Following the invasion of Kuwait by late Iraqi President then Saddam Hussein in 1990 the term double standards dominated the political scene, in reference to the American swift action to deal with Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait and shunning aside any serious move to deal with the Israeli occupation of lands of the three Arab countries.
At that time I managed to interview the American ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Chas Freeman, who has been a central figure overseeing the deployment of American troops in addition to the accompanying political activity. During the interview I asked him about the double standards issue and his reply was that countries usually behave according to two principles or one of them: the first is the moral one and the second is interest, then he added that if there was a conflict between the moral and interest, the country in question should chose interest first. However, he pointed out that in the case of Saddam’s occupation of Kuwait both the moral and interest factors merge to constitute one of the few examples where countries are not obliged to choose between the moral obligation and preserving their interest.
Attacking an independent country and occupy it by force is not permissible under any scenario and the international community or part of it has to stand to that aggression.
Then there is the interest issue. Allowing Saddam Hussein to get away with the prize of occupying Kuwait means an open invitation for him to control any decision in the Gulf region specially the oil industry and its pricing. United States can’t tolerate such development.
Bearing this in mind and relating it to the recent Gulf crisis where Sudan should stand and what role it should play given its good relations by the two sides: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on one hand and Qatar on the other?
The starting point should be to describe and know exactly what is going on.
Firs it is not a spontaneous flare up between Qatar and its neighbours that could easily be tackled through a conventional mediation. Rather, it is a concerted deliberate effort aiming at achieving certain results. It started with a heavy media shelling that prepared the public opinion to what followed. Then the concerted, unprecedented effort by four countries and its severity as it included imposing land, air and sea blockade before Qatar and curtailing movement of goods, people and money so as to put extensive pressure.
That was not the end of the story. More to come in the form of a list of individuals and institutions that will be subjected to boycott by the four countries and Qatar is asked to handle them shows that the game is far from over.
Besides, the move was not confined to the Gulf Coordination Council (GCC) since Egypt is playing an important role in this confrontation. In fact for one the crisis has shown a deep rift within the GCC as Kuwait is mediating, Oman is accusing the Emirates of espionage and Dubai is having far more trade relationships with Iran than anybody in the world.
More seriously the row is threatening to develop into a regional and probably an international with both Turkey and Iran extending a helping hand to Qatar though symbolic in much needed areas of military support and ports access.
So how Sudan should behave in this complex situation? Many have been recalling the role played by Sudan as a mediator following the disastrous 1967 Arab Israel war and its success in convening an Arab summit that led to reconciliation between the arch enemies then Egypt’s President Nassir and Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal.
The current crisis is no match to what was happening half a century ago. There was a sense of unity as Arabs then, more than now. More important this time the Saudi-led camp is pursuing an aggressive agenda calling in effect to a policy change or regime change in Qatar.
Paradoxically that puts more pressures on Sudan to join the Saudi camp, but that is where Sudan needs to stick its heels in a neutral position it took already, while working quietly to push for a settled compromise through the mediation efforts led by Kuwait and making use of its critical role as fighter on ground in the Yemen war and the fact that it has already severed its relations with Iran.
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