Three reasons why are Saudis bullying tiny Arab states

Alwaght – Since its establishment, Saudi Arabia has rarely managed to make regional alliances with long duration. Except for its decades-long stable relations with the US that largely rely on interests coming from oil exploration and production, the Arab kingdom’s ties with the neighbors, Arab and non-Arab, have continued with degrees of tensions from time to time.

Very latest example of tense relations is the diplomatic row with Qatar. Additionally, challenges between Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also showing face recently. Whereas they are members of the same Arab military coalition that launched a war against Yemen and imposed embargo on Qatar, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are revealing signs of potential divergence in their relationship.

The Saudi officials recently issued warnings to the Emirati leaders, though tacitly. For example, Vahid al-Asaker, the head of the Saudi crown prince office, recently in a Twitter post said: “regional countries are now facing a sensitive time. We want to deal with Qatar according to the international laws. The (P) GCC states should coordinate their foreign policy with the Council’s visions.”

The tweet was seen as largely drawing the Saudi red lines. It implied that Qatar is being punished for crossing the lines of the Saudi-dominated (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council. Secondary meaning of the tweet is interpreted as a warning to other countries, including the UAE, not to take stances in conflict with those of the Council. For many who are familiar with the Saudi behavior, the coordination with the Council’s visions means coordination with the Saudi foreign policy, in its precise sense.

The Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has recently admitted that divisions existed among the countries that blockaded Qatar. He further said that the differences between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE, and this bloc’s differences with Qatar should be settled within the framework of the (P) GCC.

Recently hacked and published emails of the UAE ambassador to the US strengthen the speculations that Abu Dhabi was the main addressee of the recent al-Jubei remarks. Following the Yousef al-Otaiba inbox hack, a published document exposed a demand by Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the head of the state for national security advisor, from the country’s Supreme Council for National Security and other intelligence services of the state to collect information on some countries which are labeled major threat to the UAE. The letter claims that Iran and Saudi Arabia are the “biggest threats” to the UAE and calls on the intelligence agencies to collect political, economic, media, and even nuclear and chemical data on these countries.

Mid-July remarks by the Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash unleashed waves of social media commendation and criticism. Gargash during speech at the London-based Chatham House institute noted that the UAE admitted that it faced the challenge of “individual” funding of terrorism by the Persian Gulf Arab states. He called on the regional states to do more to drain the financial sources of the terrorists. He further said that individual bankrolling of terrorism also existed in Saudi Arabia, and “the Saudis know this challenge.”

The comments by Saudi and Emirati officials indicate that huge problems are hitting the two Arab states’ relations and the publicized issues are just tip of the iceberg. Many blame the domineering Saudi spirit for the struggles. They argue that Saudi Arabia seeks stripping its allies of their independence of decision making, something causing despair and gaps between them. This is comprehensible from the list of the 13 demands presented to Qatar by the four blockading stares to de-escalate tensions. The Qatari officials blasted the demands as targeting the Doha’s foreign policy independence and sovereignty.

Qatar siege should set off the alarm bells for other (P) GCC members, especially the UAE that may exhibit slight degree of independence of policy in the future in defiance to Saudi Arabia. With anti-Qatari measures, Saudi Arabia warns others of having to pay a heavy price once they seek stances contradictory to the Saudi interests and policies.

Why is Saudi Arabia arrogant?

Three reasons stand behind the overbearing nature of the Arab kingdom.

First, due to its long-term and strategic relations with the US, Saudi Arabia sees no necessity to set up alliances with the surrounding tiny Arab neighbors, unless they approve of it as an unquestionable leader.

Second, the retrogressive culture and logic of the Saudi rulers bars them from dealing respectably with other parties and recognizing their sovereignty rights. For Al Saud rulers, alliance even in the modern world looks quite like the old-time tribal alliances in which the weaker tribes had to fully submit to the stronger one.

Third, Saudi Arabia wants its hegemony in the Persian Gulf and the (P) GCC to be fully recognized. To this end, Riyadh leaders only use hard power, a method resulting in reluctant submission to them in the long run. If the pressures mount by the hegemon, mutiny could ensue once supporting powers are available for the weaker party. Qatar crisis is a convenient example.

And finally, Saudi Arabia’s view of interests is highly monopolistic as it seeks its maximum interests at the expense of others’.

Such policy only contributes to erosion of Saudi-led Arab alliances. Smaller states slip out of Riyadh’s humiliating dominance one after another over time.