On Tuesday, in the shadow of the ancient metropolis of Madain Saleh, the princes and potentates of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council in the northern Saudi town of Al-Ula called for “solidarity and stability.” The event’s highlight was the warm embrace between Mohammed bin Salman and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad, the Saudi Crown Prince and de facto monarch.
Up until recently, such demonstrations of camaraderie were unprecedented, when Riyadh led a movement to separate Doha, assisted by the UAE and Bahrain, keeping up a charge sheet of Qatar’s long “transgressions.” After ties were snapped in mid-2017, Saudi Arabia reopened its ground, sea and air borders with Qatar. While it is suspected that fellow GCC members Kuwait and Oman played a part in the rapprochement, the thaw was largely orchestrated by the US; the son-in-law of Donald Trump and Middle East emissary Jared Kushner was in Al-Ula, keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings.
While the detente is a promising move, the motives remain open to concerns. The change should be accepted if the motive is to boost regional ties by adhering to the Gulf solidarity concept. Nevertheless, if the coalition were forced to form a single front to confront Iran, then there will be grounds for concern.
The Saudi crown prince, speaking at the ceremony, reiterated the need for unification to confront the “Iranian regime’s…” Plans for disruption and sabotage». It should be remembered that one of Riyadh’s biggest grievances against Doha was that it was moving closer to Iran and Turkey, two of the Arab bloc’s chief rivals for regional power.
Moreover, despite Tehran’s long-standing opposition to Tel Aviv, the establishment of ties between the UAE and Bahrain with Israel has also complicated matters. Iranian leaders have said that with strikes on US interests in the region, any assault on their country would be addressed. Much of the Gulf monarchies, with varying names, host American military bases.
Iran has continued to enrich uranium to 20pc elsewhere in the Gulf, while a South Korean tanker in the Strait of Hormuz has also been confiscated for ‘pollution-causing.’ The Iranians are obviously not pleased that Seoul is freezing billions of dollars of Tehran’s funds in its banks. The condition in the Gulf is exceedingly fragile, given all of the aforementioned factors.
Any effort to militarily confront Iran by the Trump administration or its local client, Israel, is likely to have disastrous consequences. While the US is obviously the dominant military force, Iran has perfected the region’s asymmetric techniques of warfare.In order to create a modus vivendi in the Middle East, thus, instead of pounding the drums of war, the Arabs and Iran must follow the direction of negotiation. It would add little good to this troubled area by wishing for American interference, or giving Israel a conduit in the Gulf.