Abdul Latif Al Zayani, the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council. (Karim Sahib / AFP)
DUBAI — Leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Wednesday announced the formation of a unified military command for the GCC countries.
The unified command set-up has been mandated to the GCC Joint Military Committee, according to a statement released by the council's secretariat at the end of the 34th Summit in Kuwait City, Kuwait.
The council also announced the establishment of the Gulf Academy for Strategic and Security Studies in the United Arab Emirates.
The academy will aim to bolster military cooperation through a unified education based institution, according to Matthew Hedges, analyst for the Institute of Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.
"The academy will look to increase knowledge transfer and greater comprehend a unified realization of threats across the entire GCC region," he said. "There will be an initial focus on missile defense, border security and counter terrorism.”
In the December 2000, the member states agreed to a joint defense agreement based on the principle that any aggression against a member state would be considered as aggression against all the GCC states.
The agreement obliged all the six states to provide military assistance to help each other. It further established a Joint Military Committee to supervise cooperation and promote collaboration in joint military exercises and coordination in the field of military industries.
"The declaration highlights the increasing construction of a regional security architecture which was started with the peninsula shield force and is an issue that is seen by outside observers to need more attention," Hedges added.
In 2006, Saudi Arabia circulated a proposal during the GCC summit meeting in Riyadh that called for the adoption of “centralized command and decentralized forces,” and to disband the Peninsula Shield force as a collective single military unit in the region.
The announcement came following years of indecision and non-movement. The kingdom proposed that each GCC state should designate certain military units to be part of the new structure and to station those units within each state’s national territory. The units would then be linked to a unified central command, according to a report published by Dr. Christian Koch of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, a German think tank.
However, what emerged was the 2009 agreement to create a joint force for quick intervention to address security threats, as was demonstrated in the UAE-Saudi intervention in Bahrain in 2011.
Last week, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel emphasized the need for greater cooperation between the GCC and the US, which will in turn sell weapons to the GCC nations as a single block. He added that the US wanted to expand missile defense cooperation in the region to combat threats.
The GCC statement also condemned Iran's continuation of the occupation of the Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa island.
"The GCC continues to support of the right of sovereignty of the UAE over the three islands and considers any actions or practices carried out by Iran on the the islands null and void, as they do not change the historical facts and the legal rights and sovereignty of the UAE over the islands," said GCC Secretary General Abdel Latif Al Zayani.