Whose Side will Al Khalifa Take with Escalation of Saudi-Emirati Dispute?

2021-07-08 - 4:56 am

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Bahrain's ruling Al Khalifa family seems to be in an unenviable position after the big shifts in the Gulf region: End of Qatar's boycott and the ball of discord dramatically rolling between Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Qatar has been refusing to hold talks with Bahrain since the announcement of a Gulf settlement in January at the Al-Ula summit in Saudi Arabia. Manama had already sent two invitations to Doha to send a delegation to settle the dispute between them, however, the latter didn't respond.

Today, the Al Khalifa family find themselves in a position of choice between Qatar's two allies: Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are at odds over political, economic and military reasons. 

Since the UAE announced that it has ceased its military role in the war in Yemen, disputes between the two countries have worsened. The UAE encouraged southerners to secede after a cessation of hostilities in northern Yemen.

The UAE has established military bases on two Yemeni islands and supports separatist forces that occasionally launch attacks on what Saudi Arabia calls the legitimate forces in Yemen headed by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.

The conflict took an economic form after Saudi Arabia announced in February that it would stop awarding government contracts to any foreign company or institution with a regional headquarters in the Middle East in any country other than the Kingdom as of 2024.

Analysts saw the decision as a new challenge for businesses in the UAE, particularly Dubai.

The UAE responded through Nasser Al-Sheikh, former Director General of Dubai's Financial Department, saying that "Riyadh's move contradicts the principles of the Gulf unified market".

In a surprising move, the UAE yesterday rejected a Saudi-Russian proposal to continue the oil production cut agreement until 2022. The agreement was approved by all OPEC member states except the UAE.

The UAE said the agreement was unfair and required an increase in its share of production to approve the agreement.

Saudi Finance Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, the king's son, responded by wondering why they have remained silent, if they had reservations.

The production cut agreement has been in place since the beginning of last year to counter the fall in oil prices due to increased supply. 

The Saudi minister responded to the UAE's requirement to increase its share by saying that "no country can take its production level in one month as a reference. I haven't seen such a request in more than 30 years."

In response, Saudi Arabia prevented its citizens from travelling to the UAE and suspended flights from the UAE as part of measures to counter the Coronavirus outbreak.

Emirati political science professor AbdulKhaliq Abdullah asked: "Are these measures taken for health considerations or for other considerations?" explaining that the UAE is among the first in vaccination against Coronavirus, its precautionary measures are the most accurate, has the lowest rate of infections globally and has the fastest-recovering economy in the Gulf and the Arab world, why then do some countries put it on its red list of travel bans?

Abdullah deleted his tweet for fear of being misunderstood.

Saudi Arabia has amended its rules on imports from other Gulf Cooperation Council countries to exclude goods made in free zones or using Israeli input from preferential tariff concessions, in a bid to challenge the United Arab Emirates' status as the region's trade and business hub, Reuters reported.

The escalation of the dispute in this way obliges Bahrain's ruling family to take the side of one of its former allies, especially amid its difficult financial situation, its need for rapid financial support, and Qatar's continued indifference towards Bahrain. Whose side will Al Khalifa take? 

Arabic Version