The Newsmakers: GCC diplomatic crisis



cut off by its once close allies surrounded by an unprecedented isolation in a sharp escalation of a simmering rift on Monday Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Egypt Bahrain Yemen Libya's Eastern based government and the Maldives all severed diplomatic ties with Qatar accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and meddling in the domestic affairs something Qatar denies Saudi Bahrain and the UAE gave all country visitors and residents two weeks to leave and the saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen pulled out all country soldiers but the severing goes further than just diplomacy almost little muscle will the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has decided to cut all land air and sea contacts with Qatar and to prevent the passage of land airspace and territorial waters the UAE Bahrain and Egypt followed suit it's expected to cause travel disruptions as Doha as a major international travel hub and as it's dependent on imported food many countries have been scrambling to stock up on supplies Qatar says these actions are completely unjustified and based on false claims and assumptions the move to sever ties comes after a media fallout last month cut our media reported statements by a mere Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-thani speaking out against Saudi Arabia and giving support to Iran but according to Qatar the comments weren't true and we're the result of a cyber hack but the damage it appears was already done broader grievances over geopolitics the place of Islam and governance and relations with Iran have been building between Qatar and its regional allies for years but the fallout has never been this severe this crisis puts other allies in a difficult position and they've been calling for reconciliation we certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences we think it is important that the GCC remain a unified and bit the sort of Nadia shape it is countries may of course have some issues and different ideas but dialogue must continue under every circumstance for existing problems to be resolved peacefully Dominus Azam kid q8 is trying to mediate the crisis and cut as foreign minister says he is ready and willing to talk but it's unclear whether Saudi Arabia and the others will also be willing to come to the table how deep will this rift with Qatar go and what will the continued fallout mean for the balance of power in the region you've it the color the newsmakers I'm joined now in the studio by Bors o draaga he he is a Middle East correspondent for BuzzFeed news in London Ian Black a senior fellow at the Middle East Centre London School of Economics and from Dubai Obi Shahbandar he is an international security fellow at the New America Foundation thanks all so much for joining us let me just begin by asking your theories on why this has happened and why so fast Bors or let me start with you why I think it's a little bit of a mystery we don't know why this happened at this moment but I wouldn't say it's been fast I say that this has been building for years now this tension between guitar on the one hand and Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the other one theory is that this is because of trump because Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia they got along very well with the the US president Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and they felt emboldened to take this move but that was still even a few weeks ago the timing of it as to why this very moment what precipitated it no one is quite sure I want to follow up with that theory in a second but first Ian let me ask you what's your consensus here well I I go for the for the Trump theory I mean I agree with bosu the the factors in the background have been around for a very long time that there was a was a crisis not quite as serious as this back in 2014 with a lot of the same issues the Saudis the Amorites angry at Qatar over the same kind of things Islamist the Muslim Brotherhood Syria Lybia extremism all that stuff but I think that the factor that has made a difference is the Donald Trump presidency I think that they have been indeed embolden they think they've got the presidents here and if you see what the president has been tweeting today on this I think they're right so that's that's my explanation there are other factors but I think in the immediate foreground it's down to Donald okay oh by Iran has actually said the same thing the line out of Iran is really that this is a deliberate u.s. effort to foment further division between Arab countries do you see that as the case no I do not see that as the case I mean if you're listening to what regional media outlets and experts are saying here in the Arabian Gulf regions that the primary reason that the Arab coalition of the Gulf Cooperation countries decided to isolate culture was that they believe that the country government had reneged on an agreement that was signed in 2014 by Doha and the Arab allies that committed the country government to not interfere in the internal affairs of other Arab countries in the region and the Arab alliance and it seems that the leadership of the Gulf Cooperation countries led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had reached a point where they decided the country government was not meeting the agreement that it signed in 2014 now there are many factors here and I think that President Trump's visit was a factor but let's not forget that it wasn't just the president Trump meeting in the Riyadh during the Riyadh summit during the second day of President Trump's visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia there was a coalition of countries led by the Kingdom and the Gulf Cooperation countries that signed what was called the Riyadh Declaration which essentially put the interference led by the Iranian government in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the region on par as a security threat with the extremist groups like Dodge and al-qaeda and it seems at the Gulf Cooperation countries and the Arab coalition believe that the country government is not fully in step with