Some believe ongoing regional and international diplomatic mediation could bear fruit soon, while others believe the crisis will escalate further.
Based on current facts, I’m leaning towards the second scenario. Despite sincere efforts, diplomatic moves and mediation by many Gulf parties, such as Kuwait, and international parties, such as the US, and possibly an attempt by Russia, I believe the crisis will continue. There will not be conciliation for the time being because of Qatar’s arrogance and obstinacy. When tensions erupted in 2014, there were quick moves to contain them but Qatar only complied for eight months, until King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz died. Today, the crisis is compounded and the demands on Qatar are 10 times more than in the past.
Qatar pivoted towards Iran after air, land and sea sanctions by Gulf countries. Qatar is sending gas to Iran and Iran is sending food to Qatar. Allowing Iran to win over Qatar and fulfil its goal of having a Sunni country in its camp would deflect claims its plan for the region is Shia domination.
The Gulf dispute can only be resolved among Gulf countries. We have overcome many obstacles before, and the crisis today demonstrates that Gulf differences should not escalate beyond Gulf borders. Second, despite the crisis, Gulf countries still insist on a [Qatari] state, especially along the Saudi-Emirati axis with Bahrain and Kuwait. The Gulf remains strong. We are talking about one country, and it cannot distance itself from its Gulf brethren. Gulf countries will not accept Qatar moving away and Qatar will not accept distancing itself from Gulf countries.
Qatar continues to look towards Iran and Turkey, but Gulf countries insist they want to prevent outside infiltration of the Gulf region.
The Iranian option is suicide for Qatar and the Turkish option is ruinous. Iran attempted to meddle in Yemen and the Gulf response was resolute to show there is a red line in Yemen, and Qatar is even more critical. Iran will not be allowed to meddle in the Gulf. Gulf countries went to Yemen to block Iranian intervention and expansionism; Iran will never be allowed to infiltrate one inch into the Gulf via Qatar.
Qatar is likely to pay a high price, perhaps a palace coup or shut down of influential forces in Qatar’s foreign policy. This goes beyond the Gulf region and includes countries such as Egypt who demand that Qatar stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar also supports terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State in Libya.
UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Qarqash told the media that we are in loggerheads over policies not governments. Egypt holds the same view; it wants a change in policies not government. However, if policies are convictions and changing policies means changing convictions, then we must change governments. Full stop.
Who benefits from this crisis? Especially since Gulf citizens are also affected by restrictions on Qatar.
In every crisis, there is the biggest loser and biggest winner. It is natural that some will exaggerate gains and others will minimise losses. Primarily, there is Iran and Erdogan; then the Muslim Brotherhood and Russia using the issue to assert its international presence. Extending the crisis serves the interests of those who benefit from it, and want to weaken the Gulf’s soft and hard powers. Currently, there are signs of escalation and progression. The Gulf region knows who is targeting it and wants its decline, because of its influence. There are so many of them.
Some believe that Arab wisdom is absent and the Arab structure is changing, which impacts resolving Arab crises. For example, the late Sheikh Zayed mediated in similar situations.
No. Arab wisdom is present, and sages still exist. Currently, King Salman represents wisdom, and we are counting on his acumen and statesmanship to manage the crisis and handle it until its conclusion.
*This article was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly