Diplomacy

GCC Deal Seeks to Bring Qatar in Line with U.S. Gulf Allies

The Associated Press late Thursday conveyed a statement from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) announcing that an agreement had been reached between its members, a deal that the wire described as “a possible first step toward bridging deep rifts among its six energy-rich Arab states.” Speaking to Arabic media outlets, Oman’s Foreign Affairs Minister Yusuf bin Alawi discussed the deal: 

Pan-Arab al-Hayat quoted Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi as saying the crisis was resolved internally between the Gulf states “without allowing for anyone to intervene.”

“What happened between brothers has ended,” Alawi reportedly told the paper. He said the relationship now between the Gulf neighbors is “all clear.”

The talks had seen Kuwait and Oman seek to dampen tensions between Qatar, on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain on the other. The three Gulf countries recently withdrew their ambassadors from Doha to protest what they described as interference in their internal affairs, a not particularly veiled gesture toward Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar and the Brotherhood had in recent years aligned regionally with Turkey, opposite a de facto camp composed of huge swaths of the Arab world plus Israel. Those two blocs had in recent years competed not just with each other but also against a third camp anchored by Iran. Qatar’s geopolitical gambles on Turkish and Brotherhood ascendency failed to pay off, and the country found its regional position slipping badly.

This week’s GCC conference was held to provide the Qataris with a way to come back into the Gulf fold. It is not clear how much was substantively achieved at the meeting, however, and in any case it is unlikely that broader regional realignments will occur in the short term. The insidery Intelbrief, published by The Soufan Group, assessed the situation Thursday:

• Saudi Arabia and Turkey are maneuvering to position themselves as the leader of the Sunni Islamic world, as recent events make this historic rivalry more significant than in many decades

• At stake is which version of Islamic governance should be emulated across the region, with Turkey promoting an Islamic democracy and Saudi Arabia promoting an Islamic theocratic monarchy

• The rise and fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the subsequent region-wide crackdown on the group adds additional tension between Riyadh and Ankara

• Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia support the overthrow of the Assad regime in Syria and oppose Iranian expansion in the region, though they disagree on how to achieve these two goals.

The write-up emphasized, by way of caveat, that “even when it comes to their common regional foe Iran, the two agree on some principles but not the details,” with Saudi Arabia strongly opposing engagement with the Islamic republic in contrast to Turkey’s “extensive ties with Iran.”

The Obama administration has been blasted by domestic analysts and foreign diplomats for what those critics insist is insufficient support for the bloc composed of Washington’s Arab allies. Agence France-Presse (AFP) today published leaks blaming the recent replacement of Saudi Arabia’s spy chief on U.S. pressure, after Prince Bandar bin Sultan angrily criticized Washington on the issue in front of Western diplomats.

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