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Conseguenze per l'Europa

martedì 11 ottobre 2017 Stefano Barocci&Muhammad bin Ibrahim al-Khreis/Tur Foto: Kin Faisal Foundation

ROMA - Gli autori, che hanno confidenza per lunghi anni di studi, collaborazioni e attività imprenditoriali nel Golfo cercano di analizzare la crisi inter-Araba dal punto di vista emozionale delle popolazioni di quei Paesi e con riguardo agli effetti sul business in atto e potenziale tra Paesi europei, specialmente l’Italia, e il Qatar o gli UAE. Il coinvolgimento di Paesi terzi e partner, come la Turchia e l’Iran, viene anche preso in considerazione con le diverse sfaccettature positive e negative che ciò comporta. Si tenta anche di formulare una possibile via d’uscita ma, senza anacronistiche nostalgie storiche, si lamenta nelle nuove élites dirigenti nel Golfo la mancanza di quella saggezza e pragmatismo che Re Feysal in Arabia Saudita e Sceicco Zayed negli Emirati avrebbero  mostrato in circostanze simili. L’articolo è anche stato sottoposto a countries at the crossroads, Washington, e SuedDeutscheZeitung, Muenchen.


Just to give a brief feedback of the dispute in the region written by people who are living or have lived in the area, we would best explain it by the image of a “fight between brothers”, individuals of a brotherhood origin. It has been a longer than anticipated dispute between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE against their Qatari brother in an unprecedented act, first of its kind in modern history.
We have seen fights between neighbours, the most recent was Iraq and Kuwait, but this kind of dispute at this international level is a first of its kind, making it very hard to anticipate what would happen, and nobody actually is able to tell.  Our personal good feeling says it would come to an end sooner or later, but how much soon we cannot tell, also a bigger question: How?
We don't think any diplomatic expert would be able to tell! There will be damages for sure, but the biggest damage would remain isolating Qatar as the situation is now.
Like in any other fight, senior Arab businessmen always told that both fighting parties are mistaken, and the younger generation leading these days pumps in more adrenaline  rather than wisdom.
We believe our opinion is of relative value, but we guess the blood ties more than the diplomatic ones could have downplayed the situation. Qataris have been accused of supporting Arab springs and the other opposing parties in every country through the sender Al-Jazeera and direct financial support, including Tunis, Libya, Egypt, Syria...etc.
They have gone to claim an oversized power while forgetting the stability issue which would affect all the region, they have even tried to touch their neighbours directly and indirectly while forgetting all historical and blood ties with them. They have hosted every trouble maker in Qatar while not cooperating to help stabilise or act in all fairness to their public neutral claimed status.
The other three Gulf brothers have been victims to the Egyptian regime who've ignited the fire of hatred between brothers, taking the dispute to a very high level of media fight affecting normal people in most of the cases while the governments are not even open to talk. Everybody is showing the embarrassing parts of the others, but again at the end of the day, brothers will sit back around the table and clear all the dust.
We are essentially neutral in position, hearing what Qataris did, saying it's a shame, but growing and living in the land of Sheikh Zayed al-Nayan (God bless his soul) and learning much of his natural wisdom we would say we miss him truly in this situation. He was a man of natural trait of wisdom and a true father who would have sorted or managed more delicate situations. We wouldn't really say that UAE or Saudi or Bahraini are mistaken, but for the sake of the stability of the region and for the aim of peace, we wish this would come to an end.
It's a very delicate situation and we trust the soul of wisdom in UAE will find its way, but the most important step is to sit together on a rounded table, which is not happening till now and I don't see any sign of when it happens.
Nine countries, including the Arab nations of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen, recently imposed sanctions on Qatar, accusing it of destabilizing the region by supporting extremist groups. These sanctions have resulted in a far-reaching boycott of Qatar and this embargo was indirectly supported by the USA.
The role of the US is rather dubious and the Arab communities look at that with a dosis of misunderstanding and incredulity. Oil business, weapon affairs and the renewed hostility towards Iran are of course the mainframe for explication of what happened. The role, and the presence of Israel, is also to underscore. The perception of the different Arab masses, the people of the botherhood, is highly controversial. The Arabs have different perceptions according to their origin and location: an Egyptian sees it different from a Tunisian, and an Emirati regards it a different way from a Syrian; this is self-evident. The Governments, being not under constraints from democratic parliamentarism, follow precise dynastic or statual interests.
