As per the definition of State given in Political Science textbooks for high school it should be sovereign, have a government, territory or land and population. By that criterion several of the countries are inherently weak States as they are too small in size or too sparsely populated. Yet they are counted as independent countries and are the honourable members of the United Nations.
But in the post-Corona world a new type of development has taken place. There is a fear that many tiny countries may in the near future actually lose the status of the State and may end up being called just outposts. A handful of such States are situated in the Middle East. This is simply because of massive process of de-population they are undergoing. As these tiny States–just a dot on the map of the world–have witnessed a huge cut in jobs and return of expatriates–thanks to crash in oil price and slump in its demand–they have lost almost all the attraction of being called a State.
As in the name of the government they always used to have a titular head and their sovereignty would always be in doubt. Thus they had been inherently weak since their establishment.
The United Arab Emirates is one of them. Following its decision to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, the US President Donald Trump, after a series of foreign policy disasters, proclaimed from the house-top that he had brokered a deal between Israel and UAE and tried to project it as if it was a great achievement.
He perhaps failed to appreciate the fact that brokering a deal between such a failed State and Israel is–in this era of rapid Chinese expansion and rising influence of Turkey and Iran–would lead to nowhere.
But this gentleman at least has nothing to boast about on the foreign policy front. One day he would abuse North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and call for the destruction of that country, but on the other day he meets the same person in such a way as if he had found a long lost brother. Then a day later he would forget if any country with such a name ever exists.
With election around the corner he had at least something to brandish. The Israeli government thinks that with UAE becoming a friend the Jewish state would get a base in the Gulf to checkmate Iran. But this effort has been going on since 1979 Iranian Revolution, especially after First Gulf War in 1991 which paved the way for the virtual control of Kuwait by the US-led NATO forces.
After all the forward headquarters of the US Central Command is situated in Qatar. Israel had developed a very good relationship with another Shia-dominated, but anti-Iran neighbouring country, Azerbaijan. An air base was developed here so that Israelis could attack Iran, particularly its nuclear facilities. Did all these steps really succeed in containing Iran?
In contrast Iran has in recent years managed to come out of isolation and even President Obama had to sign a deal with it. It is other thing that President Trump cancelled it, and re-imposed sanctions. But he failed to get the support of European Union. Only on August 20 the United Kingdom, France and Germany said that they would oppose the US motion at the United Nations to re-impose sanctions on Iran.
Iran, and for that matter Turkey, might be suffering economic losses because of the US actions, but there is no denying the fact that the influence of these two Muslim countries have increased in the region. This is so in spite of the fact that many people in the Muslim world have strong reservations with some of their policies and stands.
In contrast the stature of Israel has largely been neutralised and the Gulf countries have lost whatever clout they used to enjoy in the past. The huge fall in the oil price has deprived them of whatever attraction they used to have.
The truth is that barring Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Oman, the other tiny Sheikhdoms were carved out and declared independent by the colonial masters with a purpose. The plan was to use them as military bases, a task which they have been performing. Establishing diplomatic ties with Israel is immaterial.
However, the diminishing status of these so-called States has made policy-makers in Washington sit up and ponder. Even the much bigger, but once again thinly populated, Saudi Arabia, especially under Mohammad bin Salman has isolated itself from the Muslim world. Its crime in Yemen, and the role in the two Gulf Wars have not been forgotten.
The truth is that ever since the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks and their embrace of the British and French armies at the high time of World War-I, the role of the leaders of peninsular Arabs have never been appreciated in the Muslim world.
Notwithstanding the fact that Makkah and Madinah being situated in Hejaz there is a general feeling that the third holiest shrine of Islam Al-Aqsa today is in the hands of Israel largely because of the great betrayal of Arabs against fellow Muslim, that is Ottoman Turks.
Israel is the creation of the same colonial powers which hewed out so many small states in the region and installed monarchs of their choice on them.
So except during the 1973 Arab-Israel War and immediately after, Saudi Arabia never enjoyed the role of leadership of the Muslim world.
So if Riyadh follows UAE in establishing diplomatic ties with Israel it would not be a big surprise, or a huge achievement.
(Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna. The views are personal.)