x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Kuwait’s Emir has his work cut out

It will be "no picnic" trying to broker an agreement among the divided GCC nations, wrote Abdel Bari Atwan on the Rail Al Youm website. Other topics: Saudi Arabia and the US (Maamoun Fendi,Asharq El Awsat ) and the Arab Summit (Orfan Nithamuddine, Al Hayat).

Kuwait’s Emir, Sheikh Sabah, has reportedly ended his convalescence in the USA and returned to Kuwait to pursue mediation efforts between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. But, Abdel Bari Atwan wrote in yesterday’s edition of the news website Rai Al Youm, the Emir stands a slim chance of making a breakthrough.

The crisis surfaced when the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors to Doha last week, saying Qatar was out of line with other GCC States.

Sheikh Sabah’s mission to mend ties between Qatar and its incensed Gulf neighbours will definitely not be easy. Al Jazeera, the Doha-based news network, has not softened its critical tone following the crisis. In fact, it has become more defiant of the Saudi demands – Qatari media calls them “dictates” – attacked the rule of Field Marshal Abdel Fattah El Sisi and even hosted sympathisers of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Tense Qatar-Saudi relations are nothing new, and the roots date back to tribal conflict between Al Saud dynasty and Al Thani dynasties in Najd in 1913 when the Saudis sought to annex Qatar on the grounds that it was part of Al Ahsa region. The Saudi demands were met with strong opposition from the British rule. Saudi Arabia gave up its demands two years later but it was only in 1965 that Saudi Arabia officially recognised Qatar with its current-day borders.

Jeremy Shapiro, who served as an adviser to former US State Secretary Hillary Clinton, wrote a serious article in Foreign Policy magazine last July, in which he said the US and its allies were displeased by the Qatari activism, namely its backing of the radical groups and attempts to destabilise Arab Spring countries.

Mr Shapiro threatened that four measures could be taken against Qatar if it did not alter its policy: highlighting the conditions of migrant labourers, accusing Qatar of backing terror, escalating the Saudi-Qatari disagreement, and supporting dissident Al Thani family members who challenge the current ruling family.

The Qatari authorities support the Muslim Brotherhood as a strategic option, much to the dismay of the Saudi authorities. This support, however, is both an asset and a liability. Being a small country, Qatar has sought protection with a big Islamic organisation with offshoots across the Muslim world and has allied with the Erdogan government in Turkey. Abandoning this policy will cause this alliance to fall and deprive it of an important tactical advantage.

With Qatar supporting the Brotherhood and siding with the axis of Iran, Hizbollah and Hamas, and with Saudi Arabia being in enmity with this axis and declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation – and with neither party being in a mood to compromise, Kuwait’s Emir’s efforts will be no picnic, the writer asserted.

Summit is ‘last chance’ to find common ground

The Arab Summit truly is the last chance for Arabs to return to solidarity and bridging their differences after years of conditions that have turned the region upside down, wrote columnist Orfan Nithamuddine in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

“The Arab Summit scheduled in Kuwait a few weeks from now, is a dream that may just turn into reality, and its success depends on finding some common ground, a task rendered difficult due to the complexities of situations, problems, differences, internal conditions and poor current relations between Arab countries,” the writer said.

The only bet is to count on Kuwait’s Sheikh Sabah and his wisdom and long experience in politics and Arab and international diplomacy, as well as Kuwait’s traditional calm and thoughtful approach to Arab issues.

Kuwaiti initiative has been welcomed by the British, particularly with regard to reconciliation between Egypt and Qatar, but that setback occurred before the withdrawal of Saudi, UAE and Bahraini ambassadors from Doha.

“If mediation is successful, one can say that the Kuwait Summit will be the last opportunity for Arab leaders to address thorny issues, or at least prevent deterioration of relations to a point of no return. Its failure ... would knock the final nail in joint Arab action, and bury the remnants of solidarity within the Arab League,” concluded Nithamuddine.

Saudis will maintain a hard line on extremism

Before the arrival of US president Barack Obama to Saudi Arabia, the kingdom sent clear messages regarding security and stability in the region, including banning the Muslim Brotherhood and other jihadist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Al Nusra Front, among others.

“This disrupted the US plans in the region, leaving only the ancient traditional tool, which is Israel, a familiar enemy for the Arabs,” observed the columnist Maamoun Fendi in pan-Arab daily Asharq El Awsat.

The Saudis’ decision isolates the Brotherhood and its followers, an enemy that aims to spread like a cancer within the Arab world, aiming to tear down any structure that shows resistance.

In that context, one must look at US-Qatari relations and in particular the Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa) because it affects the legal status of the US military presence and determines whether US or Qatari law prevails.

The US’s insistence on playing such a role in the region led King Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz to make the unprecedented decisions he made this week to send a clear message that President Barack Obama is welcome as a partner in stability and suppression of extremism.

* Digest compiled by the Translation Desk