Political Observation Saudi-Emirati Rift

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Political Observation -The Saudi-Emirati Rift

The Saudi-Emirati rift has resurfaced yet again, and this time it has revolved around the Emirates’ wish to increase its production quota within the OPEC Plus Group. As Saudi and Russia refused to approve this increase, the Emirates insisted on increasing its quota from 3.2 to 3.8 million barrels per day.

The UAE has also rejected the Russo-Saudi proposal to increase production gradually by 400,000 barrels per day each month, from the date of the agreement concluded in April 2020, until 2022, and insisted on increasing its market quota amid the market’s demand for oil and the rise of the price to over $70 per barrel. However, Saudi, with the backing of Russia, not only rejected the Emirati proposal but went a few steps further by imposing a host of economic sanctions on the Emirati free zones, such as imposing tariffs on Saudi-destined Emirati goods totalling $10 billion. Saudi has also suspended the movement of Saudi travellers to the UAE and called on Saudi nationals in the UAE to return home. This Saudi decision is set to cause major losses to the UAE which welcomes about 2 million Saudi tourists each year who spend generously in the property and commercial markets in the Emirates.

Some observers might think that this recurrent “economic” rift between Saudi and the Emirates could jeopardise the close relationship between Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed to whom America has assigned a host of joint tasks to serve her interests, as was the case with the siege they imposed on Qatar, the constant pressure being exerted on Turkey, the pursuit of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the war on Yemen with the plans to divide it into a north for the Houthis and south for the Southern Transitional Council (STC).

In fact, the Saudi-Emirati rift should be perceived in the context of the previous squabbles between the two countries, especially in respect of the economic rivalry between them which reached its peak when prince Mohammed bin Salman enacted several openness policies, persisted in ensconcing a tourism economy to rival the UAE and pursued a domestic policy of openness under the theme of entertainment with the planned city of NEOM on the Red Sea to rival Abu Dhabi in every aspect. Earlier this year, Riyadh issued a surprising resolution stipulating the need to relocate the regional offices of foreign companies operating in the Gulf to Saudi by the year 2024, with 25% of these companies’ workforce to be Saudi nationals; otherwise, they would lose their contracts with the Saudi government. This decision has dealt the UAE a heavy blow and has bluntly informed foreign companies of the need to relocate to Saudi should they wish to win contracts totalling billions of dollars in the largest markets of the Gulf region.

As for the political aspect of the rift, it is indicated by the displeasure of Abu Dhabi of the reconciliation between Riyadh and Doha that took place last January after three years of diplomatic estrangement between Qatar on the one hand, and Saudi, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt on the other. It is also indicated by the decision of the Emirates to withdraw from the joint war on Yemen in 2019, without prior consultation or coordination with Saudi; this evoked the wrath of Saudi since the two countries constituted the backbone of a regional military coalition that had conducted the struggle in Yemen and flexed its muscles in other places.

The American silence over this Saudi-Emirati rift means that America is pleased with this scenario and supports what Saudi has undertaken considering that she represents the vehicle of cultural change towards secularism in the Gulf region due to her Islamic and demographic weight, and towards breaking the religious taboos in the face of normalising relations with "Israel", liquidating the issue of Palestine, curtailing the Islamic Da’awah in general, deepening and justifying the secularisation of Islam by drying up its conventional sources such as Salafism, unlike the Emirates, whose rulers have imposed secularism on society but failed to influence the rest of the Gulf residents with it.

Hence, Saudi rulers are not only seeking through the 2030 plan to diversify the economy and incentivise foreign companies to invest in Saudi, but to also link this endeavour to generating systemic cultural, intellectual and behavioural changes which would be more liberal such as lifting the restrictions imposed on women, opening cinemas and organising singing and dancing concerts under the guise of the necessity of such openness to succeed in the economic plans and in attracting multinationals and foreign investment.
This is the policy of America which hinges on changing the Aqeedah of the Muslims through distorting its concepts and destroying its cornerstones with a smear campaign that casts doubts on its foundations and propagates Western concepts such as democracy, freedoms, philosophy, humanities and the scientific approach. This plan also seeks to drive a wedge between the behaviour of Muslims and their Aqeedah and its criteria through imposing the Western lifestyle and social behaviour on Muslims and their life’s systems, by driving them towards adopting a liberal and consumerist lifestyle, which with time, will make them lose their spiritual link to their Aqeedah and their adherence to the Shari'ah rules under the guise of economic growth and modern life.

1 Thil Hijjah 1442h
11 July 2021