Everyone saw how Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, visited Riyadh and sat in the front rows when there was no one from the official protocol and the high-ranking guests yet at the Future Investment Initiative conference that was held in Riyadh.
He cut his holiday short and joined the conference in response to boycott calls which news of were carried out by international agencies and he agreed to participate in the dialogues and not just to attend. He was there for three days. The forum was also attended by other political figures who went there to voice their support of the Saudi leadership.
During big crises, neutrality is also a stance.
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi voiced a strong stance with Riyadh. He was quick to warn Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of the Brotherhood Ennahda Party, after a statement supporting Qatar and Turkey in their media war against Saudi Arabia over the case of the murder of our colleague Jamal Khashoggi was attributed to him. President Essebsi said: “We believe what happened to Khashoggi is horrible but to exploit this to target the entire of Saudi Arabia and harm its stability, then this is not (acceptable) as it harms the stability of the entire Arab world.”
Most policymakers are aware of the important of differentiating between a hideous a crime and the regional conflict; the crime will not last but the conflict will prolong. Countries’ higher interests cannot be forsaken just because Turkey and Qatar decided to expand the scope of the crisis.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
As for Saudi Arabia, it sees it as a war of existence, and stances are measured according to this. There are three stances in the arena, there is a rival party that seeks to politicize the crime and use it to topple or at least weaken the Saudi regime. This party is headed by Qatar and Turkey.
The second party stands against the first one and is allied with Riyadh and it’s headed by the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan and others. Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah was quick at clarifying his country’s stance during a special meeting with a number of MPs and said he was with Saudi Arabia in this crisis and that “Kuwait will not hesitate to stand next to its oldest sister the Saudi kingdom through good and bad times because the next phase is not easy and its repercussions will not exclude any country in the region.” Kuwait itself was subject to the hostile chaotic Qatari activity and field confrontations happened in March 2015. The third party of governments is neutral and it has not adopted specific stances and preferred to follow up on the crisis from afar.
On the international level, the Russian and Chinese stances were frank in rejecting the politicization of the murder of Khashoggi and the two countries conveyed what’s enough to assert their stances. The US was the arena of the media war, mostly against Saudi Arabia but the American administration cautiously dealt with the issue by confirming the special relation with Riyadh’s government and announcing its contacts with it but at the same time it did not want to turn Saudi Arabia’s crisis into a crisis for it amid the heat of the mid-term elections. Despite all the pressure, the American president remained frank in distinguishing between America’s higher interests in its relation with Riyadh and dealing with the circumstances of the crime. His stance is of extreme significance because it thwarted the escalation attempts by the crisis’ players, Qatar and Turkey.
There were two important and influential countries in the region that dealt with the case differently. Iran which considers itself a frank rival of Saudi Arabia remained neutral for two weeks with hints that it’s willing to support Saudi Arabia if it sees a gesture from Riyadh. When it saw that the American stance supports Saudi Arabia, it opened its media fire against it. The second country is Israel which considered that what is happening is an exploitation of a single incident compared with bad records of a number of the region’s countries, and it warned that going far threatens the stability of an already disturbed region adding that despite its dispute, it rejects the current attack on Saudi Arabia. Israel has become an important regional player in all causes, and it’s no longer limited to the conflict with the Palestinians.
Most policymakers are aware of the important of differentiating between a hideous a crime and the regional conflict; the crime will not last but the conflict will prolong. Countries’ higher interests cannot be forsaken just because Turkey and Qatar decided to expand the scope of the crisis. The mid-term elections will end soon in the US and since Turkey, which played the game of leaks for an entire month, no longer has plenty, the crime will go back to its natural place, the judiciary, and politicians will look after their other affairs.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.