By Javad Heirannia

Persian Gulf Arab bloc is essentially finished: expert

July 28, 2017 - 12:29

TEHRAN – A senior expert in Arab affairs who teaches international business at George Washington University is of the view that the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, is “essentially finished”.

Hossein Askari tells the Tehran Times that “it will be very difficult to reconcile harmony to the GCC”.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: Why has not the GCC held a committee meeting, according to its manifest, to resolve the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia? Isn’t it the sign of weakness within the council?

A: There is very little that is transparent in the GCC. They do most things in bilateral meetings out of sight. But in this case, given the high-profile nature of the dispute, a committee meeting that was bound to fail would not be good publicity for the GCC.

“What the king (Salman) has done has threatened the stability of the Al-Saud clan.”

Q: Regarding the GCC and the reputation of some its members like Kuwait, what is your prediction of the future of the bloc?

A: I think that it will be very difficult to reconcile harmony to the GCC. In the first place, Kuwait and Oman will not back Saudi Arabia because if they do their own future as sovereign states will be threatened. They will have to follow Saudi Arabia like little puppy dogs. Second, in the case of Kuwait, it wants to slowly reform and support more political participation. It cannot join Saudi pressures to move backwards. Saudi Arabia can always count on Bahrain for support, as it is has become totally dependent on Saudi Arabia and there is no going back. In the case of the UAE, there is a strong personal relation between its crown prince and Mohammad bin Salman. To my mind, the GCC is essentially finished.

Q: Saudi Arabia has set some conditions for removal of anti – Qatar sanctions, which if implemented would change the nature of the political system in Qatar. Regarding this issue, how can the dispute be resolved?

A: They will not be resolved. Both sides will be forced to say some face saving words but they will not be resolved. It will in time be papered over. Saudi Arabia will back down and Qatar will make some meaningless concessions so that the Al-Sauds can save face. All this presents a great opportunity for Iran. Iran should moderate its rhetoric and do all it can to become a strategic partner for Qatar and Kuwait. Both Qatar and Kuwait will be much more likely to warm up to Iran if Iran is seen as a moderating influence by the United States and Europe.

Q: Is there possibility of a Saudi-engineered coup in Qatar if Doha insists on its policies?

A: I am sure that Saudi Arabia has tried or will try to overthrow the ruler of Qatar in a bloodless coup. But it will not be easy. In fact, I think that a coup would be much more likely in Saudi Arabia. What the king has done has threatened the stability of the Al-Saud clan. Maybe some of the princes are planning such a takeover on Riyadh.

“Iran should moderate its rhetoric and do all it can to become a strategic partner for Qatar and Kuwait.”

Q: In the first days of the Qatar row, Trump backed the Saudi claim that Doha supports terrorism, however Washington changed the tact and adopted a mediatory approach. What were the reasons for changing the attitude?

A: I think that this was mainly due to Trump tweeting and saying things that he knows very little about. He talked and his advisors had to carefully correct him. As you know, the U.S. needs the base in Qatar and cannot risk losing Qatar. So for now, they will not call them sponsors of terrorism. But sadly, the naming of terrorism has lost its value as the U.S. uses this label for its purpose as opposed to a careful analysis that would be supported by the rest of the world.


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