The peolple is not any longer unified by the strong original closeness and sympathy for the Palestinian cause: a lot of water of the Jordan flowed in the river bed. The attitudes of America during the Arab Springs is seriously taken into consideraton. Everbody knows that Ra’is Zine el-Abdine ben Ali in the pay of CIA was and that General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi strongly tied to the Washington “consensus” is.
The clumsy move of President Trump, whatever motivation or genesis it may have had, appears very brutal; we mean there is no evidence that only Qatar did allegedly something wrong in favour of dissidents, terrorists and Jihadists. Not at all indeed. It is more one of those politcal move made in presence of a high degree of uncertainty in consequences - as a great expert like Louis Massigon from la Sorbonne would have said -, as the Iraqi war definitely was.
The story of Arab peoples is full of bilateral suspicions, envy and diffidence, notwithstanding the common language and with regard to the typical Arab diglossia.
Now for current business of European countries, and especially highly appreciated Italian exporters, the best thing is to uncouple business trips and use alternative approaching routes, Turkey and Iran if possible.
Till now there is a solely possibility of reaching both countries, i.e. Doha and Dubai, in the same trip, by using the entrance gate of Muskate, Oman, as the Sultanate has not interpreted the prescription of Saudi Arabia in a strict way.  As the current situation in the region is highly insecure and fragile it is therefore very difficult to predict whether other countries in the region would adopt similar sanctions.
But the situation is in flux and nobody can foresee the outcome. The latest status is that the countries imposing sanctions have given Qatar a list of 13 demands to end the blockade. Some of them are acceptable, and indeed the Qataris accepted, while others are frankly foolish, ie the closure of the sender Al-Jazeera and its affiliates in the world.
In this very moment Saudi Arabia turns out to be the country in bigger difficulty, while the Qataris, with their currency reserves and the aero-naval connection to Iran, primarily, and Turkey, secondarily (Ankara has a military basis as the Americans in Qatar, which makes things even more complicated) show to be able to control the situation. Actually the common assets with Iran are many and comprise the sharing of a big gas source (the North Dome)  in the Persian Gulf and a good 12% of Shi’ite faithful souls in Qatar among the Arab population, which is indistinguishable from Sunni Qataris, differently as in Bahrein. As Qatar is the world largest gas producer with more than 76 milion tons per year, a shortage in Qatari gas delivery could push prices high.
SaveAs part of the imposed embargo, nine countries have terminated all diplomatic and consular ties with Qatar. And ended all land, sea, and air contact with the country. As a result, many European firms face challenges due to the fact that much EU-Qatar trade goes via hubs in the region (for example, via the ports of the UAE). As a consequence of the current sanctions, it is no longer possible to use these “normal” shipping routes to Qatar. 
In addition, companies need to be aware that the countries imposing sanctions have made clear in directives that any sympathy towards or direct interaction between individual citizens or companies with Qatar will result in criminal charges. This particular aspect turned out to be, to a European observer, really odd and unexpected from the side of UAE, not at all from Saudi Arabia. The “touch” and tolerance of the two countries were so far very different to one another, maybe as a part of the spiritual heritage of Sheikh Zayed.  
European enterprises with business operations in Qatar should closely review the involvement of local branches in the countries imposing sanctions. Furthermore, the re-routing of shipments via other countries, such as Oman, must be closely evaluated from a circumvention point of view.
The main worrying issue at the moment, taken into account data elaborated by Industrial Associations about furniture producer and exporter in Italy, Brianza, and exporter of lighting and decoration appliances from central Italy towards Qatar, is the one regarding contracts already signed and the uncertainty on how to let goods get to Doha.
Italian diplomatic Mission is conducting discussions with Qatari Authorithies on this impasse points. Of course, especially SME, refrain at the moment from new committments  by lack of solutions: sure (insurance costs went high) and safe (somebody could come to the wrong idea of inspecting cargoes or even shooting in the Gulf). And business tends to be back.
The naval connection through Iran is problematic for some European countries, could provoke reactions by side of Saudis and Americans and of course increase the burden of costs and risks. The total closure of Saudi Arabian airspace is also a factor of disadvantage, together with the exposure to additional risks due to strict flight regulations, especially in case of emergence.

(Dr. Muhammad bin Ibrahim al-Khreis, former CEO of ECOLAB GULF Inc, Dubai, and Prof. Stefano Barocci, former  Counsellor for Science and Industry, MFA, Rome)