Conflict Alerts # 3, 12 August 2019
In the News
On July 10, 2019, Jordan and Qatar announced the complete restoration of diplomatic ties. Prior to the meeting, Qatar appointed a member of the ruling family, Sheikh Saud bin Nasser Al Thani as its ambassador to Jordan. In response, Zaid Al Louzi, a high-ranking diplomat was appointed as Jordan’s ambassador to Qatar.
Meanwhile, amidst soaring US-Iran tensions and the ongoing blockade, Qatar’s Emir met with US President Donald Trump in Washington to discuss security and economy. Trump appreciated investments made by Qatar in the US as “one of the largest in the world”.
The Emir’s visit comes soon after the Doha dialogue between Afghanistan and the Taliban.
Issue at large
In June 2017, a UAE-Saudi led coalition consisting of Bahrain and Egypt launched a historic air, land and maritime blockade against the gas-rich country Qatar. Jordan siding with the Saudi-UAE axis severed ties with Qatar. The anti-Qatar quartet, as the coalition was later known, aimed to strong-arm Qatar into complying with the “thirteen points”.
Demands included shutting down of Qatar based media outlet Al Jazeera, ousting Iranian military members from Qatar, financial compensation, ceasing of treacherous support to Houthis and Islamist organizations, handing over of information and so on. Doha did not succumb.
In the two years of the blockade, both sides have claimed victory. However, Jordan’s current move sways the verdict in favour of the latter. It took Doha less than a week to resolve domestic difficulties caused by the blockade. The tiny but wealthy state launched a massive $1.75 billion PR campaign and emerged victorious; causing reputational setbacks to the quartet. Even Trump recognized Qatar’s progress regarding terror aiding and came down heavily on Riyadh.
Jordan’s current move reflects three concerns. Firstly, discontent with the Saudi-Emirati-Israeli alliance and their stand on the Israel-Palestine conflict. As Trump and Kushner move away from the two-state solution, thousands of Palestinians in Jordan would remain an economic burden to Jordan. Secondly, Amman has realized that keeping an economic powerhouse like Qatar away is imprudent. During the 2018 unrest and economic crisis in Jordan, Qatar offered 10,000 jobs for Jordanians and provided economic aid worth $500 million. Lastly, Jordan is wary of being bulldozed by the combined politico-economic-military might of the Saudis and Emiratis.
The Qatar-Jordan rapprochement comes at a time when Qatar is facing an economic dip in its construction-driven growth that began to peak in 2012. Post the blockade, Qatar’s only land link (which is with Saudi Arabia) has become redundant; making the last stretch of infrastructural developments for the 2022 FIFA World Cup challenging. Perhaps the state’s decision to pull out of OPEC and expand its LNG capacity will enable greater economic security and flexibility. For Qatar, the entente essentially means three things. First, a declaration of their victory; second, sending a strong political message to the anti-Qatar quartet; and third, increasing the state’s regional political mileage for future endeavours.