Out­come of Gulf split still un­cer­tain

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - BAHRAIN, EGYPT, SAUDI ARA­BIA AND THE UNITED ARAB EMI­RATES

are re­port­edly con­sid­er­ing ratch­et­ing up the eco­nomic sanc­tions they have im­posed on Qatar and sus­pend­ing it from the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil. Bei­jing News com­mented on Wed­nes­day:

The on­go­ing Gulf row seems to be go­ing too far. On Mon­day, af­ter an ear­lier 10-day dead­line ex­pired, Saudi Ara­bia and its al­lies gave Qatar an ex­tra two days to ac­cept their ul­ti­ma­tum for restor­ing re­la­tions.

How­ever, Doha is not likely to make full con­ces­sions to their de­mands, which in­clude clos­ing its broad­caster Al Jazeera and cut­ting diplo­matic ties with Iran.

What will hap­pen next re­mains to be seen, but if Qatar gives in to the de­mands, the coun­try’s pol­i­cy­mak­ing in­de­pen­dence will be called into ques­tion. While if it sides with Turkey and Iran, the Sunni Gulf na­tions are ex­pected to diplo­mat­i­cally iso­late it, and Wash­ing­ton, a cru­cial ally of Doha, will likely with­draw from the Al-Udeid Air Base, its largest air base

in the Mid­dle East.

There is also a pos­si­bil­ity that Qatar, af­ter pay­ing lip ser­vice to its Gulf neigh­bors, will seek to main­tain its “mav­er­ick” stance to­ward Iran off the record. While the worst-case sce­nario is the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil falls apart af­ter an en­dur­ing stand­off.

It is tricky try­ing to pre­dict how things will go in the Mid­dle East, be­cause game-chang­ing deals are of­ten made in secret.

But the fis­sures in the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil, not least the dis­agree­ments be­tween Qatar and other Sunni-ma­jor­ity na­tions, are no secret ei­ther. The lat­est stand­off, which os­ten­si­bly cen­ters on com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism, of­fers a glimpse into com­pe­ti­tion among the Arab na­tions.

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