The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, which is concerned about Shiite Iran’s regional influence and the rise of Sunni extremist groups, agreed on Tuesday to create a joint naval force based out of Bahrain and announced a police force based out of the United Arab Emirates’ capital of Abu Dhabi.
The creation of the police force, known as GCC-POL, and the naval force were announced at the conclusion of the Gulf bloc’s annual summit in Qatar. The meeting was held just weeks after the Western-allied countries reached a reconciliation agreement linked to Qatar’s support for Islamist groups throughout the region.
The summit took place on the same day that the price of brent crude oil hit a five-year low of $65, with Kuwait’s emir warning in his remarks that the slide in price is impacting development programs. Gulf monarchs rely on income from oil to sustain generous welfare programs used to appease the public.
Qatari Foreign Minster Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah said the police force would improve cooperation against terrorism. “It will be an Interpol-like force but inside GCC countries,” he said at a news conference. GCC leaders announced officially at the summit that the force been established, but did not say when work had begun.
State-linked local newspapers say the police force is also expected to tackle drug trafficking, money laundering and cyber-crime.
“The emergence of terrorism … requires a concerted group effort from us and the international community to reach its root causes and cure its real political, social and economic causes,” Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said at the opening of the summit.
The Gulf monarchies hold that the marginalization of Sunnis in Iraq and Syria is a factor for the rise of extremist militants in those countries. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are staunch backers of Sunni rebels in Syria seeking to oust Iranian-backed President Bashar Assad.
Of the six GCC nations, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have taken part in airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. Qatar and Kuwait are hosting bases for Western countries active in the U.S.-led coalition.
The GCC also includes Oman, which has differed from its Gulf neighbors on Iran. Oman serves as a bridge in talks between Iran and the U.S.