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.
Amid ongoing Gulf diplomatic crisis, King Salman 17 Aug reopened air routes to Qatar and land border, closed since 5 June, to allow Qatari pilgrims to travel to Mecca for annual Hajj pilgrimage, and said he would send private jets to transport pilgrims at his own expense. Saudi state carrier 20 Aug claimed Qatar ignored its requests to land in Doha to collect pilgrims; Qatar denied allegation. Fighting intensified in predominantly Shia town of Awamiya in Qatif region of Eastern province, where authorities have been trying since May to flush out Shia fighters; nine civilians reportedly killed 1-5 Aug.
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.
[Saudi Arabia needs] to walk a fine line: Embracing Trump without alienating his foes. Otherwise, they risk losing not just Democrats, but many who are not particularly sympathetic to this administration.
Whatever Saudi Arabia's current view of the Muslim Brotherhood in other countries, in Yemen they are natural allies against the Houthi-Saleh alliance.
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.]
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
Originally published in Chicago Tribune