Gulf states are competing for influence in the Horn of Africa to control the Red Sea, transposing internal rivalries onto a fragile region. Horn governments should increase their bargaining power with their powerful neighbours, who should recognise the risks their policies pose to regional security.
Originally published in The New York Times
Emir Al-Thani did not attend Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Saudi capital, Riyadh 10 Dec but sent PM, highest ranking Qatari to attend GCC summit since beginning of dispute in June 2017; meeting achieved no breakthrough on tensions between Saudi-led bloc and Qatar. FM 15 Dec said recent talks with Saudi Arabia had broken stalemate and introduced line of communication; FM announced govt would analyse demands of blockading countries but would refuse to alter relations with ally Turkey to end dispute.
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.
The rift between Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates shows no sign of abating, at a time when the Middle East is increasingly polarised. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – Second Update early warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to play an active role in de-escalating a crisis that could exacerbate persistent regional conflicts.