Political Observation - Reading the Qatari-Saudi Reconciliation

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Political Observation - Reading the Qatari-Saudi Reconciliation

The agenda of the 41st Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) held at the Maraya Concert Hall in al-Ula near Medina was concluded yesterday Tuesday 5 January. The summit focused on the Saudi-Qatari reconciliation engineered by Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, during his visit to Qatar and Saudi last November and finalised on Monday 4 January, according to the New York Post.

In fact, the manner in which the Saudi-Qatari reconciliation was achieved was not expressive of a solution to the problem that had elicited the embargo on Qatar, inasmuch as expressive of the American volition, the requirements of the presidential transition in the US, the needs of the “Israeli" elections, and the Deal of the Century led by Netanyahu who is facing the spectre of defeat in the forthcoming elections. There was no mention of any Qatari concessions pertinent to the conditions laid down by the blockading countries, namely Saudi, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain, such as closing down Aljazeera and the Turkish military base in Qatar, ending sponsorship of the Muslim Brotherhood, and scaling down relations with Iran. This means the rapprochement was connected to the imminent change of guard at the White House and preparations to assume the new roles and relationships stipulated by the forthcoming administration, such as Qatar’s relationship with Turkey who has been warned by Biden for not acquiescing to the American administration, in addition to Biden’s standpoint towards bin Salman and the Iranian nuclear deal. This is where the US strategy prepared by the deep state’s institutions intersects with the current arrangements of the Trump administration in serving the liquidation of the Palestinian issue, with all sides attempting to exploit the situation to their advantage.

On the one hand, Donald Trump and the Republicans are attempting to reap the fruits of their labour right up to the eleventh hour of their tenure and racing against time to lure Saudi into normalisation. Hence, an air or a missile attack against some of Iran’s nuclear facilities or some sensitive locations in Iran, in the form of a US-"Israeli" joint military operation cannot be ruled out, the timing of which would serve both Trump and Netanyahu, especially now that the latter has been dealt a heavy blow by former Likud member of the Knesset, Gideon Sa’ar, who formed a rival party and concluded a host of agreements with right-wing parties such as the far-right Yamina party led by Naftali Bennett. Hence, if the two sides failed in their race against time to lure Saudi into normalisation, their last resort would be drawing Iran into a military confrontation which would impede the process of transferring power at the White House on the one hand, return the security nightmare to the "Israeli" society which has always been the usurping entity’s centre of attention, and remind the Jews of the security Netanyahu had provided for them during his premiership on the other hand.

In this context, opening Saudi and Qatari airspace, but not the Bahraini and Emirati, at this stage could serve as an indication that Trump and Netanyahu might be preparing to strike specific Iranian positions and provoke her to retaliate deep into "Israel" in order to mobilise support for Netanyahu and throw a spanner in the works of the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear file by adding the issue of the Iranian ballistic missiles to the agenda of negotiations. This demand was evidently present at the GCC summit, and it was also the demand of Netanyahu and Trump who dispatched Kushner to attend the summit and oversee its agenda.

What was also remarkable is the failure of king Salman, al-Sisi and bin Zayed to attend the summit which was presided over by crown prince bin Salman. This means the summit was used as a platform to demonstrate the leadership qualities of bin Salman, pave the way for succeeding his father, send a message to his opponents from within the Saudi clan and gauge domestic reaction. This is why bin Salman sent a congratulatory message to Biden in the presence of Kushner to cajole him and gain his pleasure, knowing that the position of ruler in Saudi is exclusively an American affair.

The absence of king Salman was already a precedent; as for the absence of bin Zayed, the king of Bahrain and al-Sisi, who were invited to attend the summit, it was due to them realising that the summit was for the benefit of bin Salman, and this is why the summit was shifted from Bahrain to Saudi since it was linked to the requirements of the US presidential transition and the "Israeli" elections rather than to healing the rift between Saudi and Qatar. This is why they contented themselves with justifying their stance by accepting the general framework of the reconciliation; and this narrative was expressed by UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Girgash, who said that “the main idea of the demands was an attempt to lay down the principles of non-interference in domestic affairs.” Hence, the summit’s main focus was linked to the American presidential transition which was reflected by the speedy conclusion of the agreement with its implications, conditions and upshots. It seems that Kushner’s attendance was designed to reassure bin Salman about his future and to reiterate the Republicans’ support for his bid to accede to the throne after Trump’s departure, which means Saudi and Qatar are being prepared to proceed with normalisation, a move which Asharq al-Awsat newspaper heralded by stating that 2021 will be the year of peace, in addition to the closing statement of the summit which corroborated the need to unify the political standpoints, meaning the standpoint towards normalisation, since the other Gulf States’ standpoints are designed by the US so as to make them jostle with each other and perform their roles within the policy of containing the region with its various warring and ideologically diverse sides. Moreover, the standpoint towards normalisation necessitates settling all the inter-Arab disputes ahead of inaugurating the phase of normalisation with the "Israeli" enemy. There is no difference here between American administrations about who will execute the strategy linked to the Zionist entity since it is part of what has been assigned to Trump until the end of his tenure for his successor to build upon. It is worth mentioning that the timing of Saudi and Qatar’s jumping on the normalisation bandwagon, in case Trump departed beforehand, hinges on the results of the "Israeli" elections, which will give Saudi and Qatar a breathing space to kick-start the "Israeli"-Palestinian negotiations and cover their normalisation with the cloak of negotiations and the approval of the Palestinian Authority, not to mention securing the Jordanian standpoint with the appropriate support. It also hinges on the political margins provided by Trump’s departure and his decisive, robust and hasty style, and the arrival of Biden and his soft diplomatic styles which lean towards pragmatism rather than imposing the decided fate on the Palestinian issue. However, generating the conditions for attacking Iran, if an attack has been decided, then, without any impediments from influential forces in the US decision-making mechanism, he is constrained by what serves US national security and does not impinge on the work of the forthcoming administration. This issue has triggered a controversy between the Republicans and the Democrats and a stern warning was issued in a letter from former US Secretaries of Defence, which included Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, stipulating clearly that “Transitions, which all of us have experienced, are a crucial part of the successful transfer of power. They often occur at times of international uncertainty about US national security policy and posture. They can be a moment when the nation is vulnerable to actions by adversaries seeking to take advantage of the situation.”

Hence, military action against Iran cannot be ascertained despite the presence of several indications suggesting it is imminent, because it is closer to being a personal interest rather than a national one. This means it could be vetoed by US decision makers to avert anything that may impinge on the work of the forthcoming administration. This likelihood is corroborated by US intelligence puppet, namely Iraqi prime minister al-Kadhimi, who spilled the beans to Iran about "Israeli" attempts to execute an operation targeting US forces in Iraq, which prompted Iran in light of this information to warn against "Israel’s” intention to drag the region into a war.

22 Jumada al-Oolah 1442
6 January 2021

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