Source: Washington Post
The diplomatic machinations that have enveloped Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar may seem like a membership feud in a Persian Gulf club for the wealthy. But their quarrel highlights battles that have been roiling the Middle East since the Arab Spring began nearly seven years ago.
The boycott against Qatar announced last month by the Saudis, Emiratis, Bahrainis and Egyptians took the Trump administration by surprise — and triggered a mediation effort this week by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He is said to view the conflict as counterproductive — damaging all the feuding countries and helping their common rival, Iran.
Tillerson is right to see this as a fratricidal dispute that should be resolved through negotiation. The allegation that Qatar supports terrorism is weak, especially after it signed a memo with Tillerson on Tuesday committing to a joint counterterrorism battle with the United States. The demand that Qatar close Al Jazeera is outrageous; the region needs freer media, not more censorship.
The Saudis’ and Emiratis’ basic problem is that they find Qatar a meddlesome and untrustworthy neighbor. But by escalating the family quarrel so radically, they have hurt themselves. The longer this battle goes, the more damage it will do to gulf relations with Washington, stability in the region and, perhaps most important, hopes for modernization and reform in Saudi Arabia.