Last week, a meeting of OPEC and affiliated oil-exporting countries broke up without reaching an agreement, following a dispute between Saudi Arabia, which wants to reduce production, and the United Arab Emirates, which wants to increase it. The two neighboring states are closely aligned, and the dispute threatens not only OPEC, but also the loose coalition of pro-Western Arab states that they lead. Bobby Ghosh cautions against reading too much into the recent blowup:
The Middle East’s most meaningful alliance has endured territorial disputes, succession crises and the pressures of war in the neighborhood. . . . It will survive because the two Gulf Arab countries have many common interests, especially in the spheres of geopolitics and security: they both are threatened by Iran and its proxies, are wary of Turkey’s growing influence in the region, and fear the political Islam propagated by the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots. Their de-facto rulers, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed, have a close personal friendship.
Faced with the twin foreign-policy challenges of the rising Iranian menace to the Middle East and the U.S. retrenchment from the region, the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the UAE know they can’t let their differences get out of hand. . . . With a bipartisan consensus developing in Washington for letting the Arab states reach their own accommodation with Tehran, the Emiratis and Saudis need to hang together or be hung out to dry separately.
Opposition to Iran also keeps the UAE—the most important of the countries that last year normalized relations with Jerusalem—and Saudi Arabia aligned with Israel.