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
Amid rising regional tensions Emir Al-Thani visited Iran and govt enhanced energy ties with Kuwait. Following U.S.’s 3 Jan killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, Emir Al-Thani 12 Jan met Iranian President Rouhani in Tehran; after meeting, Emir said “only solution to these crises is de-escalation from everyone and dialogue”. State-run Qatar Petroleum 5 Jan signed 15-year deal to provide 3mn tonnes of liquefied natural gas to Kuwait each year from 2022.
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.