Is Riyadh in the UAE

Opinion: Political reason triumphs in Riyadh and Doha

For a good three and a half years, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Qatari Emir Tamim al-Thani did not speak a word to one another, at least not in public. On Tuesday they hugged at the airport in the Saudi desert city of Al-Ula and announced an official end to their conflict.

The emir traveled to a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Tuesday - anything but a matter of course after the years of boycotts, Saudi Arabia, followed by Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt in the summer of 2017 had kicked off against the emirate.

The efforts of the mediators in Oman and Kuwait are likely to have had less trouble recently on the hardened front. This not only because the outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the advisor to US President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, have urged rapprochement in the past few weeks, but also because a new US President will take office in a few days who speaks less well about Saudi Arabia than its predecessor. In the election campaign, Joe Biden called Saudi Arabia a "pariah". So it is high time for Saudi Arabia to improve relations with the new US government.

A counterproductive policy

DW Middle East expert Kersten Knipp

However, it is not only the new style of the new US president that is driving Saudi Arabia in particular to settle the conflict. Rather, those responsible in Riyadh may have come to the realization for some time that the boycott is one thing above all: counterproductive.

Saudi Arabia could not get Qatar to give up its good relationship with Iran, Riyadh's main competitor in the region. And relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, whose religiously tinged social revolutionary course Riyadh also does not speak well, have not been severed.

In addition, the Saudi capital must have recognized that the tense relationship with Qatar is completely unnecessary. Because the rockets that fell on refineries of the Saudi energy company Saudi Aramco in the summer of 2019 were not fired from Qatar, but were the responsibility of Iran.

The fact that the USA then refrained from responding to these attacks with the severity desired by Riyadh should have shown that the kingdom cannot count on guaranteed protection from the US protecting power. So why afford another costly front, even if it remains militarily calm?

It should also have been recognized that the blockade of Qatar is helping to undermine the US sanctions against Iran. Because since the emirate has been banned from using Saudi Arabia's airspace and its allies since the summer of 2017, the emirate's planes are flying over Iran - which is expensive for this service and sees the flow of money as a small compensation for the sanctions.

Partner instead of opponent

Conversely, in Qatar, the money invested in Iranian overflight licenses would rather be invested in the preparations for the soccer World Cup next year. From the point of view of the main counterparties, a settlement of the tensions would benefit both.

An agreement would not only benefit the Gulf Peninsula, but also the political culture of the entire region. Political pragmatism, so the lesson, leads further than defiant wrestling with your favorite opponent, who then turns out to be a suitable partner.