Political tensions between the Gulf States are undermining the union’s influence on religious and civil unrest in the Middle East.
Although leaders are playing their cards close to their chests, it’s no secret that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are concerned that the Qatari government is privately backing the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic State (ISIS).
Although no hard evidence is on the table, the Gulf Co-Operation Council is under stress behind the scenes.
The six nation GCC – which includes the four nations plus Oman and Kuwait – claim Qatar has broken pledges about Gulf security by actively supporting Islamic separatists.
The Saudis, UAE and Bahrain have already withdrawn ambassadors from the Qatar capital, Doha, and sent envoys to discuss the matter with the Qatari government over the past few days.
Kuwait is trying to play peacemaker.
The foreign ministers of the GCC met in Doha to try and heal the rift, but without success.
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Sabah told reporters after the summit that no real progress was agreed. In a cryptic statement, he tried to explain what happened at the talks without revealing any real information.
“We have agreed a way forward, but still need to talk about how to overcome obstacles and unknown factors before we can move towards a result,” he said.
“All six countries have an agreed process to move forward and are committed to resolving the problem.”
Civil strife fears
The problem is unrest in the Middle East, with different GCC states taking opposing sides.
- Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE back Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad, who is allied with Iran.
- Qatar also supports the Muslim Brotherhood, which was at the root of civil unrest in Egypt, an ally of Saudi Arabia.
- Meanwhile, Qatar is backing Islamist organisations in Libya – where the UAE has joined the US in air strikes against the same factions.
At the root of the problem are concerns among the monarchies that run each Gulf State that the Arab Spring uprisings which shook Libya, Egypt and Tunisia may spread disaffection with their rule to their nations.
The GCC has maintained a solid political and economic landscape in the Gulf for more than 30 years. Recently, each government has tried to bring in measures to give more jobs and civil rights to their nationals by reducing the number of expats working in government and industry.