Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani visits Saudi Arabia for the first time since the cessation of hostilities to discuss the regional and global developments. Is the region changing for better or worse?
For the first time since the signing of a pseudo-amity declaration between the Kingdom of Qatar and other gulf states following in the footsteps of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar’s ruling monarch Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani paid a visit to Saudi Royal Family. Upon his arrival, Tamim was greeted by none other than Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin-Salman himself who went on to escort the sheikh from the airport to the al-Salam palace all by his own retinue. During the meeting between the two, regional and international developments along with their impact on the region and the Arab world was supposedly discussed.
Back in 2017, Qatar came under political and diplomatic fire directed at it by the Saudi-led coalition composed of the kingdom itself, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. Saudi Arabia and its allies claimed that Qatar had violated a 2014 agreement signed between the members of Gulf Cooperation Council, lend its aid to Islamist militants group. Though Qatari officials admitted to aiding Muslim Brotherhood, Saudis nevertheless accused them of aiding vilified groups such as al-Qaeda to make Qatar look scarier for the international community. That being said, experts still do believe that all that talk about aiding Islamists were just excuses to go after Qatar because of their refusal to antagonise Iran like their neighbours. Furthermore, Al Jazeera’s rejection of complying with Saudi guidelines was also believed to have contributed to the decision to diplomatically boycott Qatar.
Things didn’t work out for Saudi Arabia as it was intended. Not only did Qatar successfully resist the embargo placed on it thanks to Saudis machinations, it went on to forge deeper ties with Iran and its proxies, most notably Syria and Lebanon, as well as Turkey. Defeated, Saudis pleaded with yet another neutral actor to mend the relations before things get out of hand. A few weeks before Joe Biden officially took office Kuwait nudged by the US government brokered a meeting between the two so as to end the hostilities. A communique was finally signed on 5 January 2021. That was of course a sign of the change that was about to come. Following the election of Joe Biden, Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy underwent vast drastic changes, changes that many thought impossible under bin-Salman’s leadership. This different approach became mostly evident in recent times, thanks to its rather open rapprochement with its former rival in the region, the Islamic Republic of Iran. Though initially believed to be rumours, Iran’s foreign ministry finally confirmed the reports yesterday, announcing that a series of talks have been indeed held between the two regional juggernauts.
It is interesting to know that a day before Sheikh Tamim’s visit, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also visited Saudi Arabia, hoping to mend the souring relations between the two countries after Khashoggi’s assassination. Though in no way it can be proved that these recent developments have been coordinated, it is not a coincidence that Qatar, along with Turkey and Iran have been engaged in dialogue with Saudi Arabia as of late. After all, Qatar is still an Arabic country and definitely on better standing with the Saudis than the Iranians who are engaged in a power struggle with Saudi Arabia or the Turks who destroyed Mohammad bin-Salman’s political career thanks to Khashoggi’s revelations. Having said that, all parties talking with Saudi Arabia are still biding their time to better adjust themselves with the changes that might come in the next few months. The war in Yemen along with the upcoming presidential election in Iran will probably have the biggest impact though the recent developments in Israel and Palestine could alter the shape of the region as well. Until then, the speculations could only continue. Nevertheless, signs coming from left and right seem to signal a positive change for the region.