Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront
The current crisis surrounding Qatar represents the most severe conflict among Gulf Arab states since the end of the Cold War. While these oil-rich, autocratic OPEC members have historically been at the most allies of convenience united by common fears (USSR, Saddam Hussein, Iran, etc.), their mutual mistrust has arguably never escalated to the point of demanding to what amounts to a complete surrender by one of its members. Several interesting features of this crisis immediately jump out:
First of all, the breaking off of diplomatic relations by Saudi Arabia and several other major regional powers including Egypt, and depriving Qatar of the ability to use land and air transport routes through or over the territory of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, including Egypt came suddenly and without any warning. There was no ongoing visible dispute between Qatar and any of its neighbors, no major recent provocative policy moves. This suggests it was a premeditated and planned move by Saudi Arabia and its partners.
While the US role in the crisis is still ambiguous, it is unlikely in the extreme that Saudi Arabia would have undertaken something so drastic without coordination with the US, particularly since this action comes literally on the heels of President Trump’s high-profile visit to Saudi Arabia. While initially silent, President Trump ultimately took to Twitter to back Saudi Arabia against Qatar, even as the US still maintains major military presence in that country.
The nature of the accusations leveled at Qatar is nothing short of extreme. Both US and Saudi leaders accused Qatar of about the worst offense currently available, namely supporting violent Islamic extremism. Trump went so far as to say that Qatar’s change of policies would be a major step toward resolving the problem of terrorism.
The nature of the crisis suggests it represents tensions that long bubbled under the surface but now have finally burst into the open. The Qatari-Saudi falling out, and the make-up of the pro-Saudi faction, suggests that several factors at at work here.
Not the least trivial of them is the drop in energy prices in recent years. Unlike the US or Russia, which are also major oil producers but have diversified economies, Gulf Arab states cannot sustain this kind of pain for very long. Saudi Arabia’s costly wars in Syria and Yemen only make that problem worse. Since Qatar’s main line of business is natural gas whose production is outside OPEC’s purview, it may be that Saudi Arabia is attempting to force Qatar, whose per-capita GDP is the highest in the world, to share some of its wealth with the failing Saudi monarchy.
This drastic step would likely have not been needed had the Saudi and Qatari ambitions in Syria b een realized by now. The objective was, after all, the laying of pipelines through the territory of Syria and also seizing Syria’s oil fields using ISIS as a proxy, all very much with the tacit approval of the Obama Administration. While the outcome of the war in Syria is still uncertain, it is all too clear the Saudi and Qatari efforts to expand their wealth at Syria’s expense have failed, so the two allies of convenience whose own proxy armies have long competed and even on occasion fought in each other in Syria have turned on one another.
The Saudis are also attempting to establish their political dominance within the region, as part of the “Sunni NATO” concept. Qatar’s independent foreign policy which often ignored or even undermined Saudi aims in Syria and Libya, was naturally an obstacle in reaching that objective. Moreover, Qatar’s freelancing also appears to be the reason why countries like Egypt and Israel have backed Saudi moves. Qatar is also a major sponsor the Muslim Brotherhood and of Hamas which are major irritants for these two countries, respectively.
The other major show of Qatari independence has been its Iran policy, where it is also sharply at odds with the hard-line Saudi approach. Since the “Sunni NATO” is aimed squarely at Iran, Qatari reaching out to Iran is a major problem for that prospective organization, and should Saudi Arabia succeed in crushing Qatar’s independence, it will establish itself as the unquestionably dominant political power within the Arabian Peninsula. The harsh disciplining and humiliation of Qatar would also serve as a long-term warning for any other minor Gulf power which might attempt to pursue a foreign policy independently of Saudi Arabia. The importance of Iran to the Saudi-Qatar conflict has been starkly demonstrated by Iran’s declared willingness to supply Qatar with food to overcome Saudi blockade, and the terrorist attack in Tehran that was attributed to Saudi Arabia by Iranian authorities.
With that in mind, Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia which culminated with the rather bizarre “glowing orb” ceremony, acquires a new meaning. While we do not yet know just how much leeway Washington is giving Riyadh in its dealings with Doha and how much coordination and communication there are between the two powers, Trump’s behavior while in Saudi Arabia was likely intended to send a message that Saudi Arabia has the full faith and confidence of the United States, though evidently Qatar had failed to heed the warning. If the Saudi action does result in Qatari abandonment of Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, it will help the US restore some of its political standing in the region by drawing both Israel and, especially, Egypt, closer toward the US. Qatar’s emasculation furthermore promises to bring the wars in not only Syria but also Libya to a closer conclusion by eliminating a significant player pursuing an independent objective. Last but not least, Qatar also enjoys rather better relations with both Russia and Turkey than Saudi Arabia, which no doubt raised additional fears in Washington that Russia is about to take the US’ place as the most influential external power in the Middle East. The emergence of a Russia-Iran-Turkey-Qatar constellation as a result of Russian diplomacy and Turkey’s own regional ambitions is a nightmare scenario for both Riyadh and Washington. Ankara-Moscow consultations and the subsequent Turkish declaration of readiness to place own troops in Qatar suggest both Turkey and Moscow are all too aware that in the long term Saudi consolidation of power over the Arabian Peninsula will hurt their interests there and bolster the United States.
