Thursday, July 16, 2009

Borders - part 2

Okay so I spoke to my Qatari friends about the border dispute, but in the meantime an anonymous commenter also left a lengthy discussion of the issue. Rather than have everyone click on the comment I will just copy what he said here:

Per Wiki, the treaty has never been ratified by the UAE

Historical Background

The origins of the tension go back two centuries to when the al-Nahyans of Abu Dhabi (now the rulers of the lead emirate of the UAE) and the al-Sauds, now the rulers of Saudi Arabia, were merely rival tribes. The al-Nahyan, then impoverished pearl-divers and herdsmen, accepted al-Saud dominance though they resisted the al-Saud's strict Wahhabi version of Islam. The focus of much of the rivalry was the Buraimi Oasis, a fertile jewel in an otherwise barren desert. Just over fifty years ago, Saudi forces seized the oasis, reportedly with the backing of U.S. oil companies that argued Riyadh had a territorial claim to it. When international arbitration failed, the Saudis were expelled forcibly by Abu Dhabi and Omani troops acting with British support.

In 1974, the newly formed UAE, led by Sheikh Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, agreed to a treaty in Riyadh with King Faisal of Saudi Arabia (the father of Prince Turki, now the Saudi ambassador to Washington; Faisal was assassinated the following year). Saudi Arabia was given a strip of coastline between the UAE and Qatar, and control over most of the discovered but then unexploited Shaybah Oil Field, along with 100 percent of its revenues. The Buraimi Oasis apparently was ceded to the UAE, where it is now known as Al Ain. "Apparently" is the operative word because a map published on the website of the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows Buraimi still to be in Saudi territory, along with several parts of neighboring Oman and Yemen (view the map). Indeed, this is the shape of Saudi Arabia represented in outline on the pages of Saudi passports.

Thanks for that Anonymous. I'm not sure about the wiki bit on ratifiction. I would find it odd that the treaty would not have been ratified yet still deposited with the United Nations. Why would the UN have an unratified treaty? Why has the UAE and Qatar abided by an unratified treaty for 35 years? (albeit possibly grudgingly)

One of my Qatari friends said that at the time Saudi was the big military power and other countries in the region ultimately did what they said. He thinks the Saudi army did move in and annexed the strip of land near Qatar, and that this occurred well before the treaty negotiations. He also thinks they controlled a segment of what is now the UAE (I think some land near the Strait of Hormuz?) and during the treaty negotiations gave the UAE the option to keep one or the other, with the UAE deciding to keep the land near the Strait. Saudi kept the segment in between Qatar and the UAE.

This story seems to agree somewhat with what is said about the Buraimi Oasis conflict.

Looks like I won't be seeing an easy drive between Qatar and the UAE any time soon. Saudi Arabia makes a reasonable amount of money charging fees to all vehicles crossing the border. Lose that strip of land and they would lose the revenue from any trucking traffic going between Qatar and the UAE, as well as the mineral/oil rights in that segment of the Gulf east of Qatar.


Anonymous said...

Aren't there ferries that could take you and your car to Dubai or Abu Dhabi or Bahrain right from Doha so you don't have to go through Arabia?

Glen McKay said...

Nope, no ferries, at least that I know of. Everyone flies.