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Ed Webb

The Qatar Blockade Is Over, but the Gulf Crisis Lives On - 0 views

  • Officials from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar sought to end their rancorous three-and-a-half-year dispute over Qatar’s drift toward Iran and restore much-needed cohesion to the GCC, which also includes Kuwait and Oman. The GCC summit was a resounding success. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt lifted their blockade on Qatar and restored diplomatic relations with the country. Qatar also suspended its World Trade Organization case against the UAE’s economic isolation efforts.
  • the Gulf crisis is far from over. The reconciliation at the GCC summit was triggered by fatigue from the blockade and by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s desire to rebrand his tarnished image with the new U.S. administration
  • focus on symbolism over substance at the GCC summit bodes poorly for the organization’s long-term cohesion
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  • Mistrust between Qatar and the blockading states, an ongoing rivalry between the UAE and Qatar, sharp divergences in policy toward Iran and Turkey, and geostrategic contestation in Africa could reheat the Gulf crisis in the near future
  • the recent blockade’s impacts were felt at both the elite and popular level. Hardships, such as the separation of mixed-citizenship Saudi-Qatari couples, created lasting societal rifts. Saudi and Emirati state-aligned media outlets relentlessly promoted the narrative that Qatar was a state sponsor of terrorism, while Qatari media outlets equated the UAE’s religious tolerance policies with support for idolatry. In turn, Saudi, Emirati, and Qatari publics have increasingly come to view each other as adversaries rather than as neighbors or friends
  • The ongoing rivalry between the UAE and Qatar could derail any normalization in the Gulf. Since the 2011 Arab Spring protests, the UAE and Qatar have advanced competing visions for the region’s future. The UAE has condemned Islamist civil society movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, and, with few exceptions, has supported the forces of counterrevolution against those of political pluralism. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Bahrain align with the UAE. Qatar enthusiastically supported the post-Arab Spring Muslim Brotherhood governments in Tunisia and Egypt and continues to encourage popular unrest in the Middle East. Turkey is the principal backer of Qatar’s vision
  • The GCC remains divided especially on Iran and Turkey, which will impede intra-bloc cooperation on security issues
  • the GCC will remain bifurcated on Iran policy between a pro-engagement bloc consisting of Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait and a pro-isolation coalition comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain
  • Due to Turkey’s operation of a military base in Qatar and Doha’s standing as the second largest foreign investor in the Turkish economy, the Turkey-Qatar strategic partnership will only tighten in the post-crisis period. Qatar’s alignment with Turkey is a source of friction with the UAE.
  • the GCC could respond incoherently to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s escalations in the Eastern Mediterranean
  • Although countries that balance positive relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, such as Pakistan and Malaysia, benefit from the GCC’s reconciliation, the UAE-Qatar rivalry in Africa remains an unresolved source of friction. The UAE wishes to counter Qatar’s influence in Tunisia, which has grown due to large-scale Qatari investment in the Tunisian economy and Qatar-Tunisia diplomatic cooperation in Libya. Qatar has similarly capitalized on UAE-Algeria frictions, which were triggered by Abu Dhabi’s concerns about strengthening Turkey-Algeria relations and Algeria’s opposition to the UAE’s normalization with Israel.
  • The UAE and Qatar also vie for influence in Somalia. The UAE has close relations with the self-declared state of Somaliland, and Qatar aligns with Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s government
  • The United States should not view the GCC as a united security bloc. Regional strategies that depend on Gulf unity, such as the Middle East Strategic Alliance, should be shelved. U.S. officials should also carefully vet large-scale arms transfers to GCC countries, such as former President Donald Trump’s $23 billion arms deal with the UAE. These contracts could trigger reciprocal arms buildups that revive the Gulf crisis
  • the new state of cold peace on the Arabian Peninsula can benefit U.S. interests
  • As Qatar has returned to the GCC fold, it could act as a moderating influence on Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Biden seeks to revive
Ed Webb