It is not yet clear whether the Trump Administration compelled Saudi Arabia to undertake this course or whether Trump had no choice but to endorse and acquiesce in the Saudi course of action, with some accommodations made to respect US interests outlined above. On the one hand, Trump could have easily used the same “support for terrorism” cudgel on the Saudis that in the end he used on the Qataris. On the other hand, the power of the Saudi lobby in Washington and the absence of a proxy power capable of doing to Saudi Arabia what Saudi Arabia is doing to Qatar means that the Saudis are not simply following Washington’s orders but have at most been compelled to take better account of the fact the US is not being governed by Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton but by Donald Trump, whose “America First” rhetoric suggests less international involvement and therefore less support for instability-promoting interventionism.
However, in light of Trump’s upcoming visit to Poland and the participation in the so-called Three Seas Initiative summit, one must also entertain the possibility that the US saw in Qatar an unwelcome competitor for the liquid natural gas (LNG) market. It is becoming apparent that the US will continue to expand its role as hydrocarbon exporter in the future, which will naturally bring it into conflict with not only Russia, but also Qatar, and even Saudi Arabia. It is also becoming apparent that at least some of that expansion will take place in Europe, or the market which Qatar had hoped to access by sponsoring jihadists in Syria who would ultimately pave the way for its gas pipelines into Europe.
The falling out between the US and Qatar appears to have had a sobering impact on Qatar’s leaders who, evidently fearing that any show of weakness might lead to their overthrow and even death, have dug in their heels and began to seek support from unorthodox sources. That process, in turn had shown both the extent of anti-Saudi sentiment in the region and the limits of US influence. Turkey’s President Erdogan came out strongly in support of Qatar, and went so far as to reaffirm the Turkey-Qatar military alliance and send troops to Qatar. Iran had begun to send food aid to Qatar. Pakistan similarly decided to send a military force to Qatar, and collectively these actions are likely sufficient to dissuade any Saudi military adventurism, possibly with cooperation with dissatisfied factions of Qatari military. At this stage, it would take a direct US military intervention to bring down the Qatari government, but the US clearly prefers to do its dirty work through proxies. Moreover, there is no sign of an effort to interdict or block Qatar’s LNG tanker traffic. Even though Egypt had joined the anti-Qatar coalition, it has not blocked LNG tankers carrying Qatari gas from passing the Suez Canal.
Even so, Qatari leaders were concerned enough to send their Foreign Minister to Moscow for consultations, though it is unclear what result that trip had, other than obtaining Russia’s expression of support for resolving all issues through the diplomatic process and giving Qatar yet another diplomatic bargaining chip to play in the complex game against Saudi Arabia and the US. Nevertheless, considering that Saudi Arabia responded to Turkey’s support of Qatar by expressing its own support for the Kurdish cause–so far only verbal–it does appear that Russia, Turkey, and many other countries in the region do not wish to see Qatar brought to heel. Russian military spokesmen also noted that in the meantime the war in Syria had greatly diminished in its intensity as the Qatar- and Saudi Arabia-backed militants, who in the past were not on the best of terms either, now find themselves in a very confused situation where it’s not clear who is supposed to be their enemy, Syrian forces or other rebel groupings. However the situation evolves in the future, it is unlikely in the extreme Qatar will be close collaborator in any Saudi schemes. Instead it is more than likely Qatar will gradually drift further away from Saudi policies and bolster its ties with Turkey, and therefore indirectly also with Russia and Iran.
As a final note, one cannot but help reflect on the fact this is a severe and potentially very dangerous confrontation between, after all, two important US allies. Considering that both Qatar and Saudi Arabia are members of the “Free World” (sic) of which the US is the indisputed leader, the fact that a few policy disagreements among these members can no longer be managed by means short of blockade and threats of war does not speak highly of the US ability to continue to maintain its empire. While the Saudi-Qatari conflict is unprecedented in its intensity, it is far from being the only internal “Free World” conflict which the US is apparently powerless to resolve. We have already seen Brexit, the looming “two-speeds EU”, the Turkey-EU and Turkey-NATO spats, the failure of TTIP and TPP multilateral US-centric trade deals, and other signs of US weakness. The use of Saudi Arabia against Qatar suggests the US might be moving toward a different model of imperial governance, namely “divide and rule” among its own client states. In the short term this may well be successful. However, it is US client states’ awareness that is driving them to seek help from Moscow, which in turn gives us narratives of “Russian meddling”, including now in the case of Qatar.
you forgot to mention N. Lorea and the not very wonderful ICBMs that US is not sure are working !!!!
