As we can see, Qatar and Saudi Arabia had good reasons for reconciliation, whereas other states - first and foremost the United Arab Emirates - entered into the agreement more reluctantly. A lasting "cold" peace may be the result, in which there will be winners and losers.
The biggest winners at the end of the Qatari blockade are the Arab monarchies such as Jordan and Morocco. They will no longer be preoccupied with taking sides after three and a half years of diplomatic gymnastics aimed at maintaining good relations not only with Qatar but also with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. It will be interesting to analyze their future foreign policy moves, although Abu Dhabi’s influence will undoubtedly remain strong in both Amman and Rabat.
Egypt, whose relations with Qatar have been frozen since July 2013, will remain cautious about what it considers to be Qatari "interference" in their internal affairs, particularly Qatar’s links with the Muslim Brotherhood and its role in the Libyan conflict. Overall, however, the agreement serves as excellent news for Cairo. Egypt, along with Saudi Arabia, wants to restore its image in the eyes of the new American administration while continuing to work towards securing important reconstruction contracts - as well as further, more substantial economic deals - with Qatar. It now has free rein to play both sides of the divide, as demonstrated with the inauguration of a palace belonging to a Qatari hotel group in Cairo, in the presence of the Qatari Finance Minister, the day after the signing of the Al Ula Agreement. However, Sisi will have to spare his ally the UAE, and his absence at Al Ula was certainly a useful precaution in this regard.
For "mediating" Kuwait and "neutral" Oman, who refused to align themselves with Saudi Arabia in 2017, the diplomatic de-escalation that occurred on January 5 presents the opportunity for an invaluable détente. Both states have seen a new generation of leaders come to power in 2020; it will be interesting to observe their attitude in the coming months, especially over the war in Yemen. Will the Sultanate of Oman more cautiously challenge the Sunni leaders now that Qatar has lost its status as the region’s scarecrow, or will it be reassured by the failure of the blockade?
Further out, Turkey and Pakistan will benefit from the reconciliation process both politically and economically. Ankara and Islamabad will be expected to contribute towards the implementation of a stronger Iranian containment strategy. However, it remains to be seen whether Doha will be amenable and diligent to facilitating a dialogue between Erdogan and MBS.
The United Arab Emirates, who would have been happy with the post-2017 status quo continuing for years to come, are clear losers of the diplomatic move. The relationship between MBS and MBZ will certainly be put to the test, and the recent normalization of relations with Israel is therefore particularly welcome in balancing the regional strength of Abu Dhabi’s allies.
Meanwhile, Iran is the biggest loser of all. The reopening of Saudi airspace to Qatari flights means losing the $100 million a year windfall that the Emirate was paying Tehran for overflights of its airspace. Even if the nations of the Gulf remain without a unified strategy towards Iran, as we have discussed, these signs of a détente will not work in Iran’s favor in the immediate future.
Finally, as a natural counterpart of the deal, Qatar will need to be less critical of Saudi policy in Yemen. Now compelled to provide signs of friendship to its new Saudi "best enemy", it will nonetheless stand alongside Kuwait and Oman in calling for an end to hostilities. Yemen, after all, remains the great loser of any geopolitical reconfigurations in the Gulf, even in times of relative warmth.
Copyright : FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP