Shortly after imposing a naval blockade in the immediate aftermath of the Qatar diplomatic crisis, one which left the small Gulf nation not only politically isolated and with severed ties to its neighbors but potentially locked out of maritime trade and crippling its oil and LNG exports, on Tuesday SkyNews Arabia reported that Saudi Arabia has given Qatar a 24 hours ultimatum, starting tonight, to fulfill 10 conditions that have been conveyed to Kuwait, which is currently involved in the role of a mediator between Saudi and Qatar.
While there was little additional information on the Ultimatum and more importantly what happens should Qatar not comply, Al Jazeera reported that Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, left Saudi Arabia on Tuesday after holding mediation talks with the Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz to try to defuse an escalating crisis between Arab countries and Qatar. No details were given on the talks.
In addition to Saudi Arabia's aggressive approach, Egypt's Foreign Ministry accused Qatar of taking an "antagonist approach" towards Cairo and said "all attempts to stop it from supporting terrorist groups failed". Qatar denied the allegations, with a Foreign Ministry statement describing them as "baseless" on Monday.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, analyst Giorgio Cafiero of Gulf State Analytics, a geopolitical risk consultancy based in Washington, DC, said: "I think the Kuwaitis as well as Omanis ... fear the prospects of these tensions escalating in ways which could undermine the interest of all six members of the GCC.
"There are many analysts who believe that a potential break-up of the GCC has to be considered right now."
"If these countries fail to resolve their issues and such tensions reaches new heights, we have to be very open to the possibility of these six Arab countries no longer being able to unite under the banner of one council," said Cafiero.
He added that if tension escalates, some have warned of a "military confrontation".
Three potential motives behind the tension between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours
Note from the author: Events have happened faster than I imagined when I wrote this last week. Six Arab states have now cut diplomatic relations with Qatar. Its land borders with Saudi Arabia are closed and 85 percent of its imports are cut. A full siege is in place. This is no longer a “spat”. It is looking as if the object of this pre-planned campaign is regime change in Qatar.
Shortly after the heavy guns of the Emirati and Saudi-controlled media fired their salvo at Qatar, their Gulf neighbour lay in a smouldering ruin, unable to host anyone or anything, let alone a World Cup. At least, that was how they fondly imagined it.
The claims were hysterically inflated: Qatar funded all the terrorists; Qatar could not be allowed to “sabotage the region”; Qatar must choose sides over Iran. Finally, the emir of Qatar was reminded of the fate of Mohamed Morsi.
The threat to topple the head of state of a fellow GCC member was not even made anonymously. It was made by the man whose job it is to represent Saudi interests in the US. Salman al-Ansari, the president of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee, tweeted: “To the emir of Qatar, regarding your alignment with the extremist government of Iran and your abuse of the Custodian of the two sacred mosques, I would like to remind you that Mohammed Morsi did exactly the same and was then toppled and imprisoned.”
This is now front page news in the Saudi press.
What specifically then stirred this hornet’s nest?
Motive one: Finish the job
The first motive is that both Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince of Saudi, and Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, see Trump as an opportunity to finish the job started in June 2013 when Morsi was toppled.
Nor is the alliance between Bin Salman, Bin Zayed and Sisi that stable. These men could easily fall out with each other again, as they did when a Nasserite furore erupted in Egypt over the surrender of uninhabited islands to Riyadh. Bin Zayed and Bin Salman are also backing rival Yemeni groups over the control of Aden.
But this alliance is stable enough to unite all three men in a common mission to crush all dissenting Arab states.
Motive two: Buying insurance
The second motive is a personal one. By launching an attack on Qatar, they aim not only to silence external opposition, but internal forces as well. In Bin Salman’s case, silencing opposition within the royal household is a crucial step he has to make, before he can displace his elder cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, as crown prince.
By hitching themselves so firmly to Trump’s wagon, Bin Salman and Bin Zayed think they have bought themselves an insurance policy.
Turkey, too, is still around as a rival regional power centre although for a few hours on 15 July last year, it looked as if it was not. The same Saudi and Emirati-controlled media outlets which targeted Qatar this year crowed with delight when it looked as if Erdogan had been deposed by a military coup.
So it would be logical to assume this is their motivation now for wanting to see the emir of Qatar toppled: he is the man who funded the popular revolutions that Saudis and the Emiratis are still fighting.
Motive three: Disappearing act
The third motive for attacking Qatar goes further than that. They could actually want to see Qatar itself disappear as an independent state. This sounds, and is, deranged in the century we are living in. For one thing, Qatar houses the forward command base of US Central Command. That may explain why the UAE is campaigning hard in Washington to move the US base out of Qatar.
Bin Salman and Bin Zayed are stuck firmly in the colonial era. They are tribal rulers, paying for protection, and draining the region of resources. They can plot, and they can topple, but they cannot govern and they cannot stabilise. They do not have a vision for the region. They have eyes only for themselves. That is why I remain optimistic that out of the havoc they are wreaking, a new, autonomous and modern Arabia will, eventually, emerge.
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