Something’s cooking

After the failed U.S. and Kuwaiti attempts to mediate in the Gulf/Qatar crisis, the four boycotting countries may be preparing for another significant move against Doha

By Abdel Bari Atwan

After the Kuwaiti and American attempts at mediation between Qatar and the four states boycotting it have failed, there are strong indications that the December Gulf summit will be postponed for six months, notes the editorial on an online pan-Arab daily. But there are also signs that the four states may be ‘cooking up’ some major move against Qatar, although it is unclear whether this is political or military in nature.

“U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s second mediation effort to find a way out and solutions for the Gulf crisis during his visit to Riyadh and Doha has failed.

Similarly, the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad’s lightning visit to Riyadh also failed to achieve its goal of reaching an agreement on holding the Gulf summit in Kuwait at its scheduled date in December, because the Saudis have refused [Qatari] Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s participation in it.

At his joint press conference with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammad bin ‘Abdurrahman Al Thani in Doha, Tillerson was very clear regarding the reasons for his failed efforts. He said: ‘There is no indication of any Saudi readiness for dialogue.’ He came to this conviction during his meeting with Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Riyadh’s actual ruler.

Saudi Arabia, which is leading the four-way axis that is boycotting Qatar, does not really want any dialogue with its Qatari ‘opponent.’ It is seeking its total surrender and the unconditional acceptance of its 13 demands as delivered to Doha by the Kuwaiti mediator at the start of the crisis. Its spokesmen on the social media say they have been talking to Qatar for more than twenty years to no avail.

At his press conference with Tillerson in Riyadh, Saudi Foreign Minister Mr. ‘Adel al-Jubeir revealed an important bit of information. He said that the four states boycotting Qatar will meet in a few days time to discuss their next moves in the Gulf crisis; but he did not disclose any further details.

The Saudi daily Okaz’s report of an agreement to postpone the Gulf summit for six months so as to make room for finding solutions for the Gulf crisis is very important. The paper is close to decision-makers in the Kingdom. But the question concerns the ‘nature’ of these solutions in light of the Kuwaiti and U.S. mediations’ failure to reach them.

Dr. Mohammad al-Musaffar, Professor of Political Science at Qatar University, who is also close to the Qatari leadership, wrote in article on Sunday of something dangerous that is being ‘cooked up’ by the boycotting states and that is meant to target Qatar. Addressing Jordanian monarch, King ‘Abdullah II, he said: ‘We draw Your Majesty’s attention to the fact that a Gulf political dish is currently being concocted and that will see the light of day in the coming weeks. Our brother, Jordan, may be among those invited to join those in charge of it. I entreat Your Majesty not to comply with any invitation that may be taking shape against Qatar, and ask to adopt a neutral stance.’

We do not know what ‘dish’ Dr. al-Musaffar is speaking of, just as we are not aware of its ingredients, or the cook (or cooks) that are in charge of it. Is it a ‘political dish,’ consisting of the establishment of a new organization as an alternative to the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) that will include the four states – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt – as well as Jordan and maybe Morocco? And which of the two GCC member states, the Sultanate of Oman and Kuwait, does it want to join it? Or is the ‘dish’ a military one, aimed at establishing a new alliance whose mission would include confronting Iran, and perhaps intervening to change the Qatari regime?

What we do know is that Dr. al-Musaffar is not speaking of some ‘dish’ based on his own imagination. Doha’s decision-makers must have confirmed information about some imminent ‘action’ against Qatar, and Dr. al-Musaffar must have been informed of this in one way or another.

When the four states adamantly reject dialogue, when the Saudis speak of postponing the Gulf summit for six months, and when sources close to the Emir of Qatar confirm that a ‘dish’ that has been cooking on the crisis’ strong fire is about to be ready, then the Gulf region, and perhaps the entire Middle East may be on the brink of something serious.

All we can do is wait and see.