Yemen instability brings Gulf rivals together
After years of wrangling, Qatar and Saudi Arabia made a significant step in patching up relations when Qatari Emir Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani visited Riyadh yesterday.
The emir follows two other Gulf leaders - Emir Sabbah al-Sabbah of Kuwair and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed al-Nahyan – who visited the new Saudi king, Salman al-Saud, in quick succession.
The visit to Saudi comes on the back of an official visit to Doha by Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, where Yemen was also discussed.
It marks not only the level of shared Gulf concern over the rise of Houthi movement in Yemen, but suggests a significant warming of relations since March 2014 when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, recalled their ambassadors from Doha, alleging that Qatar was behind a regional Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy.
The countries ended their rift, publically at least, in November when diplomatic relations resumed.
Better relations between the Gulf powers also come at a time of regional crisis.
Some Gulf countries are beginning to feel the effects of low oil prices. The Houthi movement continues its advance across Yemen. And in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State group is making increasingly bellicose and unpredictable decisions. IS disdain for Gulf leaders is clear.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia are both part of the international coalition that is bombing IS group positions in Syria and Iraq.
For now, the Yemen situation is understood to be the priority of these latest meetings.
In a few weeks, Riyadh will host two conferences that will bring Gulf foreign ministers together to discuss the situation in Yemen.
|Such crises always prove to be a good opportunity for unity.|
Almost all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members are united in pushing for Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, which if passed would clear the way for international military intervention against the Houthis.
Gulf leaders are increasingly wary of the rising power of Zaydi insurgents in Yemen and their suspected links to Iran.
The GCC was effectively set up to counter what was then seen as the threat of revolutionary Iran in 1981.
Although there have been many disputes between the parties in the past three decades, it appears that the "danger" of Iran is still the glue that keeps the Gulf together.
This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.