Who in the GCC wants a union? - 0 views

  • Citing “security problems, economic challenges and other serious issues confronted by the region,” Bahrain’s Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa recently announced that the transformation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to a union is an “inevitable goal” of this month’s Manama Dialogue (Dec. 9-11).
  • With absolutely no illusions that Oman — historically the most independent member of the GCC — has changed its position, last month Ghanem al-Buainain, Bahrain’s minister of Parliament Affairs, stated that he sensed “great enthusiasm for the union from the other Gulf members.”
  • Many non-Saudis in the GCC view Saudi Arabia as an important ally, yet they also see the oil-rich kingdom as an overbearing neighbor who does not always respect the smaller Arab Gulf states’ sovereignty. Due to a host of domestic issues in the GCC and regional developments, which the Arab Gulf families see through different lenses, Riyadh and Manama officials may see their plan for a union falling on deaf ears.
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  • Kuwait is the GCC state with the most vibrant political life and democratic institutions. Opposition to a union from Kuwait is largely attributable to concerns about “collective security actions” that Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states could pursue to silence dissent and activism in Kuwait. Last month’s snap elections in Kuwait will bring in parliamentarians to the National Assembly from an opposition made up of liberals and Islamists whom other GCC states would not permit to hold any position of power in their own political systems. As many Kuwaitis take pride in their “half-democracy” and relative transparency and openness, the concept of a union has met its share of resistance in the country from voices across its political spectrum.
  • Doha has established ties with Islamist factions throughout the region and hosted many Muslim Brotherhood members — often done so at the expense of healthy relations with other GCC states. If other Arab Gulf countries such as the UAE, which designate the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist” group, and Qatar belong to a union, what will be the future of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi and other prominent Islamist figures who live in Doha?
  • Emiratis view themselves as a rival of Saudi Arabia for a dominant role in the region’s financial landscape, Abu Dhabi would not lend its support to a Riyadh-based Gulf central bank. In the UAE, where the authorities are waging a crackdown on Islamists, there has long been a belief that the Muslim Brotherhood operates in the Emirates on behalf of Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the purpose of undermining the UAE’s national sovereignty and independence.
  • Oman’s interest in deepening ties with Iran in commercial, diplomatic, energy and security spheres is a major factor driving Omani opposition to a union
  • Given the Kuwaiti and Qatari royal families’ cordial relationship with their countries’ Shiites who are loyal to the Al Sabah (Kuwait) and Al Thani (Qatar) rulers, threats of an Iranian-inspired Shiite revolution or rebellion have not provoked substantial sectarian tension in Kuwait since the end of the first Gulf war, nor has it ever done so in Qatar at any point following Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s rise to power in 1979. This outlook fundamentally contrasts with Saudi Arabia’s and Bahrain’s outlook, which is based on an understanding of Iran being a predatory state committed to toppling the Al Sauds and Al Khalifas through a violent revolution. Manama and Riyadh’s shared view of the Islamic Republic as an existential threat has closely aligned the two kingdoms and led Bahrain to maintain its strong support for a de facto Saudi-led union.
  • the option of perhaps one day importing Iranian gas may receive greater consideration if they remain relatively independent from Saudi Arabia in the framework of a council (not union) and their economic ills increase their interest in importing more natural gas. Yet a union would erase any realistic Kuwaiti or Emirati plans for signing gas contracts with Iran
  • there are grave concerns in the GCC about the US’ long-term commitment as the council’s security guarantor
Ed Webb

How Trump can deal with Iran-GCC conflict - 1 views

  • Coupled with Trump’s desire for regional allies to do more to provide for their security is an explicit understanding he has that US military intervention in the Middle East has achieved little and comes at far too great a cost. “We’ve been fighting this war for 15 years,” he told "60 Minutes" Nov. 13. "We’ve spent $6 trillion in the Middle East, $6 trillion, we could have rebuilt our country twice.”
  • Recently, I attended the Third Annual Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate, where hundreds of regional Arab participants claimed that Iran is bent on regional hegemony and interferes in the affairs of Arab countries. Additionally, they blamed the United States for attacking Afghanistan and Iraq and handing the region to Iran. As the only Iranian at the conference, I reminded them that the US war on terror was triggered by the Sept. 11 attacks, which was carried out by 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudis. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was for years also a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ally, which supported him throughout the brutal eight-year Iran-Iraq War. Afterward, when Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, the GCC called on the United States and its allies to come to their rescue and push back Saddam. In the case of two other Arab countries — Libya and Yemen — that have collapsed in recent years, the GCC was directly involved in military strikes that destroyed the state in these countries. Trump’s line of thinking on these issues is in the right direction. To foster a more peaceful Persian Gulf, it is imperative for the United States and its allies to play a more assertive role in fostering regional stability and for America to abandon strategies centered on regime change and military intervention.
  • A CSCE-type process for the Persian Gulf — one which includes Iran, Iraq and the six states of the GCC — can be a way toward fostering a stable regional order. While much separates these states today, a gradual process that begins with their simply holding regular meetings where they can communicate their security grievances can result in more cooperative relationships' developing over time.
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    Fascinating proposal from a seasoned Iranian diplomat. I don't see the GCC or Iran's hardliners going for it. But no harm to float the idea.
Ed Webb

Kuwaiti activists targeted under GCC security pact - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middl... - 0 views