Qatar is in the gutter
Suadi Arabia can do anything they want and the US will not (can not) do anything about it as It is the Saudi’s that decide if the US dollar survives or falls ever since the dollar got backing by oil instead of gold.
The renown US diplomatic skills are certain to cause another Middle East War. This time it will involve a NATO country ,Turkey, and the biggest importer of US weapons, Saudi Arabia. It will be a joy to watch:)
KSA is going crazy, it has a lot of money for weapons but not for bread for the own people take a look at the “coalition” Bahrein: in fact a saudi protectorate with never ending insurrection Yemen: in fact one puppet – Hadi Egypt: a democratically elected president in prison with strong supporters linked to qatar Libya? a joke like Somalia where are the other mayor-player like djibuti, micronesia and brunei? UAE – the profitable trade with Iran breaks down with the end of embargos the saudis on the way to loose at all fronts, run out of money and see a fat bite like the rich qatar and the unmannerly neighbors (Oman, Kuweit) hear the massage… a saudi clearence – or the beginning of the end of saudi kingdom? remember sadam hussein…
They are saving themselves by throwing Qatar under the bus now the eyes of the West are slowly turning on them.
I guess I’ll be back to reading Al Jazzera and AJ+. Iran should run to support Qatar with food arms and troops if Qatar shows a good will sign : Stop all aid to ISIS and Al Qaeda at once. Survival of their nation is at stake and it seems doable !!
Good background info in the article. Qatar should bring home it’s 1000 troops stationed in Saudi Arabia on the N Yemen border to protect it’s homeland. This sounds like a win-win situation to me. GOOD NEWS !
The picture of the day of Qatar betrayal by own friends.This how devil and demons work.Goatfucking allahs.
Perfect example of hosting a US base is not for your own security just the interests of the US
No honor among thieves.
When two erstwhile friends which are the worst sponsors of death and destruction by terror, turn on each other, it’s best to sit back and not interfere. in fact, when the fighting lulls, it’s best to throw some gasoline onto the fire.
There’s another critical aspect of this that is being ignored: the U.S. is looking for justification to attack the PMUs from Iraq that are on their way to help break the siege and liberate Deir EzZor. The UAE flunkees have designated the biggest part of the PMUs – the Badr Brigades – as a terrorist group. Saudi Arabia and the U.S. will do so shortly. The scheme will be to legitimize coalition attacks directly on the PMUs, preventing them from ruining the U.S./Israeli/GCC(less Qatar) ISIS operations in Syria.
On Syria’s southeast border (but on the Iraqi side), the PMUs are slowly but surely moving towards Al Waleed / Al Tanf border crossing, forcing ISIS to run across the border into Syria. The U.S. doesn’t like that because their mercs are trying to own that border on the Syrian side from al Tanf to al Bukamal. The PMUs have said they will chase ISIS across the Syrian border if the Iraqi parliament approves such a move first. Assad has already said that the PMUs are more than welcome to come into Syria and kill all the headchoppers they want.
So you have Israel freaking out that more ‘Iranian forces’ are entering Syria (~50K PMU troops). The U.S. is going ballistic because the PMUs will screw up their land-grab in both the northeast and the southeast. In addition, the PMUs will be part of the forces relieving the siege on Deir EzZor, which the U.S. wants for the new ISIS capital. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are worried because their assorted paid head-choppers are now trapped in a triangle of death: Palmyra – Raqqa – al Bukamal.
Qatar? Well, remember those suitcases full of a half-a-billion ransom cash that Iraq seized from them a few months ago? Iraq is still holding it, but Qatar said that Iraq should just give it to… wait for it… the PMUs! That made the U.S. and the Israeli/Saudi/UAE alliance of evil go ballistic, hence the Orb of Evil ceremony in KSA. That anti-terrorist monitoring center is basically the anti-PMU monitoring center, built to oversee the destruction of the PMUs. They claim it’s to fight ISIS, but everyone knows how the Saudis ‘fight’ ISIS: a shaving kit and a change of clothes. ISIS must be ‘allowed’ to take Deir EzZor so the U.S. and probably the SDF can then put on a show to ‘liberate’ it from them (and keep it for themselves). Touching the Orb is a blood pledge to destroy Iran and destroy the PMUs.
The PMUs could seriously screw up U.S. plans for continued Syrian land/resource theft. Qatar is getting beat up very publicly for supporting them, but the real target for destruction by the Coalition of Evil is the PMUs, themselves.