efforts to isolate malign activity by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the region so there I think multiple causalities here at play it wasn't just president Trump's meeting in Riyadh and it seems the onus he is being put on the country government for not following on upon the promises that it made now rest of the Arab alliance in the region nobody else we're seeing the events today let me ask you I mean is it interference or has Qatar just decided to foster different relationships from what the Saudis would prefer because it serves their interest better I mean let's not forget that Qatar and Iran together share one of the biggest gas fields in the world they need to get along well it's not a matter of normal diplomatic relationships with Iran every single Arab country in the Gulf Cooperation area does have normalized relations with Iran they have embassies in Tehran that's not the issue here what is at issue here is accusations by the Arab coalition that the country that representatives of the country government were opening up lines of communication and potential cooperation with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Qasem Soleimani and that's wholly separate than normalized diplomatic bilateral relation and the reality is that when it comes to the Middle East Iran's foreign policy is not red LED by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the normal diplomatic Channel but it is actually truly led by as secondary channels led by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards which as we know sponsor a variety of Shia militia extremists throughout the region which the Arab coalition view as a direct security threat to their to the to the region okay in fact that they're Qatar is being accused of actively abetting with that level of Iranian activity I think is what was a major driver to lead to its isolation today okay and it seemed you had a comment and if you could perhaps explain how Qatar can then have it both ways if it wants to serve cynical Iranian interests in the eyes of Saudi how is it also helping Saudi on the border with Yemen defending forces there well of course one of the dramatic elements of the story that has happened over the last 24 hours is that the kateri contingent in the saudi-led Coalition in Yemen has been removed so there they've been thrown out of that but you're right I mean it's a fascinating feature of both of Qatar and the wider issue that Doha manages to pursue policies which appear to be mutually contradictory but actually sit quite well together we all know that Qatar is home to the largest American airbase in the Middle East and all date it also has quite cordial relations with with Iran it's full of contradictions it's a country which I think the problem for its neighbors is that it acts independently it punches above its weight it is of course enormously wealthy but it's a very very small country and it is above all independent and has been independent of the wishes of these powerful neighbors the Saudis and the Emiratis in particular but that doesn't mean that it isn't full of contradictions it's also true that in the midst of this crisis which is now attracting so much attention if the reports are correct the categories actually have been quietly getting rid of of people from Hamas the Palestinian Islamist movement who have been based in Doha to the annoyance of the Americans the Israelis and they've actually done things that are in line with the demands being made of them so as they did also incidentally in the last crisis in 2014 they closed down the al Jazeera channel Robuchon masa which which was the source of enormous anger in in Cairo so they do respond to pressure at the same time as maintaining their ostensible independence the question now is whether they can respond in the same way without completely folding up and and losing face but they've always been independent and they've always done things which on the face of it a quite contradictory and keep their options open and they are under a lot of pressure and they've been defiant Bors let me ask you do you think Qatar right now especially given the fact that it's only land border is now closed can it afford to go rogue I mean I think it probably can afford to go rogue given the sea channels that it still has access to given the fact that it maintains good relations not just with Iran which already has offered to export foodstuffs to Qatar but also with Kuwait and Oman that is kind of interesting Kuwait and especially Oman also have good relations with Iran so I don't think that Iran is the issue here and let's not forget that the UAE especially Dubai has enormous ly strong relations with Iran in terms of air connections in terms of commercial ties I think the issue as Ian rightly pointed out is a certain independent-minded foreign policy that really rankles the Saudi Arabia the question is will they buckle will they pursue a independent course and I think that that is one of the issues that will really really be a big factor here because if the UAE and Saudi Arabia made this huge gamble and if they lose that will be a big blow to them and let's just be honest recent years the UAE and Saudi Arabia with these kind of schemes they have not had a good record they've failed in Syria they're flailing in the Yemen they have not been able they were not able to stop the Iran nuclear agreement despite all the money they spent lobbying Washington and so on so I am skeptical that this will succeed just based on the track record it could open up an opportunity for Turkey which is already committed to a security partnership with Betar it could open up an opportunity for Russia which is been pining for warm water ports and access for centuries and it could open up an opportunity for Iran and I want to go back to the theory I said I'd return to the one that you brought up about Saudi feeling very emboldened by Trump's visits to the Middle East and the we have some of the tweets that Trump has put out saying basically hooray for Saudi and this move to isolate Qatar do you think though if Saudi does indeed feel emboldened by Trump's support are they risking something here can that support