By Javad Heirannia

‘PGCC will never be the same’

February 3, 2018

TEHRAN - A senior expert on Arab affairs who teaches international business at George Washington University believes that “Qatar can never again trust Saudi Arabia, and the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) will never be the same.”

Hossein Askari told the Tehran Times recently that division among the PGCC countries will pose political and military threats to the United States.

Askari also added that the U.S. is trying to have a united front to oppose Iran and to persuade Iraq to join in.
 
“But if the PGCC is split apart, the U.S. has less persuasive power on Iraq and less ability to oppose Iran.”

Following is the brief text of the interview:

Q: A summit is scheduled in the U.S. in May on the Qatar crisis in which the Emir of Qatar, the crown prince of Saudi Regime and crown prince of the UAE will participate. Do you believe the objective of the summit is to solve the dispute between these countries and Qatar?

A: Yes, this is the goal, but I have my doubts that they will succeed. Saudi Arabia needs a solution that saves face and Qatar cannot give in on issues that have to do with its sovereignty. Is there such a solution? I don’t think so. They may come up with a short-term agreement. But the damage is done. Qatar can never again trust Saudi Arabia and the PGCC will never be the same.

Q: U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson said that the negative consequences of the PGCC crisis is not only limited to the Arab countries but also includes the United States. What kind of losses is the U.S. facing in this crisis?

A: America has a big problem. It has bases in PGCC countries, especially in Bahrain and Qatar, but also thousands of personnel and pre-positioned military equipment and munitions in the other PGCC countries with the possible exception of Oman. If the PGCC countries are divided, it poses both a political as well as military problem for the United States. If the PGCC splits apart, the U.S. has less persuasive power in Iraq and less ability to oppose Iran.

Q: Qatari Foreign Minister "Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al- Thani" said that Qatar is ready to attend the meeting. But he argued that Doha would not be willing to accept the pre-conditions and also demanded resolution of the crisis on the basis of equality between countries. However, is the Qatar crisis resolvable?

A: To my mind, both sides need to make concessions. Also, they cannot say that one side has conceded on this item or that item. Publicly they have to say that they have resolved their misunderstandings. But in private, Qatar would have to distance itself from Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. Their differences in other countries would be left unresolved.

Q: On which of the 13 terms announced by Saudi Regime and its allies may Qatar have to concede? 

A: As I have said above, the only solution is to say something publicly and agree to a few critical points privately. Privately, Qatar would have to concede on Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood and tell Al-Jazeera not to say negative things about any PGCC country. Qatar cannot shut down Al-Jazeera and let Saudi Arabia be in charge of its foreign policy. Qatar has important bargaining chips in its corner. It is home to the biggest U.S. base in the region and the U.S. can pressure Saudi Arabia. The Turkish soldiers would defend Qatar and thus Saudi Arabia will hesitate to start a military conflict. And if there is no agreement, Qatar would move closer to Iran and Iraq. This would derail U.S. ambitions in the Persian Gulf.

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