While GCC policymakers have responded swiftly to the threat of COVID-19 domestically, some Gulf states deftly used the crisis to advance their foreign policy objectives with states with which they have had adversarial relationships. Only time will tell whether these new diplomatic opportunities will lay groundwork for concerted regional efforts.
Originally published in POMEPS Studies
Originally published in The New York Times
After sudden rise in COVID-19 cases with 238 new cases detected in one day 11 March, govt 15 March said it would suspend incoming flights for two weeks starting 18 March and approved $23.3bn economic stimulus. Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani 15 March ordered delivery of six tonnes of medical aid to Iran.
The quarrel between Gulf monarchies has spilled into Somalia, with the fragile state now caught between the rival interests of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The competition has already aggravated intra-Somali disputes. All sides should take a step back before these tensions mount further.
The questions for Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are: Was this the best way to signal their discontent? Was the decision to isolate Qatar the right one? And, perhaps most importantly ― what is the way out?
While a compromise [between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and its allies] is possible, there currently is a stalemate because both sides are hearing the voices they want to hear [from the U.S.]
By virtue of their relative size (both geographic and financial), Qatar will always be weaker [than Saudi Arabia]. But not weak enough to make finances and business deals the decisive factor in this contretemps.
The rift between Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates shows no sign of abating, at a time when the Middle East is increasingly polarised. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – Second Update early warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to play an active role in de-escalating a crisis that could exacerbate persistent regional conflicts.
Crisis Group’s second update to our Watch List 2017 includes entries on Nigeria, Qatar, Thailand and Venezuela. These early-warning publications identify conflict situations in which prompt action by the European Union and its member states would generate stronger prospects for peace.