Absolutely spot on. It’s all about eastern and northern Syria. Israel is terrified of the Shia crescent linking up. The US oil companies want the Syrian oil. The US weapons industry wants war to sell weapons. The US Military (Central Command)and the think tanks that back the Military Industrial complex are bought and paid for by Saudi. Saudi can’t take another beating in the oil wars because it’s going broke due to low oil prices. Both Qatar and Saudi wanted their pipelines through Syria, but now Qatar thinks it’s just better to get their gas through Iran. Turkey is terrified of the power of the kurds in Syria and of the US arming them to the teeth. It’s all massive chess game that depends on who takes Eastern Syria. And the guys at Deir ezzor are right in the middle
I totally agree that PMUs will be targeted of the US/Israel/Sunnis coalition and I think that the Kurds, after the fall of Raqqa, will be pushed against SAA and PLUs. And considering that Al-Sisi also touched the “Orb of Evil”, we must expect that Egypt will also take an active part in the Sunni coalition as well.
Qatar isnt the problem, the Saudis and the uISISa is.
And how convenient this split is been used/misused by the western MSM, where they have an golden opportune to white wash the bonkers Saudis, where I dont bother to mention the hang-arounds to the Cort halls, and blame ISIS in the Qatars. And of course, squish something about Iran into it, as well. As our never ending fountain of sprouting stupidity coming from the White Hoes and pirates on Potomac, whom tries to baffle us with their own, internally of course,, manufactured pure manure to feed the stupid pack of wankeestan cannon fodders, bullshit.
Yup, and an uISISa president whom is throwing gasoline in every direction and have managed to expose them self for what they are the greatest terror org, humanity have ever known, and have no regards for morale or justice, and is fueling their sinking ship, by raping and plundering the world, and their reality have nothing to do with ours, they are simply rotten scums.
The entire western MSM is digging their own grave, the sole reason for the attacks from the corrupt gov. this days, instead of doing something wise, like helping Syrians and the Russians in fighting the last packs of ISIS scums, they fight the media, to silence any alternative to their own lies and forgery’s.
The Brits, well, the only place I can think of where the chance of meting an sane person must be inside an asylum, because outside, everybody is gone bonkers. Brexit, Brits isn’t the problem, EU is. Terrorism isnt the problem, corruption is, imperialism is, wars is, and greed. We can survive anything, we have done that before, but we will never survive unlimited greed. Based upon an philosophy witch is remarkable like cancer, exponential growth to kingdom comes, hallelujah, and now they want to plug our asses with an taxa-meter, because of AGW. Cheers.
To me, maybe I am just getting old, even Siberia isnt remote anuf, anymore.
Saudi Arabia is a captive audience of the USA Oil ain’t what it used to be at the moment, Trump is only making light of a dark moment for Salman as another Saudi ally deserts the sinking ship after reading the writing on the wall, Hamas isn’t involved and the Brotherhood is not in contention if it even exists at all any more, Erdogan is the Movement that KSA is worried about, Trump won’t dare go against Erdogan that’s why the Brotherhood term is used. Libya and Egypt are paid yes Nations but won’t stick their neck out.
HAHAHA––The bullies turn on their own.
Qatar was trying to be moderate. Saudis and Israelis don’t like moderates on their team, and turn on Qatar.
1) Scares everyone else to be obedient by showing the consequences of being an outcast.
2) Uses the terror tag once again to remind everyone that the Saudi coalition are the “Anti-Terror” team.
3) Marginalizes Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas once more (although they are creations of the Israelis themselves) to emphasize the terrorist nature of these groups that are affiliated with Palestinian resistance, and to display to the world that they need Saudi coalition etc to battle these terrorists. Sets up conditions for Israel to build more settlements and grab more Palestinian land (“Palestinians=terrorists”). Also, helps them set up conditions for war with Hezbollah in the near future: “Israel is anti-terrorist” battling the “terrorists”, Hezbollah.
4) Gives the Saudis and Israelis an outlet for aggression against Qatar, who has been making them feel very uncomfortable and very threatened by the articles that appear in Al Jazeera. These articles highlight Saudi and Israeli human rights abuses, and their support of aggression against Yemeni Houthis and Palestinians.
5) Enforces discipline: they don’t want any more nations escaping from the coalition and going under the Turkey-Russia security umbrella. If they are going to do that, they will pay financially and security-wise.
6) Show their intolerance of anyone getting even a midgin closer to Iran.
7) Casts out a traitor to the Saudi coalition: “If you’re not 100% with us, you’re against us.”
8) Stops the influence of Qatar’s Al Jazeera from spreading dissent to Saudi rule in the Middle East; members of the coalition will block Al Jazeera in their nations.
9) Stresses once again that the other side, the Iranian Axis, are the terrorist side. “See? Terrorist Qatar is moving closer to terrorist Iran.” and “We are fighting ISIS, the terrorist group that Qatar supports.”
10) Saudis want Qatar’s money. So gives them an excuse to overthrow Qatar. But this plan could be thwarted by Russia, Turkey and Iran.