The UAE, together with its ally Saudi Arabia, played a highly visible role in helping make peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia. As its footprint across the Horn of Africa grows, the UAE should avoid having intra-Gulf competition colour its engagement.
Killing of self-exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul 2 Oct and govt’s insufficient explanations of events sparked international criticism of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who some suspect ordered killing. Turkish President Erdoğan 23 Oct said there were strong signs “the murder was the result of a planned operation” and emphasised need for investigation by “objective, fair teams”. Turkey 11 Oct told U.S. that 2 Oct audio and video recordings from inside consulate proved Khashoggi was tortured, murdered and dismembered there. Initial Saudi investigation 20 Oct alleged Khashoggi died in fight after escalation of “discussion” at consulate. State prosecutor 20 Oct said authorities had arrested eighteen Saudis in connection with case and 25 Oct said Turkish evidence indicated killing was premeditated, contradicting previous statement; eighteen arrested aligned with list of suspects that Turkey had identified, including fifteen Saudi “hitmen” who visited Istanbul day of killing. King Salman fired five senior officials, including deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Asiri and Crown Prince’s adviser Saud al-Qahtani, and tasked Crown Prince to chair committee to restructure intelligence services. UAE 14 Oct issued statement affirming solidarity with Saudi Arabia against “attempts to undermine its regional stature and fundamental role in establishing regional peace and security”. Bahrain late Oct made similarly supportive statement. Oman 21 Oct welcomed Saudi Arabia’s response but insisted on “allow[ing] justice to take its course”. U.S. President Trump oscillated between trying to deflect criticism of ally Saudi Arabia and threatening consequences. Joint statement by France, Germany and UK 21 Oct said “more efforts are needed and expected towards establishing the truth”. Chancellor Merkel 22 Oct said Germany would suspend arms exports to Saudi Arabia until case is cleared up. Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait 6 Oct signed agreement providing $10bn to Bahrain to support fiscal program aimed at eliminating budget deficit by 2022.
Saudi Arabia has been forging links to Iraq since reopening its Baghdad embassy in 2016. Its adversary Iran has strong Iraqi ties. If Riyadh avoids antagonising Tehran, invests wisely and quiets anti-Shiite rhetoric, Iraq can be a bridge between the rival powers - not a battleground.
From Saudi Arabia's establishment in 1932, its minority Shiite population has been subject to discrimination and sectarian incitement. Beginning in the early 1990s, with then Crown Prince Abdullah's active support, the government took steps to improve inter-sectarian relations.
Saudi Arabia is at a critical stage in both its struggle against terrorism and its on-again, off-again efforts at reform, and Islamism is at the heart of both.
The Saudi regime faces one of the more difficult phases in its history. Fearful of change, accustomed to a system in which it holds enormous power and privileges, the ruling family may consider any serious reform a risk not worth taking.
Secretary Pompeo was put in an almost impossible situation from the outset: traveling to meet with people [in Saudi Arabia] suspected of having ordered a political assassination at the request of a president determined to sweep the affair under the rug.
Although from a distance the U.S.-Saudi relationship appears rock solid, there are cracks in the foundation.
Most people agree at this point that the Saudis are facing a legitimate security threat and that Iran is part of the problem. By continuing down this road, things will just get worse.
Nobody doubts that Iran has been helping the [Yemeni] Houthis. [But], nobody doubts that Saudi Arabia has been conducting activities that are violations of the rules of war either.
Giving birth to a visible Saudi-Israeli alliance that will deter Iran is in many ways the very rationale for advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace in Washington and Riyadh.
[The ongoing civil war in Yemen] looks like a failure [for the Saudi kingdom]. [Crown Prince] Salman wants a success right now. He’s desperately looking for a success, I would even say.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are actively fighting one another in the media, through armed proxies, in cyberspace and with Western lobbyists. But in Iraq they should both see the case for détente.
Originally published in The Hill
Originally published in The Washington Post
Doha has become a casualty of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ fights with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. But don’t expect a war.
Originally published in The New York Times
Originally published in The Daily Star