By: Rene Slama / Agence France-Presse
Two months into a bitter Gulf crisis, Saudi Arabia’s use of a beforehand unknown Qatari royal member of the family has opened a brand new — and weird — entrance within the battle.
On August 17, it was introduced that Saudi’s King Salman had ordered the reopening of the Qatar border to permit pilgrims from the emirate to affix the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
The choice, at first look an obvious thawing in a crisis ongoing since June 5, was apparently taken after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met an obscure member of Qatar’s ruling dynasty, Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassim al-Thani.
Notably, it was the primary public high-level encounter between the nations for the reason that crisis erupted.
Saudi Arabian authorities highlighted the function of the mysterious Qatari in reopening the border.
Then it was reported that King Salman had acquired Sheikh Abdullah at his residence in Tangier, Morocco.
And straight afterwards, a Twitter account was set-up within the sheikh’s title, gaining greater than 250,000 followers in simply two days and 9 tweets.
“What I did was only for the good of Qatar,” he wrote in a single tweet.
– Not a part of interior circle –
But removed from taking part in a conciliatory function, the emergence of Sheikh Abdullah could have aggravated issues.
Doha was fast to level out that he was in Saudi Arabia on a “personal” mission, not for the federal government, and offended social media customers in Qatar claimed the Twitter account was “fake”.
It additionally prompted hypothesis that the sheikh, the brother of a former emir, was getting used to undermine and even substitute the present Qatari management.
Unlikely, say analysts.
“Sheikh Abdullah… is not part of the very inner circle of the ruling elite in Qatar today,” mentioned Andreas Krieg, a strategic danger analyst and assistant professor at King’s College London college and who is aware of the workings of the state equipment in Qatar.
“He lives abroad but is not exiled.”
The sheikh belongs to a department of the Al-Thani royal household which can have seen its energy eroded in recent times, however continues to be very well-connected.
He is a cousin of the Father Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who seized energy in 1995, overseeing a metamorphosis of his nation into an financial powerhouse till stepping down in 2013 to present energy to his son and present chief, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.
Sheikh Abdullah can be the son of a former emir deposed by the grandfather of Sheikh Tamim.
The conferences in Saudi Arabia and Morocco have been meant to place stress on Qatar’s to this point unyielding management, for the reason that crisis started on June 5, added Krieg.
“It is unusual that someone like him gets an official audience with the king and the crown prince,” mentioned Krieg.
“But the Saudis exploited the state of affairs and introduced this assembly with plenty of fanfare of their media.
“It was certainly done to put pressure on the royal family.”
– Regime change dominated out –
Another Western analyst, Mathieu Guidere, a professor of Arab geopolitics in Paris, agrees.
But each rule out any probability of regime change in Qatar.
“If they were really working for regime change, the Saudis would not have made this mediation public,” mentioned Guidere.
And Krieg says any such try would show futile.
“It would be foolish to think that regime change is possible. Saudi Arabia knows that,” he mentioned.
“The lineage of the present emir has made Qatar the richest nation on the earth with one of many largest wealth funds and arguably probably the most resilient economic system within the area.
“The loyalty of Qataris to Tamim is therefore unconditional.”
Certainly the crisis, which has seen Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt reduce ties with Doha over accusations that it backs extremism — charges Qatar denies — has bolstered the present emir’s reputation at house.
His picture now seems in every single place, and emphasising this on Sunday, Qatar unveiled an exhibition of 30 murals depicting “Tamim the Glorious” in a central Doha park.
In one other growth Sunday, Saudi Arabia mentioned Qatar had refused to permit its plane to land in Doha to move Qatari Muslims to Mecca for the hajj.(AFP)