Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 11:20 | SYDNEY
Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 11:20 | SYDNEY

Gulf tensions (without Iran)


Rodger Shanahan


30 March 2010 13:40

This report regarding a skirmish between Saudi and Emirati naval (or more likely coast guard) forces is interesting not just because of its rarity but because it sheds light on the potential flashpoints that the ill-defined maritime borders within the Persian Gulf present.

The two countries have a long-running border dispute that as recently as August last year came to the surface. It is an annoyance rather than an impediment to close bilateral relations but the potential oil and gas reserves involved in the border region are significant enough that neither side is willing to cede ground ('scuse the pun) on the issue.

The clash, if it occurred, would likely have been in the ill-defined maritime corridor that juts out from the Saudi territory separating Qatar from the UAE, an area that was ceded by the UAE to Saudi Arabia in 1974 via an agreement that was never ratified by the UAE. The gas pipelines for the multi-billion dollar Dolphin Energy project between Qatar and the UAE pass through this area and Saudi Arabia has shown a willingness in the past to remind the project stakeholders of this fact.

Saudi Arabia last clashed with a GCC neighbour in 1992 when an incident at a Qatari border post left two Qataris dead. The border dispute was resolved some 16 years later.

Saudi Arabia's smaller neighbours jealously guard their independence. But they are also pragmatic enough to realise that antagonising Saudi Arabia is not good for business. This, and regional concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions, means that none of the local press has reported on the issue — a clear indication that neither country wants this incident to publicly sour relations at a time when Gulf Arab solidarity is seen as paramount.

Photo by Flickr user abcdz2000, used under a Creative Commons license.