Exactly 43 months to the day since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt severed political and financial ties with Qatar on June 5, 2017, the Al-Ula declaration signed on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Saudi Arabia introduced the blockade of Qatar to a proper finish.
The “solidarity and stability” settlement, the textual content of which has not been made public, is a big advance within the efforts to beat the deepest rift within the 40-year historical past of the GCC, forward of Joe Biden taking on the presidency of the United States from Donald Trump on January 20.
However, whereas a disaster that started with Trump coming into workplace is ending simply earlier than he leaves the White House, the longer-term impacts of the regional rift are prone to take appreciable time to heal and can’t be merely signed away with the stroke of a pen.
It is difficult to disentangle the blockade of Qatar from the trajectory of Trump’s extremely unconventional and transactional method to international coverage. Differences on regional points between Qatar and a few of its neighbours, particularly the UAE, lengthy predated the 2017 blockade and had been manifested within the nine-month withdrawal of the Saudi, Emirati, and Bahraini ambassadors from Doha in 2014.
That earlier rift was resolved by affected person Kuwaiti mediation that resulted within the signing of the Riyadh Agreement in November 2014. Over the following two and half years, Qatar despatched forces to hitch the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, hosted King Salman on a state go to to Doha in December 2016 and ratified GCC-wide safety cooperation agreements.
After all this, the outbreak of the 2017 blockade, two weeks after Trump visited Riyadh on his first international journey as US president, took many observers of regional politics fully unexpectedly. This contains the emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, who later commented that “suddenly, this dispute came into existence” after “we met in Riyadh, in the presence of President Trump, and there was no one to say that there was a dispute between us”.
The feeling that one thing had transpired in Riyadh that contributed to the blockade was subsequently given credence by Trump himself, as he tweeted: “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!”
Although Sheikh Sabah of Kuwait was instrumental in stopping the scenario from escalating additional, going as far as to declare in September 2017 that “what is important is that we have stopped any military action”, he died in September 2020 with the disaster nonetheless unresolved.
In latest months, it was Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who pushed most strongly for a deal that will help the administration in its makes an attempt to additional isolate Iran by a marketing campaign of “maximum pressure”. Kushner and his aides visited Saudi Arabia and Qatar in early December to flesh out the outlines of a deal and are mentioned to have smoothed over points that reportedly arose on the final minute.
Kushner’s function and his presence on the signing ceremony within the Saudi heritage web site of Al-Ula upended assertions by the blockading quartet that the disaster can be “resolved in Riyadh” somewhat than by the US.
The communique of the GCC summit, which was named in honour of the 2 nice balancers of regional politics – Sheikh Sabah and Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, who additionally handed away final 12 months – contained little element about particular commitments made by the events to finish the blockade or transfer ahead. Therefore, there’s a threat that the Al-Ula declaration could undergo the identical destiny because the 2014 Riyadh Agreement, which lacked safeguards to watch and confirm compliance by all signatories, and itself turned a problem of contestation and mutual recrimination after the 2017 disaster started.
There is a chance for the GCC to make sure that its personal settlement dispute mechanism is utilised to handle any future disputes that will come up amongst member states, and that regional energy performs, like that of 2017, can’t be repeated.
There have been ideas that the UAE was extra immune to an settlement than Saudi Arabia and it was noticeable that neither King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, nor President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt selected to attend the summit or register individual the settlement.
At the very least, there was an acknowledgement by the Emirati minister of state for international affairs, Anwar Gargash, that the maximalist 13 calls for made by the blockading quartet of Qatar in June 2017 had given technique to “general outlines that govern relations” between the GCC states. Gargash added that “we [the UAE] are very satisfied with this outcome”.
But it stays to be seen whether or not the lifting of the blockade absolutely equates to an ending of the rift within the Gulf or corresponds extra to a bilateral reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It is unclear how a lot the UAE, particularly Abu Dhabi, and Bahrain will purchase into the brand new period in regional relations. Ties of belief and people-to-people connections between these states and Qatar could properly take extra time to get well.
What has made this disaster completely different from earlier disagreements is that it went far past the confines of a political dispute amongst elites to hit straight on households and people who endured years of separation and infrequently vituperative finger-pointing and name-calling on social media. The social legacy of the Qatar blockade is prone to be the toughest situation to resolve, even after the disruptive results of the pandemic dissipate and persons are capable of journey all through the Gulf once more. At the political stage, an settlement made with a watch on Washington and on positioning vis-à-vis the upcoming Biden administration could at most solely paper over the deeper cracks that the Gulf disaster has uncovered.
The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.