Has the UAE government really changed its stance on the Iran boycott and withdrawn from the Saudi-Bahraini-US alliance? There are only two possibilities: Yes or no.
If the answer is yes, and Abu Dhabi has indeed decided to reconcile with Tehran, then this is its sovereign right; it is surely aware of its own interests and this could be the right decision for it. However, if the story is a lie then the alliance against Iran still holds.
The UAE government has said that its recent meeting with Iran was arranged in advance and conducted with the full knowledge of other Gulf states, not in secrecy. This version was supported by a Gulf source who told Asharq Al-Awsat, the sister publication of Arab News, that the Iranians were trying to exaggerate the news, and that Qatar was spreading false information while inciting the media against the UAE.
Currently, the front against Iran consists of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, all of whom are willing allies. Qatar, on the other hand, recently joined the coalition under pressure from Washington, which has warned Doha against communicating or mediating with the Iranians.
Thus, even if the UAE has changed its stance and is now seeking to solve its problems with Tehran, there is little to worry about because we judge governments based on a set of stances and behaviors over a long period of time.
Throughout the past two decades, the relationship with Abu Dhabi has remained objective, and any differences have been manageable. This is also the case with Kuwait, Muscat and Cairo. But with Doha, things have been different. Its record since 1995 is full of controversies in its relationships with regional states, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt and others.
Qatar has distinguished itself as a center of sedition in the region, and its actions in most instances have been negative. When the four states — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain — decided to boycott Doha in June 2017, it was not over differences in political stances but because Qatar had broken its commitments and overstepped all limits to the extent of funding opposition groups targeting Saudi Arabia. These included radical Islamists who were granted residency in Qatar.
Moreover, Doha has also supported and financed radical organizations in the West and Turkey, and devoted considerable resources to the goal of overthrowing the Saudi government. The discord is no longer over television programs, conferences or hostile declarations, which were the type of disputes that were usually resolved in the past.
Since the beginning of the rift with the other states, the Qataris have sought to dismantle the alliance confronting it. They began by targeting Egypt, trying to create doubt among Saudis over the Egyptian position; they even disseminated audio recordings aimed at sabotaging the relationship between Riyadh and Cairo. Many times they tried, and each time they failed.
The Qatari media then turned its attention to Abu Dhabi, seeking to cause problems between the UAE and the Kingdom through dramatized and exaggerated news stories, as well as outright fabricated reports. Doha also tried to cast doubt on the UAE’s intentions in Yemen, mobilizing Yemenis to write comments critical of Abu Dhabi in a way that gave the impression they were made under Saudi guidance. Qatar also claimed the UAE was increasing its military presence in Yemen, only to reverse its story and say the opposite: That the UAE was abandoning Saudi Arabia to deal with the situation alone.
One by one, the contradictions in the Qatari stories have revealed that Doha’s strategy is to attempt to weaken and dismantle the opposing front. At the same time, the falsehoods have demonstrated the strength of the relationship that binds these four capitals on Yemen and other issues. The UAE, for example, is still present in Yemen on a military level, and is active in the coalition against Iran, in its support for the new Sudan, and in confronting hostile Turkish expansionism.
Qatar’s hostile policy has not changed since the mid-1990s, despite Saudi leniency and concessions. In the 1990s and into the 2000s, it incited al-Qaeda groups to carry out attacks inside the Kingdom. In 2008, it joined forces with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to support Yemeni groups seeking to carry out similar strikes. Afterward, recordings of Qatari officials talking to Gaddafi about plots to dismember the Saudi state appeared. Indeed, evidence that this conspiracy was taking place at a time when relations between Riyadh and Doha were still reasonable was never denied.
However, conflicts between states have limits, and states that breach these limits can be tolerated no more. Doha now supports the Houthis in Yemen who are attacking Riyadh, Jeddah and Makkah. It is also conspiring in the West against Saudi Arabia and incites violence against the Kingdom’s leadership. This is the reason for the dispute and break-up with Doha.
Far from succeeding in its efforts to create discord, Qatar is the reason for the exceptional cooperation among Abu Dhabi, Manama, Cairo and Riyadh — a success story that has widened into other areas of the relationship.
Qatar’s efforts, which are bound to fail, have now been exposed in the court of public opinion.