  • Kuwaiti civil society is one of the most vibrant in the Gulf, hence its early rejection of the GCC Internal Security Pact, which was interpreted as yet another attempt to silence dissent in their own country. Many Kuwaiti activists resented Saudi hegemony, which the pact is meant to strengthen not only in the small emirate but the other ones, too. It is evident now that criticizing Saudi Arabia is taboo, the violation of which definitely leads to perhaps several years in prison. Kuwaiti apprehensions were not unfounded but they couldn't do much about the treaty that was ratified by their parliament. Several opposition groups boycotted the elections that eventually produced a docile body. On the other side of the border, there was no debate or controversy related to the pact as Saudis are completely disenfranchised. The only consultative council they have is appointed by the king and has no power to discuss security pacts with the GCC or other countries.
  • there is more to the recent detentions at the request of Saudi Arabia than simply freedom of speech. Regardless of their ideological affiliations, all the detainees belong to tribes that have historically lived between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Also all the detainees have gone beyond their Bedouin way of life to acquire education, political visions and determination to be part of states established when they were lacking skills. The governments of most GCC countries prefer the tribal Bedouin population to remain as part of folklore. Their ancient tents, camels and coffee pots are a reminder of a pure Arabian heritage, lost under the pressure of globalization, foreign labor populations and the ethnic diversity of the coastal states. So Gulf leaders, including the Kuwaitis and Saudis, prefer the Bedouin to be in the museum and the folklore heritage festivals rather than in public squares, demonstrating against corruption and calling for true citizenship
  • Today, not only Saudi Arabia but also Kuwait have to manage a different citizen, namely the "tribal moderns” who speak the language of human rights, freedom of speech, civil society, accountability, anti-corruption, elections and democracy. Such slogans are written on placards, chanted in demonstrations in Kuwait and virtually circulated in Saudi Arabia, as demonstrations are banned.
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  • The tribal moderns may endorse Islamism, or liberal democracy, but the fact of the matter remains constant. From the perspective of regimes, they are a dangerous bunch, simply because if they invoke tribal solidarities, they may be heeded by their fellow cousins, both imaginary and real.
  • No doubt, activists in Kuwait and other GCC countries will fall under the heavy weight of a pact designed above all to control, monitor and punish dissidents. The GCC itself may not move from cooperation to unification in the near future but it has certainly become yet another mechanism to silence peaceful and legitimate opposition across borders. Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/03/saudi-gcc-security-dissident-activism-detention-opposition.html Madawi Al-Rasheed Columnist  Dr. Madawi Al-Rasheed is a columnist for Al-Monitor and a visiting professor at the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has written extensively about the Arabian Peninsula, Arab migration, globalization, religious trans-nationalism and gender. On Twitter: @MadawiDr !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+'://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs'); function target_popup(a){window.open("","formpopup","width=400,height=400,resizeable,scrollbars");a.target="formpopup"}
Ed Webb

Saudi-Bahraini Gulf union opposed by Iran, GCC states - Region - World - Ahram Online - 0 views

  • Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal maintains that the two kingdoms were on their way to integrating and added that the leaders of GCC had postponed declaring the shift from the "cooperation stage" to the "union stage" in order to confirm the details of the merge. Despite the statements made by Al-Faisal, it seems that there are profound splits among the GCC countries on the idea of the union.
  • Smaller GCC countries are afraid of losing political and economical influence to Saudi Arabia whose population is five times bigger than Oman; the second biggest country in the GCC by population
  • Saudis believe Iran encouraged the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in order to dominate the region and used it as a launch pad to "swallow" the Arabs. They also accuse Tehran of inciting Shia-led protests in Bahrain and triggering turmoil among the Shia minority in Saudi Arabia.
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  • Iranian MPs claimed that Bahrain was the "14th governorate” of Iran and that Bahrainis wanted to “return to the motherland."
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    Poorly written article, but some useful nuggets
Ed Webb

Saudi Gazette - Slow down trade with Russia, GCC firms urged - 0 views

  • “The Russians need us commercially more than we need them. The entire global market is our playground, from Australia to Hawaii. We are traders by birth and culture. The GCC countries produce more than 26 percent of the world’s oil. We are gradually transforming into a global market for gas supplies and renewable energy, in particular, solar energy. We truly could do without them.”
  • the GCC is looking to adapt to recent global economic and trade developments. This means seeking to strengthen ties with other fast-growing and influential countries such as Brazil, China and India, without neglecting trade relations with current primary partners. These international changes, which include the European Union’s enforced trade restrictions on GCC countries, require the GCC to reform its global economic relations
Ed Webb

Qatar Crisis: A Cautionary Tale - 0 views

  • As ties with the Obama White House deteriorated, ruling circles in Gulf capitals became increasingly muscular in pursuing their own regional interests. This was, in part, a reaction by Saudi and Emirati officials to Qatar’s assertive approach to the uprisings in North Africa and Syria between 2011 and 2013
  • The second phase of the Gulf states’ regional assertiveness (after Qatar’s activist approach in 2011 and 2012) played out in Libya, Yemen, the Gulf and Egypt. Saudi Arabia and the UAE funneled tens of billions of dollars in financial aid and investment in infrastructure designed to kickstart the ailing Egyptian economy. The UAE coordinated closely with Egypt and Russia to triangulate support for the Libyan strongman, Khalifa Haftar, as he battled Islamist militias in eastern Libya, carving out a largely autonomous sphere of influence separate from the internationally backed political process in Tripoli. The Saudis and Emiratis, together with the Bahrainis, withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in March 2014 and accused Doha of interfering in the domestic affairs of its regional neighbors.
  • On the international stage, King Salman of Saudi Arabia made clear his displeasure with the Obama administration by canceling his planned attendance of the US-GCC summit at Camp David in May 2015. Six weeks earlier, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had launched Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen. The Yemen war was designed to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi, ousted in 2014 by the tactical alliance of Iran-allied Houthi rebels and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s armed loyalists. Launched just five days before the initial deadline (later extended to July 2015) in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, the decision to take military action to counter and roll back perceived Iranian influence in Yemen represented a Saudi-led rebuke to the Obama administration’s belief that it was possible to separate the nuclear issue from Iran’s meddling in regional affairs.
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  • Another UAE-based visitor during the transition was Erik Prince, brother of Betsy DeVos (President-elect Trump’s nominee as secretary of education). Prince had been hired by Abu Dhabi to develop a private security force after the demise of Blackwater in 2009. He “presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis” and met with a Russian official in a UAE-brokered meeting in the Seychelles shortly before the inauguration, reportedly as part of an effort to establish a backchannel of communication over Syria and Iran.
  • In the early weeks of the administration, Kushner also reached out to Saudi policymakers, including Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud — like Kushner an ambitious millennial who had entered policymaking from a business background. They shared uncannily similar nicknames: “Mr. Everything” (MBS) and the “Secretary of Everything” (Kushner). The two men grew close and reportedly stayed up until nearly 4am “swapping stories and planning strategy” during an unannounced visit Kushner made to Saudi Arabia in October 2017.
  • A president and his senior staff determined to do things their way and bypass the traditional playbook of US foreign policy and international diplomacy offered a potentially rich opening for Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as did the political inexperience of many of the new appointees in the White House
  • The expectation in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi that the Trump presidency would adopt hawkish positions on regional issues such as Iran and Islamism that aligned closely with their own was reaffirmed by the appointments of James Mattis as secretary of defense and Mike Pompeo as director of the CIA
  • President Trump discussed Qatar’s “purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment because nobody makes it like the United States. And for us that means jobs, and it also means frankly great security back here, which we want.” The president’s comments made his subsequent swing against Qatar, after the Saudi and Emirati-led diplomatic and economic blockade began on June 5, 2017, even more surprising to observers of the presidency’s transactional approach to diplomacy.
  • the McClatchy news agency reported that SCL Social Limited, a part of the same SCL Group as Cambridge Analytica (the data mining firm where Bannon served as vice president before joining the White House) had disclosed a $330,000 contract with the UAE National Media Council. The contract included “a wide range of services specific to a global media campaign,” including $75,000 for a social media campaign targeting Qatar during the UN General Assembly. McClatchy observed, too, that Bannon had visited Abu Dhabi to meet with MBZ in September 2017, and that Breitbart (the media platform associated with Bannon both before and after his brief White House stint) had published more than 80 mostly negative stories about Qatar since the GCC crisis erupted
  • a striking element about the Saudi-Emirati outreach is the limited success it achieved. Officials may have seized the opportunity to shape the administration’s thinking and succeeded temporarily, in June 2017, in getting the president to support the initial action against Qatar, but that proved a high watermark in cooperation that did not lead to any substantive follow-through
  • The transactional approach to policymaking taken by the Trump presidency is not necessarily underpinned by any deeper or underlying commitment to a relationship of values or even interests. An example of this came in July 2017 when President Trump told Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network that he had made his presence at the Riyadh summit conditional on $110 billion in arms sales and other agreements signed with Saudi Arabia. “I said, you have to do that, otherwise I’m not going,” bragged the president.
  • Although the crisis in the Gulf may have passed its most dangerous moment — when for a few days in June 2017 the possibility of Saudi and Emirati military action against Qatar was deemed so serious by US officials that Secretary of State Tillerson reportedly had to warn MBS and MBZ against any precipitous action — it has had significant negative consequences for both the region and Washington. In the Gulf, four decades of diplomatic and technocratic cooperation among the six GCC states has been put at risk, threatening the survival of one of the hitherto most durable regional organizations in the Arab world.
  • It is hard to see how the GCC can recover after the sub-regional institution has failed to prevent three of its members from turning on a fourth twice in three years, and when it has been absent at every stage of the crisis, from the initial list of grievances to the subsequent attempts at mediation.
  • Washington’s policy approaches toward Qatar appear now to have settled on the view that the standoff is detrimental to American strategic interests both in the Gulf and across the broader Middle East and should be resolved by Kuwaiti-led mediation. However, the confused signals that came out of the Trump administration during its first six months in office do constitute a cautionary tale. They illustrate the vulnerability of a new and inexperienced political class to influence, which came close to jeopardizing a key US partnership in the Middle East. Unlike, say, the US and Iran, there are no clearly defined good and bad sides the US should support or oppose in its dealings with the GCC members, all of whom have been pivotal, in different ways, to the projection of US power and influence in the region.
Ed Webb

