Crown Prince Salman speaks with Emir of Qatar

  • Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia speaks with the Qatari emir for first time since the GCC crisis broke out, yet the talk quickly backfires and pushes the involved parties farther away from reconciliation
  • Kingdom foils a terrorist attack plotted by Daesh (Islamic State)
  • Government crackdown on activists, scholars, and civil society members intensifies
  • Riyadh condemns the leadership in Myanmar for its human rights abuses

September 4

UN official: Riyadh should finance all humanitarian aid efforts to Yemen

Top UN official David Beasley declared that Saudi Arabia, and no other country, should finance measures to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. He assigned the Riyadh-led military coalition responsibility for Yemen’s dire conditions. “Either stop the war or fund the crisis. Option three is, do both of them.”

September 8

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks with Emir of Qatar

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), spoke by phone to Qatar’s Emir Tamim for the first time since Riyadh severed diplomatic and economic relations with Doha on June 5. In fact, the conversation marked the first direct official contact between the two governments since the GCC crisis erupted. According to Qatar News Agency (QNA), President Trump coordinated the phone call. Prospects for reconciliation were hampered once the involved parties accused QNA of misreporting facts surrounding MbS and Emir Tamin’s conversation. Responding to QNA’s alleged “distortion” of truths, Saudi Arabia’s state media declared: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced the suspension of any dialogue or communication with the authority in Qatar until a clear statement is issued clarifying its position in public.”

September 12

Saudi authorities foil Daesh attack in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia’s state-owned news agency SPA reported that authorities have thwarted an attempted Daesh terror attack, seizing firearms and grenades in the process. The terrorist act, plotted by two Yemenis who were reportedly trained to use explosive belts, was intended to target the Saudi Defense Ministry headquarters in Riyadh. In addition to the two Yemenis, authorities detained two Saudi nationals, based on their suspected involvement. SPA also reported on the arrest of several individuals suspected of spying for foreign governments in Saudi Arabia.

Analysis: The Saudi announcements occurred following King’s Salman’s decree announcing the creation of the State Security Presidium. For some observers, the three events—the decree, and the two halted plots—illustrates the Kingdom’s intent to further crack down on subversion. These interlocutors argue that the issue of “foreign spies” is an intentional link back to Qatar.

Saudi Arabia cracks down on preachers, activists, and scholars

Human rights activists made known that Saudi authorities have arrested up to 20 well-known preachers, poets, media figures, and academics as “prisoners of conscience”. Saudi sources maintain that these suspects were arrested as “espionage activists…having contacts with external entities including the Muslim Brotherhood.” The International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), based in Qatar, condemned the arrests. An official IUMS statement declared that these influential figures “should not be used as pawns in political disputes” and called on the King of Saudi Arabia to release them.

September 15

Riyadh rejects statements from Tehran about Saudi Arabia seeking Iranian mediation in Yemen

Saudi Arabia’s state-owned news agency SPA denied that a senior Saudi advisor had told the senior advisor to Iran’s Parliament that Riyadh sought Iranian mediatory help with Yemen’s Houthi rebel movement. The Iranian News Agency carried this story.

September 17

Snap Inc. removes al-Jazeera channel from its Snapchat app in Saudi Arabia

To make it more difficult for users of Snapchat to access al-Jazeera content, Snap. Inc pulled the Qatari state-owned news network’s content from its Snapchat app in the kingdom as a response to pressure from the government in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister: GCC crisis over Qatar rift is not the UN’s matter

Following his meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Riyadh’s foreign minister, Abel al-Jubeir, told the media that the Qatar crisis is not a matter for the UN.

Analysis: Al-Jubeir’s comments are the clearest yet that Saudi Arabia wants the United Nations to stay out of efforts to resolve the Qatar crisis. The reason is clear. One dimension of the GCC’s ongoing row is the tribal dynamic among the involved states’ ruling families.

September 18

UK’s Labor Party bans Saudi Arabia and Sudan from attending its party conference

The Labor Party has barred Saudi Arabia and Sudan from its party conference to be held in Brighton in late September. The Arab League responded by canceling a conference reception. Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn maintained that the move was necessary to guarantee that there is a “political process to bring about a ceasefire” in Yemen, where he said it was illogical for London to send aid while also arming Saudi Arabia amid its ongoing military campaigns in that Arabian Peninsula country.

September 19

King of Saudi Arabia orders USD 15 million in aid for Myanmar’s Rohingya minority

In response to the Rohingya refugee crisis and exodus from Myanmar, the Saudi monarch ordered that the kingdom deliver USD 15 million in aid to assist those in need.

September 23

Riyadh condemns Myanmar’s government for “repression” of Rohingya Muslims

Saudi Arabia’s government strongly denounced the government of Myanmar for its treatment of the country’s Rohingya in the state of Rakhine. Speaking before the UN General Assembly, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Abel al-Jubeir, stated: “My country is gravely concerned and condemns the policy of repression and forced displacement carried out by the government of Myanmar against the Rohingya minority.”

September 26

King of Salman declares that Saudi women will have the right to drive

In a move that marks a watershed moment in Saudi history, the country’s leadership announced that it has ended its policy of not permitting women to drive in the kingdom. The change, announced by a royal decree, will be implemented in June 2018.

Analysis: The widely hailed announcement that women will have the right to drive in 2018 is the beginning of a transformation previously unseen. What remains to be understood is the extent to which this reform exacerbates tensions within the kingdom between the Saudis who favor such change and the conservatives who do not support steps toward gender equality. Unquestionably, this decree factors heavily into Vision 2030, the Saudi government’s economic agenda aimed at decreasing the kingdom’s dependence on oil, which calls for more female participation in the workforce.

Photo credit: Flickr/Creative Commons/Jim Mattis