It has been noticed that the recent leak of former Libyan leader Gaddafi’s conversation with Omani Minister Yousef bin Alawi originated from Abu Dhabi, though the information leaked was not new and Riyadh had known it before.
The leak talked about the separation of Al-Ahsa Region, which represents the entire east of Saudi Arabia, and its coastal borders on the Arabian Gulf, in addition to exploiting the sectarian issues, uprooting them from their Arab origins while singling out the Sunni sect and limiting it to the region as what has happened in the fall of Iraq.
The talk of Gaddafi about the American disposition towards this sectarian approach was already known earlier and I have talked about it in my book titled The international regional conflict in the Arabian Gulf…. Conflict or crossroads, published in 2013.
Unfortunately, the Saudis, through blockading Qatar and not initiating democratic reforms for the good of the marginalised region and the Arab people all over the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), and not maintaining fair redistribution of wealth, have contributed to the escalation of the involved risks, especially after KSA had presented to the world a bad model in the blockading of brotherly Qatar in spite of their shared national, religious and social heritage. However, the source of the leaked record was not a Saudi; it was from another party that particularly wanted to undermine the Omani mediation between Doha and Riyadh.
So, what is special about Muscat’s mediation? The folly of the GCC crisis has doubled the losses in the time of the Covid-19 epidemic, alongside the collapse of oil prices. The conflict is still hitting the strategic interests and exposes the borders of the Arabian Gulf and its very ability to face wars or security chaos that could ruin everything with no benefits.
An observer of Oman’s policy will realise that Muscat’s mediation follows two strategic approaches. The first guarantees that the Omani neutrality, its internal depth, and peaceful borders would not be impacted by any disputes that Muscat does not have to face. Oman holds to such equilibrium as a major necessity, which had been established by the policy of the late ruler Sultan Qaboos. It is also sure that Sultan Haitham is still maintaining this.
The second approach entails the assurance of Muscat that the parties of the crisis in which it is mediating welcome such efforts enough to go on with it. Of course, all this is in co-ordination with the persistent Kuwaiti efforts for the same target, but the entry of Muscat came after the continuous exhaustion of Kuwait, and being targeted by the axis of Abu Dhabi and encouraging Cairo to pressure it.
As for Doha, it greatly welcomes the mediation, but the problem lies with Saudi, which has shown different flexibility with Muscat within the last year of the crisis in spite of the chaos of its media address that is still harassing Oman. Muscat may not take such harassments seriously. However, the problem is how dealing with Riyadh could go on steadily in the light of the major events it undergoes internally, including the relations of the ruling royal family, and the internal turbulences, besides the consequences of the failure in the war in Yemen, and the international conflict on oil.
Yet, there is an opinion indicating that such very events, in spite of their difficult implications, open a very wide door for Muscat to accomplish its mediation through a compulsory understanding that the Saudi crown prince may be awakened to, which would eventually make him seek a way out of the GCC crisis, where the mediation of Oman guarantees him a diplomatic approach and protocol of settlement.
The other challenge involves Abu Dhabi’s intervention as the initiator of the stronger decision in Saudi Arabia. It has also overturned all the related efforts and we do not know how Muscat will be able to neutralise Abu Dhabi; will it be through having to comply with the circumstances of the United Arab Emirates, or a change of scales in the Saudi decision making. It is a very tough journey but the rich experience of Oman in dealing with such issues opens the gate of hope for saving what remains of the Arabian Gulf.
Muhanna Al-Hubail is a translated columnist in the Gulf Times
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2020