BBC News - Saudis Arabia 'insulted' by UK inquiry - 1 views

  • Saudi Arabia says it is "insulted" by a parliamentary inquiry into how the UK deals with the country and Bahrain. Saudi officials have told the BBC they are now "re-evaluating their country's historic relations with Britain" and that "all options will be looked at".
  • In September, the British Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) announced it would be opening a wide-ranging review into the UK's relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain
  • The FAC said its new inquiry would look closely at how the UK balances its various interests in these countries in defence, trade, security, counter-terrorism and human rights.
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  • Saudi Arabia, long sensitive to western criticisms of its human rights record, believes the inquiry has been prompted by Shia activists from Bahrain, including those striving to overthrow the Sunni monarchy there
  • "Saudi Arabia's relations with the GCC is an internal matter among the six countries and we will not tolerate or accept any foreign interference in the workings of the GCC"
  • Saudi Arabia is a huge trading and defence partner for Britain with nearly £4bn of bilateral trade last year. According to the UK Trade and Investment Office there are approximately 200 UK/Saudi joint ventures with total investment of more than £11bn. Defence deals include the £7bn BAE Systems contract supplying the next tranche of Typhoon jets. Thousands of British expatriates work in Saudi Arabia and British companies involved there include Shell, GlaxoSmithKline, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and Marks & Spencer
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    The FAC inquiry may embarrass both the British and Saudi governments. There's not much to be done about that, though. It will be drawing attention to well-known existing tensions and contradictions in western, including British, policies toward the MENA region, rather than revealing anything new. The old bargain, propping up dictatorships in return for stability, has shown itself to have been based on false premises. The GCC states are very different from Tunisia or Egypt. But the demographic factors are there, and the transnational public sphere overlaps significantly. Choppy waters ahead, whether or not the FAC proceeds with tact.
Ed Webb

Arab countries' foreign policy ambitions could start hurting their economies - Business... - 1 views

  • There is a certain irony in the Arab Gulf states’ rising power across the Middle East and North Africa. International prestige, the ability to intervene militarily in regional conflict, and holding the same leverage as international financial institutions in aid and investment are what these states have long coveted. But now that they have the power – both economic and military – Gulf states like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are faced with the dilemma of demonstrating their dominance without destroying the neighbourhood.
  • Gulf states’ foreign policies are increasingly at odds with their economic interests
  • The economies of the Gulf states have changed dramatically since the beginning of the second oil boom, between 2003 and 2014. Joined together in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) trade bloc, they are more integrated into the regional and wider international economy in trade and investment flows
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  • The GCC’s outward investments in equity markets, especially towards Europe and the US, means it is also more integrated globally. And it has large amounts of foreign direct investment in infrastructure, agriculture and real estate across the MENA region.
  • The strength of their economic influence in the region lies in huge flows of capital – often a mixture of remittances, foreign aid, and foreign direct investment under the auspices of state-related bodies. This has enabled the Gulf states to usurp international institutions in shaping economic reform across the MENA region, especially in Egypt and other oil importers.
  • Politically, however, the GCC is engaged in numerous interventions across the region that have caused significant disorder and pose a threat to their mutual economic prosperity. The Gulf states were successful in crushing the Arab Spring within their own countries and cementing their development agenda. By contrast, their interventions in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Egypt have stoked the chaos there, putting the stability of the region at risk.
  • In each of these interventions, there is an incumbent economic cost to the GCC states. The war in Yemen is probably the best example of a mounting military expenditure that will only be dwarfed by the cost of re-building Yemen, which surely the UAE and Saudi Arabia will have to help foot. The Gulf States would therefore be wise to start dovetailing their foreign policies with their economic interests by fostering stability instead of conflict.
Ed Webb

Britain to deepen security cooperation with the GCC | UK News | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • British Prime Minister Theresa May has said that she wants to deepen defence cooperation with Gulf countries and work towards signing "an ambitious trade agreement" with them.
  • it is possible to say that she was mainly looking for the economic good news that the UK desperately needs at the moment
  • Theresa May was "in search of an alternative to the economic stability that the EU provided for the UK before the Brexit vote," Al Jazeera's Elshayyal said. "May now sees an opportunity in the GCC, not only because of the vast natural resources that are here, but also because of the idea that the GCC countries between themselves have a lot of trade agreements already in place. "So, to her, setting up a trade agreement here is like setting up something with a much bigger entity rather than just looking for bilateral trade ties between the UK and another country."
Ed Webb

What Does Jordan's Bid for GCC Membership Imply for the Arab Spring? | International Ne... - 0 views

