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Worries and wounds caused by cousins

May 01, 2014 - 1:09:35 am

Can we presume that the intra-Gulf crisis has ended? Perhaps the settling down of the dust after the storm portends the arrival of rains. A Saudi-Qatari deal was hammered out and announced, but the leaks before the deal are proving to be baseless. It is important to look at the lessons that can be learned from the crisis. This will help us avoid repeating the crisis in future. Studying history is important in that it teaches people lessons. 

An obscure and little-known man appeared suddenly to stage a coup against the elected government of Dr Mohamed Mursi. The world shuddered in fear, waiting to see the ramifications of this coup. It is always the way with coups that they never happen without bloodshed and instability in the social fabric of countries. The bloodshed climaxed during the “Rabaa massacre”, as it was called. Problems then started to arise in the Arab world as a result of the bloody nature of Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, the army chief who led the move to oust Mursi last year, as well as his desire to wield power. 

Cracks started to appear in the Gulf edifice at this juncture. These cracks started to widen. Money began to be lavished on Al Sisi’s regime by some Gulf countries in unprecedented ways. This money was strongly linked in the minds and hearts of Egyptians with what had happened on eastern Cairo’s Rabaa Square in mid-August. 

Qatar preferred to stay away for fear that its hands would be stained with blood. This country was also stunned by the scale of violence and bloodshed as well as the number of bodies piling up. It was shocked by the number of people being thrown into Egyptian jails, people who had opposed the coup. 

Abu Dhabi, for its part, declared itself the self-appointed striker in Al Sisi’s battle. It sent delegates to Cairo to announce unrealistic housing projects as part of its efforts to calm things down and pave the road for military rule, which is opposed by the majority of the Egyptian people. 

Abu Dhabi also bought properties in downtown Cairo with the aim of turning them into oases for the bourgeoisie elite in the middle of an ocean of poverty in the Egyptian capital. It also signed huge contracts to complete the Suez Canal coast project in an inhuman move aimed at suspending the project previously planned by president Mursi. 

It aims to suspend the project in order to protect its own ports, forgetting that all these contracts can go with the wind when military rule ends. 

In the meanwhile, Iran and the United States signed a deal on the former’s nuclear programme. The deal made the states of the Gulf feel that they had no backing while there was a major regional power that could threaten them any time. This filled Saudi Arabia with anger at its ally, the United States. This anger was manifest in a new détente between Saudi Arabia and Russia. Riyadh also started reconsidering everything. 

Everybody expected the Gulf states to reunite and form a strong economic, military and human bloc capable of countering the ambitions of Iran, which has been interfering in Gulf affairs from Yemen to Bahrain and the eastern parts of Saudi Arabia. 

Suddenly, Abu Dhabi sent its foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed, to Tehran to start a far from innocent charm offensive. 

“Trade exchange between the United Arab Emirates and Iran has reached a total of 44 billion dirhams,” bin Zayed said at the concluding session of the higher UAE-Iran committee in the presence of the foreign minister of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif. “In 2012, however, this volume of trade had reached 25 billion dirhams.”

He expressed the hope that tensions between Iran and the rest of the world would be resolved so that trade between his country and the Islamic republic would return to its old levels.

The Iranian foreign minister said there were 200 flights between Iran and the United Arab Emirates every month, adding that interaction between the people of both countries was age-old.

Zarif added that these old ties gave relations between his country and the United Arab Emirates a historical dimension, regardless of the current political situation between the two countries. 

He said the region was going through what he described as “critical conditions”. He said this made important and influential the roles Iran and the United Arab Emirates could play in the region.

“The region is threatened by terrorism and radicalism,” Zarif said. “This underlines the importance of the wisdom of leaders and continual dialogue among senior leaders in the two countries,” he added. 

The Iranian minister did not talk about any extremists and radicals like Hezbollah or the Houthis. He most certainly was talking about the people resisting them. He meant the different types of Salafism, the Muslim Brotherhood, Syrian revolutionaries and Iraqi Sunni revolutionaries fed up with the government of their country.

Abu Dhabi’s messing with the interests of the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf and Arab countries needs to be taken seriously. Loving an enemy cannot solve a problem. Abu Dhabi lit the spark of death in Egypt and then escaped to the embrace of Tehran in a move that did not please Riyadh. 

There are tons of meaningless papers lying at the headquarters of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the offices of the foreign ministries of the Gulf countries. These papers are gathering dust, waiting for someone to read them. They are about agreements signed among the member states of the Council. None of these agreements, however, has been put into effect. Experience says that these papers are worth nothing but gathering dust. 

When Qatar announced that it would not participate in the dance of death organised by Al Sisi, the Egyptian media opened fire on Doha. Dirty tongues started attacking Qatar and its symbols, using the worst of words to describe them. We Qataris tried to get over all the offences. Still, things reached a point where an Egyptian judge called for military intervention in Qatar, accusing it of harbouring enmity towards Egypt. The Gulf Cooperation Council should have taken this threat seriously and taken sides with Qatar during this crisis.

However, all the agreements signed by the Gulf Cooperation Council were fit for nothing in this regard. No measure was taken, except for a feeble statement issued by the Secretary-General of the Council denouncing the statement made by the Egyptian judge.  

The Saudi-Qatari deal did not come without a price. One party is still dealing blow after blow to prevent possible amity among the sister countries. 

Abdel-Khaliq Abdullah, a UAE academic close to the ruling elite in Abu Dhabi, said in comments on the deal signed between Saudi Arabia and Qatar that there were doves and hawks in each country. 

“At one time hawks controlled decision-making as far as Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy was concerned,” Abdullah said in an interview with CNN. “But I think the time of hawks in Saudi foreign policy is over,” he added. 

He said Bandar bin Sultan was the first of these hawks, which means that the doves are coming in to lead the way in the days to come. 

Is this a cry of pain because of the Saudi-Qatari deal? I will leave it to the readers to judge. 

Now we would rather be a real council or not at all. We would rather be committed to our collective security or not at all. Gulf governments would rather part of their peoples or play the role of the prisoner of these peoples. We would rather select our role in life or others would choose this role for us.

Many people out there are messing with our security. This region cannot mess up its own security any more. Our memories are full of worries and wounds caused by our cousins. That is enough.