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
Feeding tensions between govt and Saudi Arabia-led bloc comprising United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt, govt complained to UN 11 and 13 Jan that UAE aircraft had violated Qatari airspace 21 Dec and 3 Jan. UAE 15 Jan said Qatari fighter jets had that day “intercepted” two Emirati civilian planes en route to Bahrain. Qatari sheikh said in video released 14 Jan that Emirati Crown Prince was holding him in UAE capital, Abu Dhabi against his will; sheikh left UAE for Kuwait 17 Jan.
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.