  • After the upheavals following the Arab Spring and the resulting challenges to the existing regimes, the GCC may be in the process of reinventing itself and morphing into an alliance with a security bent intent on perpetuating the existing political status quo.
  • According to the pundits, the benefits to Jordan from joining the alliance are primarily economic.  Jordanian officials are touting the benefits of job opportunities for Jordanians; the opening of markets in the Gulf for Jordanian products; increase in aid; and easing of investment regulations. The problem is that the Gulf already attracts the best and brightest of the Jordanian labor force to the detriment of business development in Jordan; Gulf markets are open for quality Jordanian products; Gulf tourists have open access to Jordan; Saudi Arabia is the largest donor to Jordan; GCC money is encouraged to flow into Jordan and every attempt is made to facilitate investments.  
  •  The cost to Jordan will be on the geo-strategic front.  Extending membership to Jordan may have been an attempt to forestall the spread of the Arab Spring and political reform in Jordan, and by implication for Jordan to stand as a bulwark or buffer zone against the spread of reform.  In addition, Jordan may be the source of military personnel to defended existing regimes.
Ed Webb

GCC crisis, one year on: What's the impact on Gulf economies? | GCC | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • A year ago, the four Arab states of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a full land, sea and air blockade on Qatar.  Since then, the richest country in the world per person, was forced to tap into its sovereign wealth fund and do everything it could to shore up its economy, banking system and currency.
  • Ayham Kamel, head of MENA at global risk consultancy Eurasia Group, talks to Counting the Cost.
  • I think one year after the beginning of the Qatar crisis with the other GCC members, the economy is not crashing and Qatar seems to have adjusted to what is a very challenging situation.
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  • on the diplomatic front, we've seen an effort to engage with alternative powers - not only the US, but broadly to establish new trade links, try to cement those. So you have Qatar not really in an isolated position internationally, and that's a function of both, the importance of the gas reserves and gas exports, but also the financial cushion that Qatar has through its sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority
  • when it comes to the UAE and Dubai specifically, some of the repercussions have been more serious or more tangible. Be it financial transactions being shifted from Dubai to London or New York where Qatar has been involved, so there's a loss of business volumes there. And certainly when it comes to Jebel Ali and the exports through Jebel Ali, that have now been rerouted to Oman. So, we've seen a bit more of an impact there
Ed Webb

Opinion: Tunisia, A Gulf Crisis Battleground | The North Africa Journal - 0 views

