The Gulf crisis and the scramble for military outposts in the Horn of Africa are exacerbating regional tensions that risk triggering a conflict. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa Project Director Rashid Abdi untangles the complex web of relations that tie the Horn and the Gulf.
Originally published in The New York Times
During Russian FM Lavrov’s tour of Gulf states, Lavrov 4 March discussed with FM Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani possible sale of Russian S-400 missile defence system to Doha, despite U.S. and Saudi opposition. Govt early March hosted further round of U.S.-Taliban talks in Doha (see Afghanistan).
The quarrel between Gulf monarchies has spilled into Somalia, with the fragile state now caught between the rival interests of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The competition has already aggravated intra-Somali disputes. All sides should take a step back before these tensions mount further.
The questions for Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are: Was this the best way to signal their discontent? Was the decision to isolate Qatar the right one? And, perhaps most importantly ― what is the way out?
While a compromise [between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and its allies] is possible, there currently is a stalemate because both sides are hearing the voices they want to hear [from the U.S.]
By virtue of their relative size (both geographic and financial), Qatar will always be weaker [than Saudi Arabia]. But not weak enough to make finances and business deals the decisive factor in this contretemps.