The Internal Wars of the GCC: from Al Bassous to Qatar and Egypt……..

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The foreign ministers of the Gulf GCC members met in Jeddah Saturday, reportedly to follow up on an ‘ultimatum’ given to Qatar. The ultimatum was from the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (also Bahrain, but now only as an appendix of the Saudis).

The ultimatum itself is an interesting, and should be shocking, piece of undiplomatic diplomacy and meddling in the sovereign affairs of an allegedly independent sovereign country. The GCC right-wing group (Saudi, UAE, Bahrain) had reportedly warned, nay threatened, Qatar to basically adopt their Saudi-imposed foreign policy in regional and inter-Arab affairs, or else. At stake is continued Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its continued criticism of Generalisimo Field Marshal Al Sisi regime in Egypt, mainly through the Aljazeera network. As well as Qatari refusal to push Hamas in Gaza under the bus.

The Qatari-Saudi rift goes back to long before the Arab uprisings and the Egyptian military coup of 2013 and the Syrian civil war and Hamas control of Gaza. During the 1990s, Saudi intelligence orchestrated an attempted coup in Qatar, with the goal of overthrowing the last Emir Hamad. The coup attempt, in which certain tribal elements from the border region were also implicated, failed. As a result, a large group of senior Saudi intelligence and security officers were arrested in Doha and imprisoned for years. They were released during the last decade and send back home to Riyadh.

Anyway, some GCC ministers claimed after the Jeddah meeting that ‘the issues’ are on their way to being resolved. In fact all ‘issues’ are usually on their way to being resolved, and not only because GCC functionaries and top bureaucrats habitually claim that they are. Famously, the pre-Islamic tribal Al Bassous War was also resolved after some forty years, and that one was over a camel and a cantankerous woman who owned it. Even the Israeli-Palestinian ‘issue’ may be resolved some day: it has only been, what, about 75 years or so?

If’n you ask me, if’n you do, and I am aware that you haven’t yet, I would say it is highly unlikely that the Qataris will succumb to the demands of the Saudi princes and their Abu Dhabi and Bahraini sidekicks. There have been several bilateral meetings between Saudi and Qatari leaders in recent months. A bilateral summit meeting between King and Emir was held in Saudi Arabia last July, and apparently it failed to resolve the issues. It is unlikely then that a bunch of GCC bureaucrats can solve what King and Emir could not solve.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum