US policy in the Middle East is aimed at domination there and is consistent with the exception of such moments as a “reset” with Bahrain. However, it rarely takes into account problems in the relations of the partner countries, relying on them in matters falling within the competence of American agencies. Consider the results of Trump's visit to the Middle East and the crisis in the GCC, this "club of monarchies of the Persian Gulf", based on the materials of the IBI expert Y. Shcheglovina.
Reliance on old friends
The meeting of the leaders of the GCC countries with the head of the White House was held on May 21 in a closed mode for the media. The parties spoke in favor of joint actions to reduce interfaith tensions and regional instability, and for building up joint actions to eradicate the Islamic State group (banned in Russia). An agreement was reached to hold meetings every six months in the format of the USA - the GCC, dedicated to the fight against terror. Washington reaffirmed its commitment to protecting the GCC countries from any threats, expressed solidarity with their fears over the "continuation of Iran’s missile program," stressing that it "contradicts UN resolutions."
All this, including Trump's statements about the Iranian threat, defines the essence of the US policy in the Middle East at this stage, which is to revive the approach based on old allies, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel. These countries in Washington are considering the basis of a new US security architecture. How much it will be capable is a question. Only KSA and Israel share Washington’s anti-Iranian attitude. Cairo is more concerned about the activity of the Muslim Brotherhood.
There are insurmountable contradictions between the main regional players. This is noticeable in the relations between the Qatar-Turkey blocks, the United Arab Emirates-Egypt and Saudi Arabia-Bahrain. So Trump’s plans to create a new collective regional security body are not feasible in principle, although the United States can rely on allies on a case-by-case basis. In Yemen, operate through the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates, and in the Maghreb and the Horn of Africa through the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, while maintaining a separate outpost in Israel. This system basically repeats the pattern of the American presence in the region after the anti-Shah revolution in Iran. On the wave of the Arab Spring, Obama tried to transform such a system of checks and balances.
Trump is trying to move to the traditional US Middle East policy, clearly not appreciating the difficulties seriously facing him. After the September 11 attack, part of the American political elite and the power bloc does not believe Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. History US involvement in local conflicts demonstrated the extreme insecurity of these allies and revealed their use of radical jihadists who, among other things, are fighting against America, as their main tool of their foreign policy influence. Trump's visit to Riyadh did not change anything in this regard.
Price issue for the Saudis
The main thing in the speech of Trump to 55 representatives of Muslim countries in KSA was not the idea of restoring Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan in the region (Trump tried not to mention Israel in Riyadh), it’s not worth paying for security guarantees as such. As a result, in the presence of President Trump and King S. Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a package of agreements totaling 280 billions of dollars between Saudi Arabia and the United States was signed. The second deputy prime minister, Secretary of Defense and heir to the crown prince M. Ben Salman and Secretary of State R. Tillerson signed an agreement on the development and modernization of the KSA Armed Forces, involving assembly in the kingdom of American multi-purpose Blackhawk helicopters.
According to the official representative of the White House, Sh. Spicer, Trump concluded in Riyadh the largest defense deal in the history of the United States worth more than 109,7 billion. Profile ministers signed a memorandum between the Saudi corporation for the development of information technology and Apple, an agreement on cooperation in the field of electricity, mining and air transport (including the purchase of passenger aircraft). Riyadh is forced, despite the instability of oil prices and the growing budget deficit, to spend money on the US military-industrial complex, raising Trump's rating at the military-industrial lobby. This was the main goal of the American president in KSA.
Trump made no policy statements during the visit. He spoke of the "fight against terrorism", putting Muslim leaders at an impasse. The mere pronouncement of these appeals in Riyadh, which sponsors the US-recognized terrorist “Dzhebhat al-Nusra”, is ridiculous. With the agreements reached, the Saudis made it clear that the United States would not pedal the Dzhebhat an-Nusra problem, closing its eyes to Saudi activity in Syria using this grouping. This is in addition to the accented anti-Iranian position, the main outcome of Trump's visit to KSA. Everything else, including memorandums on the joint fight against terror and the creation of a “reserve” military contingent of 50 countries for possible participation in the Iraqi or Syrian conflict, only camouflage to solve the political problems of President Trump and his Saudi partners.
"Reboot" will result in overload
It is no secret that each of the leaders of Muslim countries who met Trump in Riyadh pursued its own interests. This was also true for Bahrain - the weakest of the Gulf monarchies, whose relations with the United States were undermined after the suppression of speeches by local Shiites by the armies of the GCC member countries, primarily KSA, which made its dependence on the Saudis absolute. On May 21 in Riyadh, President Trump at a meeting with King H. Bin Isa Al Khalifa stated that relations between "the countries were ... tense, but from now on, there will be no tension in the current US administration and they will wear long-term character. "
These assurances allowed Manama to begin the repression of the Shiite opposition. Thus, the famous Shiite cleric Sheikh I. Kassim was sentenced to a year in prison with a deferred execution of the sentence for three years. He was charged with money laundering and illegal business activities. The basis was the availability of 8 million dollars in his accounts. The charge simultaneously with the deprivation of his citizenship was made last year, since then Kassim has been under house arrest. After the verdict, Shiite activists called on supporters to organize a protest march to the village of Diraz, where he is located, to arrange a sit-down strike there and prevent the deportation of the sheikh. As a result, at least five people were killed and about 10 injured after clashes with the police, which happened on 22 in May in a suburb of Manama.
Manama demonstrated that the approach to solving the problem of the Shiite majority on the island of the royal regime remained unchanged: a bet on repression. This policy is particularly clearly manifested with the election of Trump. In April, the king approved constitutional amendments that allow military courts to try civil cases on charges of terrorism and subversive activities. The difference in the policies of the previous and current US administration is Trump’s complete disregard for the human rights problem in Bahrain. At the same time, the White House gives its opponents in the US a trump card for organizing pressure from NGOs. His administration will have to balance between a strategic alliance with KSA and the claims of American human rights defenders.
Manama is therefore in a difficult situation. Any step to the arrest and deportation of Kassima can provoke violence. The authorities were informed about this by advisers from Jordan and private British companies in charge of Bahraini security officials. This is supported by the harsh statements of Tehran, which warned Manama against violent acts against the sheikh. Foreign consultants advise the authorities to reform and expand the presence of the Shiite majority in power, in particular in parliament.
In Manama, they do not want to do this, believing that they will succeed in crushing resistance and reducing the escalation of violence. Both actions of the authorities in relation to Sheikh Kassim, deportation or continued house arrest, are fraught with problems. The sheikh may turn into a symbol of resistance, and this will become a problem not only for the authorities of Bahrain and their Saudi allies, but also for the openly supporting regime of the Americans.
In the heat of "cold neutrality"
Against the background of the visit of the President of the United States, an acute crisis manifested itself in the GCC structure. On the night of 23 on 24 in May, Qatar News Agency (QNA) website appeared excerpts from a speech attributed to the Emir of Qatar at the graduation ceremony for officer courses in Doha. In the text, the quotes from which were spread by Arab and Western TV channels, the emir allegedly called Iran a guarantor of stability in the region and criticized the policies of some GCC countries directed against Tehran. Minutes after this publication, the director of the QNA stated that the agency’s website had been hacked and the speech of the head of state was untrue. The Foreign Ministry of Qatar also issued an official denial.
The criticism of “a number of GCC countries”, of course, points to KSA and the UAE, the main carriers of anti-Iranian ideology. At the same time, Abu Dhabi is more sustained in relation to Iran.
For Qatar, the main regional opponent today is the United Arab Emirates tandem - Egypt, which pushed the traditional rival of Doha - Riyadh to the background. The suspicion with which the Saudi leadership reacted to the reports on the statement of the head of the Foreign Ministry of Qatar and his refutation characterizes the relations between these countries. Now it is “cold neutrality”.
Kuwait in this situation is inclined to the position of the UAE and is involved with them in the purchase of a military base on the territory of Somaliland in Berbera. But it does not show obvious sympathy and antipathy, trying to be above the fight. In a situation of general discord, when only Bahrain is definitely in the GCC structure on the side of Saudi Arabia, Doha most likely decided to remind of itself.
This contrasts with the policy of the former US administration, which favored Qatar, which made it possible to blame President Obama for selling to this country. But with Trump, it's different. The White House is clearly suspicious of Qatar because of its support for the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Information about Doha’s pro-Iranian sentiment should have alarmed the United States, forcing them to pay close attention to their former ally.
It should be noted that a number of GCC members, primarily Kuwait, are trying to cover the conflict under the carpet. The words of the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Emirate H. Al-Jarallah were spoken during the visit to the Russian Embassy on the occasion of the upcoming Day of Russia. “We are following with great interest the sad events against the background of statements attributed to the Emir of Qatar. We have a firm belief that the long-term experience and wisdom of the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council of the Arab States will overcome any negative consequences of these events. ” Al-Jarallah positively described the statement of the head of the Foreign Ministry of Qatar, who emphasized the emirate’s intention to establish strong relations with other members of the GCC.
In reality, the GCC split took place along several lines of bilateral and multilateral relations, and it seems to be irreversible. So, Saudi Arabia accuses the Sultanate of Oman in maintaining contacts with Iran and ignoring the transfer of Iranian IRGC weapons through Omani territory in the interests of the Houseish rebels in Yemen.
The second node - UAE - KSA. Major clashes are associated with opposing approaches to strategy in Yemen. UAE advocate secession of South Yemen. KSA - against. In addition, Abu Dhabi is demanding that Riyadh stop supporting the local Muslim Brotherhood from the Islah party. In addition to Yemen, KSA and the UAE support opposing forces in the conflict over the Great Dam construction project on the Blue Nile tributary in Ethiopia. Riyadh on the side of Ethiopia. Abu Dhabi - Egypt, which stands for stopping the project. Different positions regarding the conflict in Libya. And this is clearly not the last contradiction in the GCC, whatever the United States would expect from it.