The Cold War in The Desert, the protracted diplomatic and economic severing of times between Qatar and the quartet of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bargain and Egypt, appears to have become more entrenched after an attempt at dialogue that seems to have gone wrong.
Recently, Donald Trump held conversations with the leadership in Saudi, Qatar and the UAE. Shortly thereafter Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani spoke on the phone with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS). It appears that the Thani-MBS phone call is the origin of the latest spat between Riyadh and Doha.
Shortly after the Thani-MBS conversation, Qatari media reported that the discussion had generally been positive and that Saudi make a proposal to “assign two envoys to resolve the dispute in a way that respects the sovereignty of state”.
For reasons that are not entirely clear, Saudi Arabia reacted furiously with the Qatari reports, issuing the following statement as a result,
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announces the suspension of any dialogue or communication with the authority in Qatar until a clear statement is issued clarifying its position in public”.
When contrasted with more politically developed nations, Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic protocol is far more crude, something which has only been exacerbated under the effective rule of MBS. It would appear that Saudi officials thought the entire nature and possibly even the existence of the conversation was supposed to be covert, even though it is very common for countries to release formal transcripts of conversations between leaders. Russia for example diligently releases such transcripts in multiple multi-lingual editions, so long as there are no objections from any side.
The proximate cause of the crisis originated from reports in Qatari media which officials in Doha stated were ‘fake news’ that quoted the Emir of Qatar praising Iran and Hezbollah. This was apparently taken by Saudi at face value and as a result Riyal led a group of nations against Qatar in a continuing diplomatic/economic boycott.
In June of this year, Saudi issued a bizarre and unworkable ultimatum to Qatar which effectively asked Doha to surrender its foreign policy, economic policy and diplomatic sovereignty to Saudi in order to restore relations. Qatar quickly rejected the demands which were likely never expected to be taken seriously in the first place.
The latest row is merely a further salvo in an ongoing row, one that will not end any time soon, in spite of Donald Trump’s high hopes that he could create a unified position in the Persian Gulf states against Iran.
With Qatar and Iran continuing the move closer to one another, even if Saudi were to reconcile itself with Doha, Trump’s position is becoming increasingly untenable.