Saturday August 5th 2017
The diplomatic row between Qatar and its Gulf Arab neighbors has now become a protracted stalemate. Despite its diplomatic connections and petrodollar soaked influence, Saudi Arabia, the key conspirator in the regional posturing game, has so far gained precious little for their monumental decision to impose a debilitating economic blockade on Qatar.
So far even Egypt and U.S. President Donald Trump’s outspoken support has proven insufficient to convince the international community that Qatar ought to be isolated and rendered a pariah or is a den for terrorists and terrorist sympathizers.
It has been a tough month for Riyadh. The response from the Horn of Africa has been notably mixed. The Saudis appear particularly blindsided by Somalia’s decision to maintain its neutrality in the ongoing diplomatic crisis. Mogadishu has refused to take sides, urging Gulf states to back Kuwaiti mediation efforts.
Somalia’s bold stance appears to be an unexpected setback for the Saudis. For one, since his election last February, Somali President Mohammed Farmaajo has made two state visits to Riyadh. And he even appeared to have forged a warm relationship with Saudi leaders. Second, Mogadishu has previously backed the Saudi Arabia-led, anti-Houthi coalition in Yemen. This may have led the Saudis to assume that they had Somalia’s total obedience.
But apparently even an offer of $80 million couldn’t woo Farmaajo into siding with the Saudis and publicly denouncing Qatar. Qatar and Somalia enjoy a long fraternal relations and Mogadishu clearly values those ties. Somalia has even allowed Qatar to increase use of its airspace as a result of Saudi Arabia cutting off land and sea access to them. Farmaajo’s refusal to budge also underscores the Saudi government’s poor planning of its diplomatic siege on Qatar.
Riyadh’s infamous demands, submitted to Doha as a precondition for negotiations, including the closure of Al Jazeera media network, has made the oil-rich Kingdom the subject of much ridicule online. Qatar has adjusted to the initial shock of the sudden halt in imports and air traffic from Saudi Arabia, in part thanks to the import goods from Turkey, among other places. Doha has thus far proved that it is not a fragile island that is on the brink of collapse. All in all, Saudi Arabia’s predictions have mostly turned out to be wrong.
Vengeful Saudi Arabia seeking to shake the Farmaajo leadership’s foundations
Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly miffed by the actions of Farmaajo’s government. In fact, Saudi Arabia is allegedly plotting punitive measures against the Somali government. A recent (covert Saudi-backed) attempt to pass a motion in parliament seeking Farmaajo’s impeachment fell flat, according to Somali Update. The motion was tabled by a number of politicians including Somalia’s former Prime Minister and opposition MP Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke.
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