No region of the world is immune to changes, and any status quo can alter with changing times. While the countries who enjoy the leadership role would want things to go on as they are, the developmental activities in other countries of the region brings about the changes which lead to conflicts. A similar situation was out in public view in the Arab world. The UAE and Saudi Arabia were visibly at odds with one another. While the fight between UAE and Saudi Arabia seems to be over for now, the fact that it could make a comeback cannot be denied.
The energy minister of the United Arab Emirates has announced that fight between UAE and Saudi Arabia world’s the top oil producers have reached a “full agreement” to increase output modestly starting in August, ending a standoff that exposed a growing economic rivalry between the oil-rich country and its wealthy neighbour Saudi Arabia. The agreement on Sunday marked a break in the deadlock over how OPEC+, a 23-member grouping of the world’s biggest oil producers and allies, would proceed after reducing output last year when oil prices plunged due to the coronavirus outbreak.
While it looked like the differences and fight were sorted out, and things will go smoothly between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the occurrences tell an entirely different story. According to Reuters, pro-government Saudi commentators are publicly criticising the United Arab Emirates’ conduct in Yemen, an unusual step that underscores political and economic strains between the two Gulf allies. This has also led to an open stalemate over their oil policy. Saudi Arabia is attempting to limit a power struggle in southern Yemen between the internationally recognised government, which is backed by Riyadh, and the main separatist party, which is backed by the UAE and it risks widening a conflict that Saudi Arabia is struggling to end.
Earlier, while OPEC+ has gradually increased production since May, Abu Dhabi had chafed at the Saudi proposal to extend the reduced output through the end of 2022. The UAE, in a rare challenge to Riyadh, denounced the proposed deal as “unjust” earlier this month, resulting in an impasse that roiled oil markets. The unusually public quarrel appeared to highlight a rising rivalry between the long-time Gulf allies, as both strive to diversify their economies as they move away from the petroleum industry. Now they decide to forget the fight between UAE and Saudi Arabia and Both countries have expressed an interest in becoming the region’s de facto business hub.
Oil is merely the latest sparring point between the UAE and Saudi Arabia – who have historically cooperated with each other on a multitude of issues and fight – very often setting an example for the world community to emulate. The United Arab Emirates, however, realised early on that its oil-dependent, single sector economy was merely a temporary boon and that in the long run, it would turn into a bane. So, the UAE started work on a comprehensive economic diversification plan before any other Gulf state even thought of the word ‘diversification’.
In addition to this, with the recent spike in hostilities between Israel and Hamas, the radical elements within Saudi Arabia seem to have gained an upper hand. The clerical hierarchy of Saudi Arabia continues to remain anti-Israel and anti-Zionist in its approach. Therefore, it remains sympathetic to the disenchanted ‘Free Palestine’ bandwagon. The Abraham Accords of last year were a ray of hope, as Saudi crown prince Mohamad Bin Salman tacitly agreed to a gradual normalisation of Arab ties with Israel. The differing perspective over the Palestine issue is also an issue of discontent between the Islamist and extremist clerics in Saudi Arabia and the leadership of the UAE.
Today, the UAE’s far-sightedness and fight is bearing results. Arab states, including Saudi Arabia have also realised that depending solely on oil can be catastrophic for them in the long run. So, they too are trying to catch up with the UAE. And that is proving to become the cause of many conflicts between the two sides. The latest consensus among the OPEC+ countries is of relief as the fight between UAE and Saudi Arabia has stopped. However, there has been the presence of other multitude of conflicts which have remained out of public eyes for a long time. This leads us to believe that while the fight between UAE and Saudi Arabia may seem over, the reality is far from the current ostensible normalcy and going ahead with unsolved issues could resuscitate the kerfuffle.
Social media is closely monitored by authorities in the Gulf Arab region and pro-government commentators in Saudi Arabia usually refrain from criticising the kingdom’s allies. However, in this case, they have not. Analysts say that increasing economic competition is laying bare the differences between Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The kingdom is moving ahead to challenge its neighbour’s dominance in the region’s business, trade, and tourism sectors. And while the current issue may have been solved, the fault lines are widening which means only one thing; the Saudi-UAE dispute is far from over.