Is the alliance between Saudi’s MBS and UAE’s MBZ cracking?
Those of you who are following the tensions in the Gulf are probably aware of fresh developments. The regional alliance that has been managed through Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed has, for a long time now, been cracking. Around the same time when the storm dubbed as the Arab spring started, rather than cooperation, competition emerged between the three leaders of the Gulf (MBS, MBZ and Emir Tamim), which led to today’s developments.
These young leaders, who are energetic, knowledgeable and have lucrative opportunities, could have had great success with the winds of change; yet with MBS and MBZ submitting their will to US advisers, the region was plunged into chaos. The reforms of MBS, who turned upside down the partly-established tradition in order to ascend to the throne, basically transforming Saudi Arabia from the house of Saud to the house of Salman, rocked the country’s internal balance. His ambitions to gain legitimacy led to the breakout of the Yemen War.
Similarly MBZ, who is running the country for the sickly UAE Emir, has high ambitions. It seems as though being crown prince and running the country didn’t satisfy him. He wanted to expand the country’s borders despite Saudi Arabia and Qatar, be active in east Africa, stand against its arch-enemy Qatar in Arab Spring countries, and especially get rid of the Muslim Brotherhood. The two young princes, with the support of arms dealers, pioneered the Arab coalition of the Yemen war and completely ruined the lives of millions of Yemeni citizens.
The war that has dragged on since 2015 couldn’t wipe out the Iran-backed Houthis, nor could it return Yemen’s legitimacy; however they managed to destroy an entire nation, along with their own countries. The collapse of Saudi Arabia’s economy, hundreds of companies declaring bankruptcy, and the increase of unemployment despite the claims in MBS’s 2030 vision— all these led to a new front being opened in 2017.
The blockade on Qatar was meant to serve as a deflection from the failure in Yemen. And this too was led by these crown princes. A new psycho-historic attack took place in the region. Just as the Yemen war was launched under the pretext of Iran’s support of the Houthis, the new excuse would be Qatar’s economic cooperation with Iran.
The real matter was the two crown princes’ desire to regain their lost popularity with the people. As they predicted, they were widely praised by their people for the Qatar blockade by utilizing the competition of the past. The Saudis opened a front against Qatar because it turned its back on Wahhabism and severing its past links to the kingdom; the Emiratis wanted to teach Qatar—the presence of which they have never been able to accept, a lesson as they dispute over borders.
As I have pointed out in my previous columns, there are grave disputes between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and psycho-historical problems that could be sparked at any given moment. Thus, the Khashoggi murder dragged MBS’s reputation through the mud, which led MBZ to rethink matters. With the violation of human rights in the Yemen war being widely publicized across the globe, the seeds of distrust were sown among the two young allies.
The fact that Trump took things slow despite both Arab princes’ attempts to convince the US to intervene in Iran and their hefty weapons purchases, brought MBS and MBZ against each other. Furthermore, when MBS pointed to Iran for the sabotage of tankers in UAE waters, the fact that the UAE did not attach much significance to the matter also pitted them against each other. MBZ has started to withdraw from Yemen. The UAE pulled out its military units from strategic locations in Yemen. MBZ has probably drawn up a new roadmap that would annul their partnership in subsequent locations. Despite Saudi Arabian media still writing provocative articles against Qatar, the number of articles written against Qatar in the UAE has significantly decreased.
I’m not trying to add fuel to the fire with my article. Normalization in the region, which is what I’ve always defended, will be both to Turkey and the world’s advantage. Of course, history will not forget those who were behind the suffering of innocents. Without a doubt, everyone will be held to account. But stability in the Gulf will provide a respite from East Africa to the Eastern Mediterranean. While global hegemonic balances, which have long since been shaky, strive to sustain their presence with unconventional processes, it is our duty to emphasize that regional balances are also in need of normalizing.