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Middle East Diplomacy of Panic

Since the beginning of Afghanistan's fall into the hands of the Taliban, unprecedented diplomatic activity among the countries of the Middle East, especially in the Arab Gulf region, has been taking place. However, it is not a healthy form of diplomatic activity. It is a diplomacy of emergency, similar to what we have seen after the Arab Spring, one decade ago. As soon as the threat cools down this diplomacy fades away and the coalitions formed under it fall apart.

Sooner than anyone had expected, the ideological extremist organization of the Taliban took over power, under the watch of the helpless international community. Also, sooner than expected the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists started to gather themselves to benefit from the state of chaos and security vacuum created by the messy U.S. withdrawal. Three days before the deadline set by the Taliban for the U.S. and NATO troops to complete evacuating their personnel from Afghanistan, the Islamic State terrorists in Khorasan Province, eastern Afghanistan, launched two suicidal attacks near Kabul Airport that led to the killing of more than one hundred people, including American soldiers.

The gloomy and bloody scene in Afghanistan is pushing Middle Eastern countries to drop down their intra-conflicts and focus on coordinating, on a purely pragmatic basis, to block the many threats expected to arise from the quickly deteriorating events around them.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) approached its strongest regional rivals, Turkey and Qatar, to offer reconciliation. On August 18th, UAE’s National Security Advisor, Sheikh Tahnoun Bin Zayid, traveled to Ankara to meet with Turkish President Erdogan and offered generous UAE investments in Turkey. Around the same time last year, Turkey and UAE leaders were exchanging threats of attacking each other on the background of their clashes on some regional issues, including the conflicts in Libya and the Mediterranean.

A few days later Sheikh Tahnoun met with Prince Tamim of Qatar. This meeting was followed by a meeting between Prince Tamim and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, on the margin of the Baghdad Summit on August 28th, wherein they confirmed the brotherly bond between Qatar and UAE and the need to drop their conflicts and start a new page in their relationship.

On another level, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi met with Qatar’s Prince Tamim, on the margin of the Baghdad Summit. The meeting between the two leaders marked the peak point of a relatively slow diplomatic rapprochement that has been taking place since the signing of a gulf reconciliation agreement, in Saudi Arabia, in January. In parallel, news is circulating that the stuck process of reconciliation between Egypt and Turkey is now being revived.

In addition, there has been an effort to end the historical animosity between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia has already declared interest in starting talks with its historical enemy, Iran. Some reports mentioned that talks, on security and intelligence levels, have already happened between the two countries, in March. Also, it was particularly impressive to see Iran sitting with Saudi Arabia in one room, during Baghdad Summit, this week.

Despite all that, a heavy cloud of fear and uncertainty is covering our sky. The doubt about when exactly this cloud is going to melt and allow the sun to send its light and warmth to the panicking people of the region is the most difficult part to deal with. That is particularly because all the diplomatic efforts we are currently watching among Arab countries are motivated by fear and panic, not by a clear plan and sincere desire for long-term cooperation, in times of threat and times of peace. Panic diplomacy may block some threats but will not push the region towards any kind of positive progress, in the future.

Also, read on Sada Elbalad


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