  • Since the Arab Spring uprisings shook the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in 2010/2011, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members have sought to be drivers of political developments in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia—and, to lesser extents, Algeria and Morocco—not only through petrodollar diplomacy, but also through direct military intervention
  • The three-year-old GCC crisis—pitting Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt against Qatar since mid-2017—has significantly regionalized
  • By far, the Gulf crisis has played out more destructively in Libya than anywhere else in the Maghreb. Yet Tunisia is a salient example of how another North African country became an arena for the Gulf rivalry albeit one where far less violence has erupted
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  • From the beginning of the Arabian feud, officials in Tunis stressed their preference for not picking sides while also offering to help with diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the crisis.
  • Qatar gave Tunisia critical financial support in 2012 that helped the government in Tunis maintain domestic stability amid a sensitive period of time following the Jasmine Revolution. While under growing International Monetary Fund (IMF) pressure after President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s fall, Tunisia received USD 500 million from the Qatari National Bank
  • Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Arab Spring protests that shook Tunisia in 2010/2011 secured some greater soft-power influence for Qatar among Tunisian revolutionaries
  • Those leading Ennahda had ties to Doha dating back to the 1990s when Qatar was beginning its escape from the Saudi-led, counter-revolutionary order of the Arabian Peninsula
  • Emirati press often reports on the politics of post-Arab Spring Tunisia in ways that depict the country as having fallen under too much influence of Islamists, who are by definition “terrorists” as Abu Dhabi sees it
  • After Nidaa Tounes took power in 2015, the UAE’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan paid his first visit to Tunisia since 2011. While in Tunis, he met with then-President Beji Caid Essebsi, who founded Nidaa Tounes, and he invited him to the Emirates. Essebsi also paid Egypt’s president a visit in October 2015 and invited Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to Tunis. According to Emirati calculations, these developments were supposed to weaken Doha-Tunis relations. By opening up more channels of communication with Ennahda’s domestic opponents, Abu Dhabi wanted to bring Tunisia’s regional foreign policy into closer alignment with the Emirates, and further away from the Qatari-Turkish axis.
  • Just as the Qataris helped Tunisia maintain its stability during the aftermath of its 2010/2011 revolution, the Tunisians paid them back in terms of assistance in the domain of food security after the Saudi- and Emirati-imposed siege began.
  • Qatar is the top Arab investor in Tunisia
  • From 2011 to 2019, Doha’s exports to Tunisia doubled six times while Tunisian exports to Qatar doubled ten times. Qatar and Tunisia’s growing relationship has manifested in the signing of 80 agreements across a range of areas
  • leaders in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have seen the Jasmine Revolution as a threat to their model of “authoritarian stability” which entails support for Arab dictators such as Ben Ali. Both the Saudi and Emirati governments have major concerns about any country in the Maghreb holding free elections that open up the possibility of Islamists being empowered to govern. Furthermore, the growth of Qatari influence in Tunisia following Ben Ali’s fall has irked both Abu Dhabi and Riyadh
  • Certain segments of the population saw Doha’s agenda as geared toward supporting political Islam, not democratic revolutions in the Arab region. Such perceptions of Doha pushing Tunisia under the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence created problems for Qatar among many Tunisians who oppose Islamism.
  • One of the reasons why the UAE has more influence in Tunisia than the Saudis pertains to the Emiratis’ culture and ethos of trade and commerce which Tunisian businessmen easily understand and appreciate.
  • To this point, the majority of Tunisians are indifferent to the ideological underpinnings of the Gulf feud and simply want as much investment from as many Gulf and non-Gulf states as possible. The percentage of Tunisians who are staunchly ‘pro-Qatar’ or ‘pro-UAE’ is below 50, yet their percentage is increasing which underscores how the GCC crisis’ impact on Tunisia has been polarizing
  • Many of these citizens who staunchly welcomed the Jasmine Revolution see Abu Dhabi as a counter-revolutionary force seeking to topple Tunisia’s democratic government. A common narrative is that the Emiratis would like to do to Tunisia what they did to Egypt in 2013 in terms of bankrolling a coup d’état to reverse an Arab Spring revolution.
  • The UAE’s hand in Tunisia is certainly weaker than it is in Egypt or Libya. Tunisia lacks a military or “Deep State” that the Emiratis would be able to coordinate with to stage a popular coup d’état in which the putschists could enjoy a degree of legitimacy among Tunisians comparable to what the Egyptian junta enjoyed among ordinary Egyptians in 2013
  • Ennahda was more humble, moderate, and modest during its time at the helm compared to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Egyptian political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). As a result, Ennahda left Tunisians, including those who oppose political Islam, with less reason to favor a coup d’état to end the Islamist party’s role in the country system of governance.
  • UAE seems more set on preventing Tunisia from being pushed into the Qatari-Turkish axis’s orbit, particularly with respect to the conflict in Libya. Ironically, as Hamdi posits, Tunisia’s non-aligned politics vis-à-vis Libya’s civil war, which the UAE seems to accept, “is in line with Tunisian public opinion which predominantly [favors Tunisian] neutrality and a political solution and view Turkey’s military intervention with much suspicion.”
  • there are signs that the UAE and Saudi Arabia are frustrated with Tunisia’s view of the UN-recognized GNA as legitimate and Tunis’s opposition to foreign (including Emirati, Egyptian, and Russian) intervention in the conflict
  • Among secular Tunisians from elite backgrounds, there is a common narrative that Doha has been sponsoring terrorism and radicalism in their country. This message is in lock-step alignment with Abu Dhabi’s narratives about Qatar being a dangerous power in the Arab region. In fact, some opponents of Ennahda have even accused the party of covering for Qatar’s alleged role as a driver of terrorism in post-Ben Ali Tunisia and wished that Tunis would have supported the blockade of Doha in 2017
  • that Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda reached a political compromise has helped Tunisia achieve significant political stability and peace despite all the chaos in the region. Experts agree that this landmark “secularist-Islamist rapprochement” could have been severely undermined by Tunis picking sides in the GCC dispute
Ed Webb

GCC to form unified military command - Al Arabiya News - 0 views

  • The Gulf Cooperation Council has approved the formation a unified military command structure, announcing the move in a closing statement of a two-day annual Gulf summit held in Kuwait City on Wednesday. The bloc also agreed on the formation of a unified police force, to protect the six-member council from security threats posed to the region.
  • On Iran, the Gulf states hailed the Islamic Republic's "new orientation" in recent nuclear talks. The monarchies said they "welcome the new orientation by the Iranian leadership towards the Gulf Cooperation Council and hope it will be followed by concrete measures that would positively impact regional peace."
  • summit follows a rare public spat between bloc leader Saudi Arabia and Oman over Riyadh's proposal to upgrade the GCC into a union -- 32 years after its establishment
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  • Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi said Oman “will simply withdraw” from the body if the five other GCC members - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar - decide to form a union.
Ed Webb

Saudi Arabia and the UAE Could Spoil Oman's Smooth Transition by Fomenting Regional Ins... - 0 views

