Event Summary: Qatar and the Gulf Crisis
On Monday, July 27, 2020, the SETA Foundation at Washington, DC hosted a virtual panel of experts to discuss ‘Qatar and the Gulf Crisis.’ The discussion featured Dr. Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and author of Qatar and the Gulf Crisis. The panel was moderated by Kadir Ustun, Executive Director at SETA DC.
Ulrichsen detailed the key points and patterns in his new book, Qatar and the Gulf Crisis, and illustrated the regional and geopolitical issues that paved the way for the context seen today. Beginning in the 1990s, Qatar sought to escape the Saudi shadow and discover its own autonomy, an endeavor never accepted by Saudi Arabia. In 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt all severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, launching an economic blockade by land, air, and sea. In terms of leadership, Qatar has a history of splits and contested successions, with family members taking from one another. This encouraged the Saudis and Emirates to take advantage of these splits as new, young rulers try to consolidate their power. Ulrichsen then went on to highlight the fact that the notion that Islamist groups pose an existential threat to Abu Dhabi does not make sense. The situation is far different from Egypt in 2010; a crisis is not looming. But the Abu Dhabi leadership is convinced that they are facing an existential threat. Abu Dhabi sees its main security threat within the region as Saudi Arabia, which could potentially become a failed state if economic stressors become too great to handle. This crisis would undoubtedly spill over to other Arab states, explaining why the UAE has locked in on supporting Mohammed bin Salman. During the question and answer portion of the event, Ulrichsen demonstrated that Turkish bases and agreements with Turkey are useful for Qatar due to American absence in the region. As the geopolitical map widens in the Gulf, Turkey’s role will continue to be important.