What happened at the Riyadh summit on Sunday, which led to announcing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit would convene in Doha early next month, rescued GCC from fragmentation, and increased the odds for establishing a GCC Plus with Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco. It also suggested that Qatar has decided to adopt a markedly new policy vis-à-vis Egypt, GCC countries, and the Muslim Brotherhood organization. These are extremely important developments that have many implications for the GCC, regional security, the international coalition against ISIS and similar groups, and the identity of moderation declared by the leaderships of the GCC countries against extremism and terrorism. The Doha summit, which will handover the presidency of the GCC to Qatar next year, will not be ordinary, whether in terms of the issues raised during its sessions, or the positions and commitments of the new young Qatari leadership represented by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad
al-Thani. What happened in the Riyadh summit is a testimony to the wisdom of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad
Al-Sabah, who chairs the GCC summit this year. The two men worked on healing rifts and giving priority to supreme interests over divisions, as they presented a roadmap to the young emir for holding the summit in Doha and for an exceptional Qatari chairmanship of the GCC in an exceptional time. Among those who had their eyes set the Riyadh summit and who will carefully observe what will come out of the Doha summit are not just the leaders of the United States, Russia, Europe, and China, but also the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan
Rohani, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The issue involves the future of the regional balance of power and the role of the GCC in these balances.
The first to be resentful of the prospects of rapprochement in the Gulf is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who believed his distinguished relationship with the leadership in Qatar, especially with the father Emir Sheikh Hamad Al
Thani, was the guarantee of the continuation of the Muslim Brotherhood project. His keenness on having a special relationship with Qatar was based on their joint support for the Muslim brotherhood, which practically meant permanent division in the rank of GCC countries, undermining the future of the organization. This was reassuring for Erdogan, first, because division in any Arab ranks is conducive to Turkey’s rise in the region and to the strengthening of its position in the balance of power. And second, because his project based on the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in the entire region was his ticket to reviving the Ottoman Empire.
Today, Qatar denies being a sponsor and financier of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the UAE and Saudi Arabia see as the source of many plots against them and the region as a whole. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are determined to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from taking power anywhere in the Arab region. Under Emir
Hamad, there was much talk holding that he was a major supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. Sources would report that he did not hide this in closed political meetings. Under his son Emir
Tamim, Qatar moved away slightly from the Muslim Brotherhood, with some of the group’s leaders leaving Doha, though some of them returned as has been reported.
What had happened prior to the summit in Riyadh was that Qatar continued to support
Al-Jazeera Mubashir, the mouthpiece of the opposition against President Abdel Fattah
al-Sisi and the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. As long as the younger Emir continued to be committed to the television network created by his father, doubts continued as to whether he had truly been handed over the levers of power.
The main theme of the Riyadh summit was in one word reconciliation. The theme of the Doha summit will include a practical plan to launch the new chapter in the GCC march, based on “implementing commitments.” The Riyadh summit included written commitments to the priorities agreed upon, led by ending Qatari media campaigns against Egypt, reforming relations with the GCC started with an end to naturalization that Bahrain confirmed later had begun, and commitment to the absolute priority given by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to ending Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
These commitments will constitute a qualitative shift in Qatari policy when it is implemented, and will have a major impact on Qatar’s position in the region and the Gulf and Arab perception of the Qatari leadership. It is no secret that Qatari policies prior to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamid’s tenure following the abdication of Sheikh Hamad have been the source of controversy, anger, and reproach, causing much accusations in the direction of Doha.
The pace of the change seemed slow since Sheikh Tamim took power. Some even believe the abdication of the father was part of the change, after regional and international criticisms of Qatari policies intensified. Many Qataris encouraged the young emir to end the policy of meddling in the countries of the region, no matter what the reasons are, beginning with the open intervention policy led by the former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem under Emir
Hamad. The view was that Qatar only reaped blame, while its intervention mobilized Arab public opinion against it, raising questions about its purposes.
When Sheikh Tamim visited New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly this fall, he spoke in a language that suggested more change was coming, especially when he addressed a think tank in New York (see article column dated 17 October). He was intent on having good relations with Saudi Arabia and the rest of GCC countries.
The GCC, which comprises Saudi Arabia,
UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman was on the verge of collapse if it hadn’t been agreed to hold a summit in Doha on December 9 at the summit in Riyadh, which Oman did not attend. Oman opposes many Saudi,
Emirati, Kuwaiti, and Bahraini policies, led by these countries’ position on Iran and Saudi’s determination to create a Gulf Union, which had been previously agreed at the GCC.
Last year, shortly before the convening of the Gulf summit in Kuwait, a serious diplomatic row took place between Saudi Arabia and Oman because of what Foreign Minister Yousuf bin Alawi said in the Manama Dialogue conference and in remarks to
Al-Hayat. The situation was ....