The End Of The Embargo Against Qatar

Yves here. The speculation about the behind-the-scenes calculations on the Saudi climbdown on Qatar are over my pay grade, but these theories seem plausible.

By Barkley Rosser, Professor of Economics at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Originally published at EconoSpeak

Yesterday Saudi Arabia announced that it is ending the embargo/boycott of Qatar, and though reportedly the UAE leadership is not entirely happy with this, they are going along with this as are the other nations involved in this, Bahrain and Egypt. This had begun in June, 2017, reportedly with the encouragement and initial support by Trump and Jared Kushner, with them buying into it as part of an anti-Iran alliance, given that Qatar was accused of having dealings with Iran, with which it shares a major natural gas pool in the Persian Gulf. It took Trump and Kushner a few months to realize that the very important al-Ubeid air base used by the US was there, so they shifted to trying to end the boycott, which involved a set of 13 demands that Qatar was not remotely going to follow, including shutting down al-Jazeera. It looked for awhile that the quartet, or some of its members, might invade Qatar, but then Turkey sent a bunch of troops to Qatar and in various ways began supporting it. Probably the greatest cost to Qatar of this whole mess was not being able to use the airspace of these nations.

In the immediate news reports Jared Kushner is being credited with having worked this deal out, which really is not so much a deal as simply a full cave by the Saudis, although apparently what the quartet gains is that Qatar had been bringing complaints to the WTO about all this, and these complaints are now withdrawn. I guess Kushner gets some credit for playing a role in undoing something ridiculous that he played a major role in getting put into place initially. He has also been the major player in getting the recognition deals cut between Israel and two of these, UAE and Bahrain, as well as Sudan and Morocco.

However, Juan Cole and other sources say that what really lies behind this move is the Saudis seeing the Biden administration coming in and recognizing that Biden does not at all approve of a lot of things they have been doing, including the assassination of WaPo journalist Jamal Khashoggi, some other human rights violations especially against female womens’ rights activists, and the awful war in Yemen, which it must be recognized was supported to some degree by the Obama admin, but has gotten much worse since. Supposedly the Saudis are scrambling and want to “clear some plates off the table” before the Biden admin gets in, and this also explains the Saudis quickly recognizing Biden’s victory over Trump, even as some other foreign leaders held off doing so for some time. They know they are in deep doo doo with Biden and those around him, and really do need US support.

An aspect of this is that is may be that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) has for at least a moment lost some power. Supposedly it was his father, King Salman, who has been the main mover on making this deal. In any case, it looks like a good thing, whatever it is really behind it.

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