Middle east: new spirit, new alliances?

Middle east: new spirit, new alliances?

The crude US military base and airbase al-Udeid in Qatar. Image: U.S. Department of Defense/general public domain

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar want to make reconciliation. The dispute arose with Trump’s anti-Iran front. What comes now?

What is the new Iran policy, what is the new Syria policy?? Biden is president and will replace Trump on the 20th. January lottery. Yesterday, the show still belonged to his followers, QAnon shamans like the Buffalo Guy, and other bizarre characters who stormed the Capitol (liveticker on the "Attempted coup" in Washington). The event was also top news in the Middle East. An event that was mockingly described by a Turkish journalist as a "political event" was relegated to the background "Love is in the Air" commented on: the rapprochement between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar; Egypt also played a role.

Peace in the Middle East

To circumscribe the relevance of a rapprochement, it is worth recalling that the three-and-a-half-year dispute between the Gulf states over the attitude to Iran has become divisive, that there are hopes in Israel for a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia (after Netanyahu already celebrated such an agreement with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain), that the relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood is controversial and, finally, that these states have influence on the warlike conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

The dispute between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, on the one hand, and Qatar and Turkey, on the other, began with Trump’s aube policy and is heading in a different direction as his term ends. Reward is the distant goal.

Whether this will happen is not yet certain, the agreements of 5. January are put into perspective by observers that this is only a first step and that gross suspicion remains. What is certain is that the takeover of the Biden administration will set new directions in motion. How substantial they are, it is not yet possible to say, the core ie is the Iran policy.

Demonstrated cordiality and platitudes

On Tuesday of this week, 5. January, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was received by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in al-Ula in the northwest of the kingdom, emphasis was placed on demonstrating cordiality after years of every little thing like cigarette bumps degenerating into a symbolic monstrosity. The fact that pictures with such gestures were discussed for days on social networks is a small part of the media war between the countries, which has been waged for years with rough doggedness.

What was achieved in al-Ula? The full document of the agreements has not yet been published, it is expected to be full of "noncommittal platitudes", reported the vice-president of the think tank Middle East Institute. This also indicates a climate.

What was agreed above all was the intention that the crisis should be ended. The extent to which the trade blockade practiced by KSA and the UAE against Qatar for the past three and a half years will be suspended in practice remains to be seen. The FIFA president is already less concerned about the organization of the World Cup in Qatar.

All the demands made on Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab States (Power struggle in the Middle East: Qatar to be docile) were met by the emirate’s not fulfills. This included z.B. the end of al-Jazeera, the discontinuation of relations with the Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas – and not least a change in relations with Iran.

"There is no effect on our relations with another country", Qatari Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told the Financial Times.

The dispute had begun with Trump’s spectacular appearance in Saudi Arabia, where the U.S. president joined in the sword dance in May 2017, dividing the world into good and bad and trying to invoke an anti-Iran alliance (Summit in Saudi Arabia: Trump in the "world of good").

After that, the Qatari emir’s remarks were played out through the media, which turned out to be haretic against the community spirit, as the emir insisted on not isolating Iran, he did not share the image of the enemy in this form, the result was the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which was joined by the United Arab Emirates, and which led to the trade boycott and a permanent conflict accompanied by a media war.

Qatar as mediator between Saudi Arabia and Turkey

Now there is much speculation in expert circles about what will happen if Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar actually approach each other. Then Qatar could improve the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Turkey as a mediator, reports the French Middle East expert Georges Malbrunot.

This had a special tension in view of the development, which has been hinted at again and again since the end of 2018, according to which the Gulf states would make efforts to reintegrate Syria with the government of al-Assad into the circle of Arab countries – (Syria: Signs of an understanding between Gulf states and al-Assad). Recently, al-Monitor reported that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan had ied a joint declaration aimed at doing just that. The common thread that emerged from this report was that all of these countries have an interest in keeping the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood as small as possible.

The attachment to the Muslim Brotherhood, however, is a commonality between Turkey and Qatar. It will be interesting to see how Biden’s new Middle East expert will square the circle. This is supposed to be Brett McGurk, who has made a good name for himself among the Kurds in northeastern Syria. McGurk is an expert on the region. How great will be its influence?

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