The academic job market took up almost all of my time in the Fall, so I’m trying to get back into this blog now. This post is mainly an assortment of what I recall seeing in various op-eds over the past few months; I’ll try to post a bit more regularly this Spring.
Qatar & the GCC
In reflecting on the past year of intra-GCC harmony, Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed offered a retrospective explanation for any “differences” as an unfortunate but temporary side-effect of the political upheaval that followed the Arab Spring uprisings. Accordingly, greater unity is now in the interest of the GCC and the rest of the Arab world:
Let us remember that ten difficult years have passed for everyone, during which every country was looking for alliances to secure its borders, to prevent chaos from spreading within their own borders, and to rescue countries that were on the edge of the abyss. Disagreements, both in the Gulf and in broader regional circles, were born out of these collective tension.
The Gulf efforts put an end to the differences between them… and was extended to include Egypt and Turkey. I cannot say it includes Iran as well, because the differences with it are more complex and complex, on regional issues such as Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. However, reducing tension with Iran, though not necessarily reconciling with it, remains useful for achieving collective regional calm. Most importantly, these multiple reconciliations have been tested on the ground. The eleven months that have passed since the signing of the Al-Ula Agreement herald its success. The whole region is facing better days, and the train of reconciliation will not stop at Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain.Aawsat, 12.7.2021
Al-Riyadh’s editorial emphasized the importance of Saudi leadership in advance of the Crown Prince’s regional trip:
Therefore, as seen across the various Gulf media outlets, Gulf citizens are betting on the Saudi leadership to achieve their aspirations for development, security and stability. This did not come out of nowhere, but rather from eloquent data and evidence related to the Kingdom’s historical stances towards its sister countries, in addition to the well-established and comprehensive strategic vision that affirms the Kingdom’s role in maintaining the security and stability of the Gulf.Al-Riyadh, 12.4.2021
Similar themes appeared in articles around the time of the GCC summit on December 15:
The stumbling blocks that the Council faced in moments of disagreement in policies proved that disagreement is a luxury that the Arab Gulf cannot bear in the face of the dangers afflicting the region, including the explicit threats posed by the projects of hegemony and chaos. Maintaining the stability of the Gulf countries amid a sea of chaos requires responsibility, awareness and setting aside self-delusions. The Gulf has come to be like a single body, where damage to any one part is felt by all!Khalid al-Suleiman, Okaz, 12.15.2021
See also, from cartoonist Ahmed Jaber, the GCC as a (unified) life preserver (for the region?):
While a full review of comments on Iran will probably have to wait, the threat posed by Iran was also cited as one major reason for “uniting the ranks” of the Arab countries at this time. Here, by Abdullah Al-Otaibi for Aawsat:
The Arab Gulf states at the recent Riyadh summit, and the preparations that preceded it, and the Saudi Crown Prince’s Gulf tour, were aimed at uniting the ranks [of these countries] in the face of this imminent, real and real danger. This is especially the case as these countries clearly see that Western delay in dealing with Iran increases the strength of the Iranian regime. It gives Iran the opportunity to complete its nuclear project and produce a nuclear weapon. Ruling out pressure and hard approaches sent a clear message to Iran to continue its strategy and its nuclear and expansionist project, which is clearly what Iran is doing.Abdullah Al-Otaibi, Aawsat, 12.19.2021
Abdullah Jaber on the nuclear negotiations: Iran(ian regime) holding a new nuclear agreement as a gift after trampling over (right to left) Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Yemen:
Shortly before Christmas 2021, CNN reported on Saudi ballistic missile production with the help of the Chinese government. This received much the same reaction that the last CNN report on Saudi Arabia’s ballistic missile program received: that the Kingdom will do whatever it needs to guarantee its own security.
From Hamood Abu Talib:
The Kingdom has the right at any time to possess any weapon it deems necessary to ensure its national security. Furthermore, at a time when it is facing an increasing threat from the Iranian ballistic arsenal, and Gulf and Arab security in general is facing Iran’s provocations, the need is greater and the justifications are stronger for the Kingdom to possess ballistic or other weapons. In any case, the Kingdom can never be compared to Iran in terms of political maturity, prudence, and adherence to international law and treaties and covenants that control the use of weapons of any kind.Okaz, 12.25.2021
And from Abdullah Al-Otaibi at Aawsat:
The powerful Arab countries are able to protect themselves, their gains, and their future with their own capabilities and their various alliances. When America withdraws its Patriot anti-ballistic missiles, Russia offers its THAAD missiles. When Saudi Arabia is actually targeted directly and repeatedly with ballistic missiles, it is its natural right to defend itself and cooperate with China or others to develop military industries in this field. When Saudi Arabia announces its endeavor to acquire sixteen nuclear energy centers, it has the right not to be held hostage by any ally towards protecting its sovereignty and stability.Aawsat, 12.26.2021
Tariq Humaid, former Aawsat editor, saw a broader conspiracy behind the news:
The former US ambassador to Bahrain, Adam Ereli, commented on the news with a tweet in which he said: “It is good for Saudi Arabia to take matters into its own hands, it cannot rely on the United States.”
“Maybe if we had a coherent and consistent policy in the Middle East and treated our allies with respect, this would not happen,” he added…
The news about Saudi-Chinese cooperation is not new. It was discussed in 2019, but it is now said that former US President Trump ignored it, and herein lies the story.
There are two goals in leaking this news to the American network, which dealt with it without reviewing the facts. The first is to reduce international pressure on the American administration to be tough on Iranian ballistic missiles, as part of the Vienna negotiations.
The second thing is to say that it is not only Iran that manufactures these missiles, but Saudi Arabia as well. This is not a serious a tactic, because every country has the right to defend its security against external aggressions, and as we have said, Saudi Arabia is not an aggressor country.Aawsat, 12.26.2021
In line with past articles from local newspapers emphasizing value of local op-ed columnists in shaping Saudi public opinion, Mohammed al-Sa‘id calls for more government financial support for local media:
Is it in the general interest for only international platforms [Asharq Bloomberg, Arab News, Asharq al-Aawsat, Independent Arabia] to remain? Or is it also important to pay attention to internal platforms and support public-opinion makers—here, the local media from newspapers, platforms and writers? Shall will we wait until our beloved local media is finished, replaced by channels, newspapers and writers who do not resemble us?Okaz, 11.17.2021
Other comments and complaints from the past few months include:
- Confusion over invoicing from the tax authorities (Khalid Al-Suleiman, Okaz, 12.13.2021)
- Al-Riyadh highlighting “remarkable progress” in dealing with unemploymend (editorial, Al-Riyadh, 12.21.2021)
- Concerns over inflation & high prices (Khalid Al-Suleiman, Okaz, 12.26.2021)
- On prices being pretty high:
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