MESA can co-exist with Qatar dispute

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Qatar is a part of MESA. Seen here is Qatari Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani discussing the 2017 Qatar crisis. © Wikimedia

MESA (Middle East Strategic Alliance) was created to serve as a bulwark against extremism and Iran. But with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cutting off trade and travel ties with Qatar in June 2017, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani opined that the regional security alliance is at risk of losing its credibility. The Gulf dispute needs to be resolved, said Al Thani.

Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have accused Qatar of backing their archrival, Iran, an accusation that Qatar has denied. They have also accused Qatar of supporting terrorism. While Qatar has denied both charges, it has laid a charge on them saying, their boycott of Qatar impinges on its sovereignty.

For the United States, Qatar is a significant given that it is home to its biggest air base in the region. The U.S. has offered to mediate without any apparent success. It is an ally of the MESA.

“Regarding the alliance and the creation of the alliance, by ignoring the GCC rift, we don’t think that, even if it’s initiated, that it will be initiated effectively,” said Al Thani. “There is a serious challenge among the states and we need to address this challenge, in order also to prove the credibility of this alliance. And we believe there’s an opportunity over here”.

Earlier last Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Gulf allies, including Jordan and Egypt where they discussed MESA, and for the need of a “united GCC”.

“The secretary and the foreign ministers had productive discussions on establishing a Middle East Strategic Alliance, anchored by a united GCC, to advance prosperity, security, and stability in the region,” said Heather Nauert, the U.S. State Department’s spokeswoman in a statement.

While the U.S. had planned on hosting a summit where all participants could discuss MESA among other things but that has been pushed back for several months, which only goes to underscore the extent of underlying tentions among the once regional allies. According to a senior administration official, Washington still plans on holding the summit at a later date.

Earlier last week, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, called the U.S. proposal “very encouraging” and one that “indicates American commitment to the region, its allies and it’s extremely important in a very unstable international system.”

He went on to add, the Gulf dispute was on the “back burner”; this suggests that while currently there were not active diplomatic efforts to resolve the rift, it would not materially affect MESA.

“Qatar crisis is on the back burner. It has nothing to do with our ability to present a united front and be a pro-active part of a bigger alliance led by the United States,” said Gargash.