London, England – The international community must revise its stance towards Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to end the current Gulf crisis, experts of international law and Middle East politics told a conference in London on Thursday.
Panellists agreed that unless world leaders take stronger action, the probability of the Gulf crisis ending soon is low, and constitutes a threat to the wider region.
“We are seeing a deepening and widening of the crisis. I don’t see it changing any time soon unless other states change their position. Europe and the international community must change [their] position.
“[They are] morally obliged to, and I would argue, legally obliged to,” said Carl Buckley, a barrister and Chambers Director at Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers.
“Saudi Arabia is emboldened to continue to act as it sees fit, because silence is seen as tacit approval,” Buckley said at the event, which was hosted by Diwan London and titled The Arab Gulf States in Transition: The Present Predicament and Future Prospects.
“Change won’t come unless the US backs it.”
The GCC has been ruptured permanently.
Fifteen months after the advent of the latest Gulf crisis, the GCC has been unable to resolve the dispute, which has grown increasingly bitter as it has unfolded.
The diplomatic crisis began in June 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic relations with Qatar.
The coalition claimed that Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism was the main reason for the blockade, contending Doha had violated a 2014 agreement with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Qatar denies all allegations raised by the quartet.
Bill Law, a journalist who has reported from the Middle East for the BBC, reflected on the way the current crisis has changed the dynamics of the Gulf.
“The GCC has been ruptured permanently.”
Law suggested that the current Gulf crisis has benefitted Iran, which he described as “the real winner” in the situation.
Saudi Arabia and other countries involved in the blockade of Qatar have strongly criticised Qatar’s relationship with the Islamic Republic.
Reducing diplomatic relations with Iran was a key coalition demand at the beginning of the crisis, as well as ceasing military coordination with Turkey and closing Al Jazeera.
On August 24, 2017, Qatar announced that they would restore full diplomatic relations with Iran.
At the London conference, analysts warned that should the crisis continue, negative consequences may be difficult to reverse.
“There is a fragmentation of the concept of the Gulf,” said Madawi Al-Rasheed, a visiting professor at the LSE Middle East Centre.
“I can’t see that any repair can be done, not even a shared enemy would bring them together.”
Law suggested that a lack of perspective from Gulf leaders was a major factor in the continuation of the crisis.
Calling for a more measured approach, he said: “Sane and sensible heads should get together and solve this pointless dispute.
“It seems that those are in short supply, and so this crisis will go on and on and on.”
Analysts agreed that the internal dynamics of Saudi Arabia, particularly the influence of Mohammed bin Salman, has been a major driver of the Gulf crisis.
Al-Rasheed said, using a popular acronym for the crown prince: “MBS is ruling without a legitimacy narrative. Why should we believe in MBS?”
The 33-year-old Saudi political leader has recently been beleaguered by a string of setbacks to his economic development plans.
In August, his plans to list Saudi company Aramco on the stock market and raise around $100bn by selling off five percent collapsed.
There has been increasing speculation that the kingdom may face economic instability in the near future.
Al-Rasheed said: “Saudi Arabia will be in debt. In the near future, it is expected Saudi Arabia won’t be able to export 10 to 12 barrels of oil a day because most of it will be consumed within Saudi Arabia.”
Conference delegates compared the economic uncertainty in the kingdom with Qatar’s relative stability.
“Qataris have seen off the blockade, the economy is buzzing. It is hard to see Qatar as the loser here,” said Law.