NOVEMBER 1, 2017


On top of a New York taxicab a lit sign carried an advert about the blockade of Qatar by other Gulf countries. The New York Times carried a full-page advertisement detailing a position against Qatar, while a couple of days later a full-page conveyed its defense. "Think Tanks" and PR firms in Washington, D.C. found themselves in a welcome position of receiving millions from both sides of the Gulf's gulf between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the U.A. Emirates on one side and Qatar on the other. A United Arab Emirates Ambassador in D.C. started getting social and political -- let alone financial -- attention in varied poses and dresses, from partying to wearing jeans, while the Qatar Ambassador stepped up contacts for similar exposure. To their credit, the two countries' Permanent Representatives to the U.N. maintained a fairly correct focus while dutifully maintaining their competing governments' positions.

More seriously, a number of military contractors seemed involved in discreet and sometimes open threatening ways, clearly gaining profit from anxious cash-rich governments. Clearly, the interest of contractors is not to settle a conflict, but to extend the contract.

Meanwhile, conflicting governments started to expose each other's role in financing foreign fighters from places like Chechnya, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to fight in Syria and Iraq -- interesting information not only for the public but for Intelligence Services. Both sides seeking to accuse the other of subsidizing terrorist groups were in fact confirming their own awkward involvement, way beyond their own borders.

Watching local Qatar and Saudi TV, an Arab observer would notice both similar approaches yet different positions. Both, most likely through P.R. firms, present a "vision" to improve their citizens' daily life and the country's future prospects; showing -- in graphic designs -- how their government cared and why their investments would yield public reform. It would seem as if both were prepared by the same advertising firm. Immediately afterwards, however, in Doha, a singer plays the "Oud," urging others to "leave Qatar alone," while on Riyadh TV, a group of Saudi singers show disdain for their neighbour. Actually, both countries, alone in the Gulf, similarly belong to the "Wahhabi"-following.

In fact, the people in all Gulf countries generally feel close, speak the same Arabic-accented "Khaleeji," and have the same attitude toward daily life, music, and sense of humour. When a prominent Kuwait satirical actor died recently, all Gulf media mourned him with equal sorrow, recalling his popular comedy "Bye, Bye London."

Kuwait's experienced Prince, Sheikh Sabah, has tried to mediate, pointing out the risk of continued conflict to the whole region. His effort is supported by the U.N. Security Council, the U.N. Secretary-General, and all key countries who care not only for the welfare of the region but for their own national interest. Continued, extended, escalating conflict, regardless of what their competing governments believe, will draw further problems for their own people and -- indeed -- for their own role. They are spending decreasing national funds on increasing tension. They are causing depression rather than welfare to their common societies. They are embarrassing themselves to a wider world public. A positive development will be in every Gulf country's interest.

Regrettably, however, that does not seem to be likely soon, until something -- or someone -- changes. Inchallah!