Rivals on a sinking boat. Cooperation and Middle East in a time of crisis

Ghazal Poorhasan
middle east
Credit: CDC via AP

In the time of Covid 19 or Coronavirus, the world is facing a very unique transformation. Everyone is astonished while facing the same issue from the Far East to the West. The massive impact of the Coronavirus is affecting many aspects of life from individual relations of each society to the states relations in the international community. The consequences of the modified equities by Covid 19, surely is going to change many of the current policies in the world including the restless region of the Middle East.
The usual criteria that would define a state as a friend or foe, are being replaced by proposals of solidarity and sympathy as an occasion for a rebranding of the relations: sending medical or humanitarian aid, or simply letting the airlines to fly for any transit while the majority of the countries are closing the border on each other.

The shock in the Middle East after high numbers of infected cases in Iran, caused the borders to be shut down by its neighbours one after the other. Iran was in fact already experiencing troubled relations with many of its neighbours, especially the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, therefore the reaction of these was in some point predictable.
The friction between Iran and the GCC members has always played a role in their relations. Considering that the apprehension about the rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran led to the creation of the GCC in 1981, the relationship between these two entities has seen many ups and downs, and has always been plagued by serious trust issue. However, GCC countries failed to confront Iran with a unified policy and the reason is lying behind the very fact that each individual member has a different approach toward Iran.
Once more just after the shut down of the borders by its neighbours, a very different reaction came from the GCC members towards Iran. Considering the blockade imposed on Qatar in 2017 by GCC members, in which the support received by Iran played a critical role in straightening the relations between the two countries, the support of Qatar to Iran in its time of crises was to be expected. However, the friendly approach came instead also from United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, two members of GCC with very close bonds with the anti-Iran Saudi. The World Health Organization (WHO) facilities sent by the flights of United Arab Emirates to deliver aid to Iran, followed by the rare phone call between their foreign affair ministers, the announcement that Kuwait was to donate money to Iran for the fight of Coronavirus, all raised the hope that the basic level of cooperation between Tehran and the close allies of Riyadh in the GCC might open the path to reconnect Iran and Saudi Arabia. Unless these friendly approaches of some of the GCC members towards Tehran are signs of yet another lack of unity between members regarding their policies in the region.
The fact that the crisis raised by the spread of Coronavirus was able to bring a ceasefire to Yemen after almost five years, illustrates the fact that all the players in the field understand the gravity of the situation. Considering the fragile and failed states of the region, the lack of flexibility of the actors involved and failing to adapt their policies can lead to a disaster far more serious than the direct or proxy wars. As much as this has been true for facing a moment of sudden global emergency, from the other side the focus of each country in post-Corona will be shifted on recovering from the economic damages caused by the long shut downs, rather than fuelling tensions and escalations Thus it is reasonable to expect that the rational decision making in the Middle East is going to require serious steps in the way of reconciliation of the relations. And in a troubled region such as Middle East, the Cold War between Iran and Saudi Arabia should finally start de-escalating and reach to an end.

(You can read the last article by Ghazal Poorhasan here)

Ufficio stampa e Comunicazione dell'Istituto per la Competitività (I-Com). Nata a Roma nel 1992, Giulia Palocci si è laureata con il voto di 110 e lode in Scienze Politiche e Relazioni Internazionali presso l’università Luiss Guido Carli con una tesi sul contrasto al finanziamento del terrorismo nei Paesi del Sud-est asiatico.

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