassy in Kuwait said. "U.S.citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations."
In a warden message on Feb. 19, the embassy cited opposition protests in Kuwait City. Police and security forces have used batons and tear gas to disperse demonstrations by stateless residents as well as anti-royalists.
Kuwait has been a leading U.S. military hub in the Gulf. The GCC state, with an estimated 15,000 soldiers, serves as a waystation for the U.S. withdrawal from neighboring Iraq as well as an air supply route to Afghanistan.
So far, the unrest has not targeted Americans. The warden message warned of spontaneous demonstrations "in response to world events or local developments."
"U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times," the warden message said.
Meanwhile, a leading parliamentarian has called on the government to reform Kuwait's security agencies. The parliamentarian, Saleh Al Mullah, said the reforms must include greater accountability by commanders and officials as well as the guarantee of human rights.
"The harassment of a citizen for making critical comments made against those in charge of the state security service is unacceptable," Al Mullah said.
In a statement on Feb. 12, Al Mullah cited arrests of Kuwaiti dissidents over the last year. In January, Kuwait's interior minister resigned amid evidence that a detainee died from torture.
On March 8, 18 police officers and two civilians were scheduled to go on trial for the death of the detainee. Some of the defendants have been charged with torturing Mohammed AlMutairi.
Al Mullah said the security forces remain unaccountable to the government. He cited the lack of prosecution or discipline of Kuwaiti security chiefs in wake of the torture scandal.
"The state security chief holds greater authority than that of the interior minister," Al Mullah said.
Parliament has been examining restrictions issued by the Interior Ministry on assembly and political activity. Al Mullah said the probe would also extend to curbs on "freedom and human rights violations."
Saudi security on alert in Shi'ite areas after 'low-key' protest
ABU DHABI — Opposition sources said Shi'ites conducted a protest in the kingdom's EasternProvince near the border with Bahrain. They said the protest on Feb. 17 was limited to an appeal to release Shi'ite detainees.
"This was very low-key and there were no threats," an opposition source said.
The protest was reported to have been the first amid the wave of unrest throughout the Arab world. In neighboring Bahrain, Shi'ites have been demanding democratic reforms and a significant reduction in the authority of the Sunni king.
The Shi'ite website Rasid.com reported that the protest took place near Qatif on the Gulf coast. Rasid said demonstrators did not chant or hold up placards.
The sources said Saudi Deputy Prime Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz has placed security forces on alert in the Eastern Province, where most of the kingdom's Shi'ites live. They said senior officials, including Eastern Province Deputy Gov. Saud Bin Jalawi, relayed messages to the Shi'ites against joining the regional unrest.
The Saudi kingdom has expressed support for the Sunni leadership in Bahrain. The opposition has asserted that Saudi military officers have been advising Bahrain's KingHamad on how to control the Shi'ite unrest."Saudi Arabia is carefully following the developments and calls upon brothers in Bahrain to be reasonable in proposing their ideas, and accept what was offered by the government," an unidentified Saudi official told the Saudi Press Agency