Analysis: Has Qatar reconciled after the blockade of the Gulf? | Gulf Cooperation Council

June 5 is the fourth year that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt have imposed blockades on Qatar. It is also a rift in the five-month history of the organization that ended the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia. The way in which the 43-month blockade began and ended reflects the broader major changes that have taken place in the regional and international outlook since 2017.

Therefore, it is important to study the lessons learned from the past four years, whether the agreement signed in Ulla is durable, and how the reconciliation process will proceed.

From the beginning to the end, the blockade of Qatar was a textbook study of the regional crisis in the era of US President Trump and the weakening of the rules-based international order. A game of power aimed at isolating Qatar politically and economically began with a hacking attack on the Qatar News Agency and a fake news story aimed at reporting the incitement of Qatar’s emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani Speech. This makes a series of events happen in the real world, and the crisis stems from the concept of “alternative facts”-a term coined in January 2017 by Trump’s then senior adviser Kelly Ann Conway.

The blockade also follows the model of UAE and Saudi officials’ outreach to the incoming Trump administration, which began with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed visiting New York in December 2016 to meet with members of the transition team. This outreach culminated in Trump’s first presidential overseas visit to Riyadh in May 2017. This period includes a series of interactions that seem to be aimed at attracting participants in the White House’s transactional and unconventional decision-making styles of regional affairs by creating and expanding campaigns that portray Qatar as a negative influence.

This approach seemed to have paid off because Trump initially supported the blockade and appeared to link his decision against Qatar to the dialogue he held in Riyadh two weeks ago. This shocked observers, everyone said, including his Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. Trump’s statement threatened to overturn the pillars of Qatar’s security and defense partnership with the United States and encouraged hopes that the capital would be blocked, that Trump’s trading methods might lead him to choose sides in the dispute.

In retrospect, the assumption that other departments of the U.S. government would follow the White House was wrong. It was the counterattack of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and U.S. military leaders that ultimately led Trump to change him. Position.

It is not clear why officials in the blocked state, including some officials who are very proficient in American politics, have different ideas. One possibility is that after the Trump administration took office, it announced loudly that it intends to act in its own way regardless of norms and established procedures, only to encourage friends and opponents to believe that this is what it says.

By September 2017, the lockdown had entered a sustained mode that continued for the remainder of Trump’s turbulent presidency. When Kuwait’s Emir Sabah al-Ahmad Al Sabah visited the White House that month, he was inspired by Emir Sabah’s comments “It is important that we stop military operations.” It is well-known, but the mediation efforts of Kuwait and the United States have found that it is very difficult to break the deadlock. At least twice in December 2019 and July 2020, hopes for a breakthrough in the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Qatar were dashed, indicating the difficulty of resolving disputes involving five parties instead of two.

What led to the breakthrough in Al-Ula in January 2021 was a series of regional and international developments in 2019 and 2020. For Qatar, it was Trump’s tweets supporting the blockade in June 2017 (temporarily) that questioned the reliability of the U.S. partnership. For Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, their “critical moments” came out. Now between May and September 2019. The Trump administration failed to respond to a series of attacks on maritime and energy targets in Saudi Arabia and its surrounding areas. After missiles and drones attacked Saudi oil facilities, the UAE eventually led Trump to openly distinguish the interests of the United States and Saudi Arabia.

The Iran-related attacks in 2019 broke the regional confidence of Saudi and UAE decision-making and the assumption that their interests are actually the same as those of the United States, especially when it comes to anything involving Iran. The leaders of the UAE and Saudi Arabia began to contact Iran directly or indirectly to explore ways to ease tensions, while the leaders of Qatar responded to the September 2019 attack on Abu Ghaik by reaffirming the principles of collective security of the GCC. If nothing else, the 2019 attack shows that, despite the differences in methods, Doha is not the main threat to regional security and stability declared in 2017, or even the main threat.

A year later, Trump’s failure to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election means that Gulf leaders face the prospect of the Biden administration taking office in January 2021. The reliability of Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a responsible partner. Therefore, it is not surprising that the transition from Trump to Biden also ended the blockade that may never happen under the leadership of any other president, and Saudi officials put Mohammed bin Salman at the forefront of the reconciliation summit. And the center, portraying him as a regional politician and drawing boundaries in the past four years.

Although the specific details of the Al-Ula agreement have not yet been disclosed, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic that the reconciliation process is longer than the signing of the Riyadh agreement that ended the diplomatic stalemate in 2014, but it failed to prevent the subsequent collapse in 2017. It is worth noting that the delegations of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and the delegations of Qatar and Egypt have held follow-up meetings and have conducted successive rounds of talks to resolve issues of concern.

This shows that, unlike the Riyadh agreement, the Ullah agreement is not a one-time document, but part of a deeper process of re-engagement along a specific bilateral track that can make all parties more than a general “one size fits all” agreement would allow. It also further demonstrates that recognition of the problem can be bridged, and not as an ultimatum to “accept or leave it,” as the so-called 13 demands made by the blockade state in June 2017. These demands are not productively negotiated. basis.

The relationship between Qatar and the four blockade countries will not develop at the same speed or depth, which seems to be recognized by flexibility. There are already signs that relations with Saudi Arabia and (to a lesser extent) Egypt have improved the fastest and furthest, which may reflect the fact that most of the original hostility behind the blockade did not originate from Riyadh or Cairo. After the CIA announced the results of its investigation into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, the leaders of Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council leaders expressed their support for the crown prince in February and reaffirmed the stability of Saudi Arabia to the region. The importance of safety. bay. Emir Tamim visited Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah on May 10, and relations at all levels appear to have been fully restored.

The blockade of Qatar is the longest rift in the history of the GCC. May 25 is the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the GCC. Unlike the previous tense period, its impact is not limited to the level of leaders and decision-making elites, but covers the entire country. The damage caused to the “Bay House” social structure may take longer to repair, and memories of pain and resentment on the media and social media platforms may linger. However, for the present and for the foreseeable future, the parties to the blockade may at least establish a temporary measure before the regional or international environment changes again.

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