Headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, The Gulf Cooperation Council was established in 1981 to, according to its charter, "effect coordination, integration and inter-connection among the Member States in all fields in order to achieve unity" and stress "the special relations, common qualities and similar systems founded on the creed of Islam, faith in a common destiny and sharing one goal" defined by the Arab identity.
The lofty words veiled a fear--that the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War would destabilize the regimes of the Arab Peninsula. The GCC presented the semblance of a united front against the rumbles across the Persian Gulf. None of the GCC countries is a democracy. None has a truly free press.
On paper, the GCC is the closest thing the Arab world has to a European Union-style common market. The GCC aims to develop common regulations in economic and financial affairs, commerce, customs and communications, and education and culture. It also aims to foster "scientific and technological progress in the fields of industry, mining, agriculture, water and animal resources; to establish scientific research; to establish joint ventures and encourage cooperation by the private sector for the good of their peoples."
In reality, the GCC has had somewhat of a harder time translating goals into reality. For example, its plan to have a common defense force of 100,000 troops has faltered, and its customs union, launched in 2003, is not fully implemented. A common currency is planned for 2010.