The Gulf Crisis - Political, Economic, and International Implications

13.03.2018 | 17:30 - 19:30 | DGAP Berlin | Nur für geladene Gäste

Expertengespräch

Kategorie: Golfstaaten

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed travel and trade bans. They accused Qatar of sponsoring terrorist organizations, of keeping close ties with Iran, and of undermining regional stability. Since then, the relations between Qatar and the blockade states have deteriorated and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has increasingly weakened through fragmentation. Oman and Kuwait have failed to mediate the conflict; international actors such as the United States, France or Germany also faced the same fate.

The expert roundtable, which was jointly hosted by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and the Oxford Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies Forum (OxGAPS), addressed the political, economic and international dimensions of the Qatar crisis. The discussion highlighted the strategies which the boycotting states and Qatar have devised to counter the diplomatic crisis’ negative repercussions and examined how the conflict has reshaped the security architecture of the region. The roundtable also addressed the question of whether external players such as the United States, Europe, and Germany could explore further options to find a diplomatic solution.

The imposed travel and trade bans and the closure of Qatar’s only land border with Saudi Arabia have left Qatar, which is highly dependent on imports, in a precarious situation. Nevertheless, the small country has proven resilient due to its vast fiscal reserves, its small number of nationals, and its continuing profits from gas exports.

While Saudi Arabia is unquestionably an important player in the crisis, the role of the UAE in the conflict appears to be frequently overlooked. The discussion emphasized the close relationship between the Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Mohammed Bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, who was identified as a driving force in the conflict. Although there was little optimism for a swift resolution of the crisis in the debate, panelists argued that recognition that the crisis may be detrimental to Mohammed Bin Salman’s domestic interests could sway Saudi Arabia towards de-escalation. The realization of Saudi Vision 2030 is a cornerstone of his domestic profile. However, the success of these reforms relies heavily on foreign investments and strong international cooperation, both of which are currently suffering from the Qatar crisis and Saudi Arabia’s engagement in the war in Yemen. Furthermore, both of the conflicts have noticeably damaged Saudi Arabia’s international image and continue to drain the country’s financial resources.

The discussion also focused on the Qatar crisis’ impact on and the potential reshaping of regional alliances. Even though Qatar has moved notably closer towards Turkey and Iran, the sustainability and reliability of these relations were called into question. First, previous experiences suggest that Qatar is unlikely to choose a more permanent restructuring of its alliances away from its Gulf brethren. Second, neither Turkey nor Iran can be considered as an attractive or reliable alternative. Instead, pragmatism appears to be the main driver for cooperation between Qatar, Turkey, and Iran, as each of the countries pursues their own political, geostrategic and economic interests. Their relationships were predicted to weaken again, as soon as their particular interests diverge. Pragmatic considerations also appear to underlie the UAE’s and Qatar’s continued gas trade via the Dolphin Pipeline—a vital economic interest for both countries—despite their conflict.

In regards to third-party efforts to find a diplomatic solution, Kuwait was viewed as a well-chosen mediator. Yet, its ability to bring an end to the crisis appears to be limited. The discussants saw the United States as an unpredictable yet crucial actor that could have a positive impact on the resolution of the conflict.

The discussants were Bill Law, the director of Gulf Matters, Anna Sunik, an Associate at GIGA, and Adel Hamaizia, the Committee Vice-Chairman of OxGAPS. The discussion was chaired by Dina Fakoussa, Head of the MENA program, DGAP.

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