Conflicting Interests in the Arab World
The political crisis in the MENA region is not a new phenomenon. Security threats related to cross-border attacks, territorial disputes, sectarian clashes and foreign policy activities have existed since the emergence of law in the region.
Amid the ongoing diplomatic dispute between Qatar and GCC states, the stability of the entire region is once again jeopardized and may lead to a significant negative impact on the regional economies.
The GCC comprising a six-member group was set up in 1981 in view of their similar Islamic political system, common objective of combating violence and keeping a check on Iranian ambitions to achieve regional hegemony and develop nuclear capabilities.
However, the gulf remains vulnerable to terrorism and multiple, interlinking security threats. One such instance was when Iraqi tanks intruded upon Kuwait in 1990. But with the US-led invasion of Iraq in April 2003, the Gulf emerged stronger than ever. The period represented a turning point as the economy grew stronger with rise in oil prices, record levels of crude production, and an investment boom, all of which together overshadowed political tensions too, in the region.
The ‘Arab Spring’ protests in 2010 across the MENA region brought a new set of challenges for the GCC states. The revolution instigated a move towards sectarianism and an end to political authoritarianism. In the aftermath of uprisings, the region faced turmoil in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya. This, in conjunction with the lack of internal cohesion within the GCC itself, hampered progress towards enacting appropriate measures to confront threats across its borders.
The 2014 disagreement between three member states (Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain) and Qatar on the “first Riyadh Agreement” seriously undermined a unified front in the GCC; the unprecedented level of differences was the first of its kind in its history. Though the states reunited eventually on security concerns, but the conflicting interests never died out as is evident from the reappearance of political crisis between Qatar and its neighbours lately.
The severity of diplomatic and economic blockade against Qatar shows much deeper mistrust among Gulf States regarding Qatar’s policies that have shown support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State terror group, and friendly relations with Iran. Qatar has denied all accusations. With unrest in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya and the continuing threat from extremist terrorism, the security concerns will continue to loom over the Middle East in future.
The GCC definitely needs a liberal political perspective and a clear, collective, agreed upon strategy in place to maintain delicate regional balance and bring normalcy to its political, social and economic state of affairs in time to come.