actually backfire I think it could backfire I think there is a risk there and by the way we're not sure who's driving this policy because honestly Saudi Arabia is kind of okay with the Muslim Brotherhood that Qatar has been hosting I think really it's the UAE that's been driving this and it's basically I I get this image of a bunch of people sitting in a conference room with PowerPoint presentations trying to bring down the Qatari government this kind of plan never fit never never succeeds in the Middle East oh by I just want to get your response to to what boards had to say yeah yeah I mean it's important to look at the the months leading up to this current crisis both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the leadership of UAE had had bilateral visits with the Emir of Qatar Emir Tamim in the prior months there was a concerted effort to bring culture back into the fold of the Arab coalition and the GCC the Gulf Cooperation countries and ever since 2014 there's been an active effort to bring Qatar as as a as an member of the Arab Alliance and so when you speak to folks here in the region they will tell you that they feel betrayed that despite the effort by the king of Saudi Arabia and the crown prince in Abu Dhabi to improve relations with Qatar they will tell you that their cutter bit the hand that fed them so as we we have a saying we have an American saying that the chickens come home to roost and it seems eventually that the leadership of the Arab coalition both of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE have had just about enough with the intransigence of the Qatari government now whether or not Doha can survive this in 2014 and all the the Arab alliance merely withdrew their other ambassadors and returned them after one month one via Doha government agreed to a set of demands this time around it's much more serious we're already seeing economic indications that Doha is taking a major hit due to the embargo the land and air embargo they can only in my estimation they can't sustain this for long especially in terms of their ability to maintain internal cohesion and domestic cohesion in Qatar and it seems at this time that the Emir of Qatar may be doing his people a grave disservice by not abiding siling with the armed coalition when has mine animals I would never ask when has this ever kind this kind of logic when when has it worked has it work with Iran has it worked with Cuba why would it work with Qatar which has a lot more money a lot more diplomatic connections a lot more savvy and and I mean the if you saw the responses from the Avatar leadership it was wounded pride these guys are you know they're not about to just sort of buckle and give in to demands that would be rather humiliating is that really the way it works in the Muslim world in the Arab world in the Gulf that you humiliate someone into submission does that ever work ok we only have a few minutes left so I'm going to give each of you a chance to respond to this how do you foresee this if you do foresee this being resolved Ian go ahead we've seen already today the Emir of Kuwait Kuwait is interesting bozo mentioned this Kuwait is not part of this it hasn't taken any measures against against the categories its maintained its independence as have the O – the Emir of Kuwait looks likely to me I think the Tamina the Emir of Qatar has gone there or they're meeting in any event and I think that you will see an attempt to try to defuse this by people who are in the GCC but not the main players they are my knees we've heard less of it's important also to point out of course they are – I think somebody said have very good relations with the Iranians the issue to my mind by the way is not only about the Iranians it's much more about political Islam that is the issue especially for the Emiratis who are obsessed by the Muslim Brotherhood to the exclusion of of all else that is the sin of the categories certainly in Emirati eyes and I think that the Kuwait ease will try hard to see if they can at least calm things down for the moment or at least avoid this escalating any further Oh bye look the Arab the leaders of the Arab coalition of publicly stated today that they are looking for a framework of guarantees from Qatar if they are to bring doha back into the fold and to end kotler's isolation I think the leaders of the GCC in Saudi Arabia and UAE and Bahrain and others are going to look for serious solid guarantees from Qatar to rectify what they view has been extreme and tragedies from supporting extremist groups through interference and internal affairs and until then I think that the cutlery government is going to find itself in an extremely dire position okay for some final word I mean I'm just sort of fascinated by the new generation of Gulf leadership rising up and just taking these bold measures that were unprecedented before and I think that is really what you're seeing you're seeing a generational shift and new attitude a certain kind of recklessness I might say and it would be great if you had Western influential Western leaders who could come here and kind of provide some wisdom but it seems like we have the opposite right we have a US president that's actually throwing fuel on the fire with his tweets encouraging the Saudis to triple down so to speak and the Emiratis to triple down on this pressure on guitar explicitly taking the Patara taking the Saudi UAE position on this very vocally very publicly basically pulling himself out of playing a mediating role that the US could be playing ok bores ooh unfortunately were going to have to leave it there I'd like to thank all three of our panelists so much for joining us on the newsmakers

5 thoughts on “The Newsmakers: GCC diplomatic crisis

  • SAVE ME OUR COUNTRY PEOPLE AND EVERY COUNTRY PEOPLE & QATAR CITIZENS ALSO EVERY ONE IMPORTANT THANK
    THANK YOU

  • la tatty khezu yahood nasara auliya. …..ummah forget quran. …Our prophet says ummah will forget quran. …..

  • Muslims are sleeping!!!!! instead that they help eachother they are listening to those kuffar who want to DIVIDE the Ummah of Mohammed saws!!!! wake up everyone!!!!!

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