  • Oman remains vulnerable to both foreign and domestic sources of instability as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates seek to expand their regional influence. Potential causes of domestic unrest—including high unemployment, budget deficits, and dwindling oil reserves—lack clear-cut solutions. Sultan Haitham faces multiple challenges even without the threat of foreign meddling, yet Oman’s neighbors may view the death of Qaboos as a unique opportunity to advance their own expansionist agendas.
  • Oman resisted Saudi Arabia’s attempts to use the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as a tool to serve the Saudis’ foreign-policy agenda, most visibly when Oman’s minister of state for foreign affairs publicly rejected King Abdullah’s plan to deepen the GCC into a Gulf Union in 2013, and was the only GCC state to not participate in the Saudi-led military incursion against Yemen that began in 2015.
  • Sultan Haitham comes to power at a time when the Trump administration has repeatedly signaled its support for Saudi Arabia and antipathy toward Iran. The belated naming of low-ranking U.S. officials to attend the official ceremony honoring Sultan Qaboos was widely interpreted as a slight against the Omanis; the U.K., in contrast, sent both Prince Charles and Prime Minister Boris Johnson to pay their respects.
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  • Saudi leaders likely hope that Sultan Haitham will be more amenable to a Saudi-led Gulf, and without U.S. support, Oman may feel pressure to acquiesce or face potential repercussions. Omani officials have privately expressed concerns that Oman could be the next target of a Saudi- and Emirati-led blockade
  • Despite precipitating the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has used its military presence there to declare its intention to build a pipeline through the Mahra region and construct an oil port on the Yemeni coast. Saudi Arabia currently ships oil through the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb strait, whereas the proposed pipeline would allow direct access to the Indian Ocean.
  • Mahra has close links to the adjacent Dhofar region of Oman, which has long viewed the province as an informal buffer from the instability in other parts of Yemen. Sultan Qaboos offered aid as well as dual citizenship to residents of Mahra as a means of eliminating the potential for another conflict resembling the Dhofar War of 1963-1976, which drew cross-border support from the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen operating from Mahra into Dhofar
  • Inhabitants of Mahra have expressed frustration with the presence of both the Saudis and Emiratis, given that these kingdoms’ alleged foes—the Houthis as well as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—are not present in Mahra
  • The UAE has taken control of the Yemeni island of Socotra, building a military base in a unique ecosystem nominally protected by UNESCO. The UAE is also building bases in Eritrea and Somaliland as part of a plan to develop a “string of ports” that will allow it to project power and escape possible pressure from Iran in the Persian Gulf.
  • Other Emirati ambitions include the Musandam Peninsula, an Omani enclave that forms the narrowest point in the Strait of Hormuz. The inhabitants of the peninsula have close ties to the UAE, as Musandam connects geographically to the emirates of Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah, rather than Oman. Oman’s control of the strategic chokepoint reflects the sultanate’s history as an empire whose territory once stretched from southern Pakistan to Zanzibar. 
  • The border between Oman and the UAE was only formally demarcated in 2008, but Omanis see a circle of potential threats arising from Emirati activity in or possible designs on Musandam, Mahra, and Socotra.
  • the UAE may feel that Oman’s new sultan may be more receptive to alignment with Emirati objectives than his predecessor
  • Oman has failed to significantly diversify its economy
  • As in many oil-dependent economies, unemployment is high, especially among young people
  • During the popular uprising of 2011, which brought thousands of Omanis to the street for the first time, the government used its nest egg to pay for a massive expansion of the government payroll.
  • there are no available resources to try to finance a transition away from oil, and the low price of oil has further impeded the government’s efforts to meet its obligations
Ed Webb

Analysis: Has the Gulf reconciled after the Qatar blockade? | GCC | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • From beginning to end, the blockade of Qatar was a textbook study of a regional crisis in the age of US President Donald Trump and the weakening of the rules-based international order. What amounted to a power play designed to isolate Qatar politically and economically began with the hacking of the Qatar News Agency and the planting of a fake news story purporting to report incendiary comments by Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. This made the chain of events that followed a real-world manifestation of a crisis rooted in the notion of “alternative facts”
  • a series of interactions seemingly intent on appealing to the transactional and unconventional style of decision-making in the White House by creating and amplifying an influence campaign portraying Qatar as a negative actor in regional affairs.
  • By September 2017, the blockade had settled into a holding pattern that lasted for the remainder of Trump’s turbulent presidency
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  • a recognition of flexibility that relations between Qatar and the four blockading states will not all proceed at the same speed or depth. Already, there are signs that ties have improved fastest and farthest with Saudi Arabia and (to a lesser extent) Egypt, which likely reflects the fact that much of the original animosity behind the blockade did not originate in Riyadh or in Cairo
  • hardly surprising that the transition from Trump to Biden also saw the ending of a blockade that would likely never have happened under any other president
  • The failure of the Trump administration to respond to the series of attacks on maritime and energy targets in and around Saudi Arabia and the UAE culminated in Trump publicly distinguishing between US and Saudi interests in the aftermath of the missile and drone attacks against Saudi oil facilities. The 2019 attacks, linked to Iran, punctured the regional assertiveness of Saudi and Emirati policymaking as well as the assumption, particularly when it came to anything to do with Iran, that their interests and US interests were effectively one and the same
  • The blockade of Qatar was the longest rift in the history of the GCC, which marked its 40th anniversary on May 25, and, unlike previous periods of tension, its effect was not restricted to the level of leaders and policymaking elites but encompassed whole nations. Damage done to the social fabric of the “Gulf house” may take longer to repair and memories of the bitterness and rancour on media and social media platforms could linger. For the time being and the foreseeable future, though, all parties to the blockade are likely to establish a modus vivendi at least until the regional or international context changes again
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