Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf countries are expected to sign an agreement on Tuesday toward ending a diplomatic crisis in the Gulf after 3½ years.

The big picture: A Saudi-led coalition severed ties with Qatar in 2017 and closed their airspace and sea routes to Qatari planes and vessels, citing Qatar's alleged support for terror groups and relations with Iran. In recent weeks, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been under pressure from the Trump administration to end the dispute.

  • The U.S. maintains close ties with both Qatar and its rivals, but the Trump administration's past several attempts to reconcile the parties have been unsuccessful.
  • Both Gulf countries see the signing of the agreement as a gesture to the Trump administration and part of their effort to “clean the table” to prepare for the incoming Biden administration.
  • Jared Kushner mediated between the parties and traveled to Saudi Arabia to participate in the signing during this week's Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit.

The latest: Ahead of the signing of the agreement, the Kuwaiti foreign minister announced that Saudi Arabia and Qatar would open their land, air and sea borders starting on Monday night.

Driving the news: Kushner traveled to the GCC summit in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia, with White House envoy Avi Berkowitz and adviser Brian Hook, who helped negotiate the agreement.

  • The summit will be the first time the Emir of Qatar Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani will visit Saudi Arabia since the crisis erupted in 2017. The leaders of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Kuwait will also attend.
  • The leaders are going to sign an agreement that includes three confidence-building measures: Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain will lift the air and sea blockade of Qatar; Qatar will withdraw all lawsuits against its three Gulf neighbors; and all parties will stop their media campaigns against each other.

Behind the scenes: The deal was reached in principle during Kushner’s last visit to Saudi Arabia and Qatar several weeks ago, where he met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Sheikh Tamim. Kushner has close relationships with both leaders.

  • U.S. officials say that after meeting the Saudi crown prince, Kushner traveled to Qatar's capital Doha with Hook while leaving close aides Berkowitz and Adam Boehler behind in Saudi Arabia. The two mediated talks between the Saudis and the Qataris over the phone in real time until a draft deal was reached.
  • In the last few weeks, final discussions were held with the Saudis and the Qataris to ensure both sides were committed to the understandings that were reached, the officials told me.
  • The White House also lobbied the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt — all three of which have reservations about the agreement, as they view Qatar in a negative light and do not believe the Qataris are sincere.
  • The deal almost fell apart on Sunday when a last-minute miscommunication created new tensions between the Saudis and the Qataris, sources briefed on the matter told me.
  • Kushner and his team were supposed to leave on Sunday afternoon but postponed their trip. A source told me Kushner and his team were forced to negotiate with the Saudis and the Qataris into the night on Sunday until a solution was found. They left Washington en route to Saudi Arabia early Monday morning.

What they're saying: A senior diplomat from one of the Gulf countries told me the agreement is a step in the right direction and includes some positive developments — but it does not mark the end of the Gulf rift.

  • “Some of the issues were solved, but the root causes for the rift — bad personal relationships between the leaders and big policy differences on Iran, Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood — are still there," the diplomat told me.

The bottom line: The agreement, which will be signed on Tuesday, would be a last-minute achievement for Kushner and the Trump administration before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
Jan 22, 2021 - World

What has and hasn't changed as Biden takes over U.S. foreign policy

Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden swiftly recommitted the U.S. to the Paris climate pact and the World Health Organization, but America's broader foreign policy is in a state of flux between the Trump and Biden eras.

Driving the news: One of the most striking moves from the Biden administration thus far was a show of continuity — concurring with the Trump administration's last-minute determination that China had committed "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims.

Tech digs in for long domestic terror fight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With domestic extremist networks scrambling to regroup online, experts fear the next attack could come from a radicalized individual — much harder than coordinated mass events for law enforcement and platforms to detect or deter.

The big picture: Companies like Facebook and Twitter stepped up enforcement and their conversations with law enforcement ahead of Inauguration Day. But they'll be tested as the threat rises that impatient lone-wolf attackers will lash out.

The pandemic could be worsening childhood obesity

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The 10-month long school closures and the coronavirus pandemic are expected to have a big impact on childhood obesity rates.

Why it matters: About one in five children are obese in the U.S. — an all-time high — with worsening obesity rates across income and racial and ethnic groups, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show.