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The “deal” of the century


The US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Israel will meet in June in Bahrain for Jared Kushner's economic plan to redraw the balance of power in the Gulf

A demonstration in Gaza in favour of Qatar. Doha pays millions of dollars into Gaza with the approval of Israel. Intelligence sources claim that there is also an unofficial stream of funds being sent to Hamas. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Contrast

The US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Israel will meet in June in Bahrain for Jared Kushner’s economic plan to redraw the balance of power in the Gulf

This article is also published in the July/August issue of eastwest.

The handshake between the Qatari Prime minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser al-Thani and the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz accompanied by his son and heir Mohammed bin Salman at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit (GCC) at the Mecca in Saudi Arabia last May 30, was not just a formal act, nor a moment of detente between the two Gulf countries that have broken off diplomatic relations now for the past two years. It also transpires that Riyadh only invited Doha on America’s behest, a friend of both with vested interests, albeit of a different nature, in both countries, that is trying to broker a situation that since June 5 has resulted in the Qatari emirate being effectively isolated from the rest of the Gulf countries. Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, with Saudi Arabia in the forefront, have imposed an embargo on Qatar. It is accused of funding terrorism but essentially it’s about controlling an area to try and soothe Saudi fear of Iran.

After two years of embargo, Qatar certainly has its problems. Its economy is growing slower (creeping towards 3% in 2018 after a drop to 1.5% in 2017), but the Saudi action, besides not achieving its intent has if anything achieved the exact opposite. Because instead of banishing what Riyadh refers to as the “terrorist threat”, meaning the groups that one way or another are linked to Qatar and, more importantly perhaps, reducing Iranian influence over the region, the blockade has somehow increased Tehran’s presence in the area.

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