The US will now have to dispatch a statesman to unravel the Qatar mess…………

The US will now have to dispatch a statesman to unravel the Qatar mess…………

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Published LinkedIn on 07/06/2017

Qatar has been accused of extending support to Iran, the long-established villain in the Sunni dominated Middle East political arena.

Qatar has been accused of funding almost every type of terror group; Shiite, the Sunni Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and even the ISIS.

Even as Qatar denies all allegations, the Gulf Co-operation council (read as Saudi and Abu Dhabi) cut all diplomatic relations with Qatar; throwing this small but hugely prosperous country into an economic mess.

President Trump Tweeted “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology” and “Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!”.

There have been many researchers and news writers, who have in the past made similar accusations against Saudi and therefore, it may be difficult for the US to make charges stick against the Qataris lest a lot of political dirty linen comes out to get washed in the public. Needless to say, there could be some which may prove embarrassing to the Western political powers as well.

Simmering tensions

Tensions between the Saudis and Qatar have been brewing since 1995 and in Qatar’s “Offshore North Field” Gas find – the world’s largest natural gas reserves which propelled Qatar to become the world’s largest LNG exporter, taking its annual per capita soaring to become the world’s highest $ 130,000.

Qatar like Bahrain, too was a Saudi vassal state and the Saudis could not bear this upstart venturing out on its own on the Arab political stage.

However, it was more than mere jealousy.

The Offshore North Field, was shared by Qatar with Saudi’s bitter Shia rival Iran!

Much to Saudi’s displeasure, Qatar negotiated and signed agreements to exploit its new-found gold mine.

During his Saudi visit, when Trump called for a complete isolation of Iran and Qatar publicly disagreed (although the Qataris later claimed that, the comments were “hacked”) the Bahrainis who have had a long-standing border dispute with Qatar, obviously saw this as an opportunity to settle scores with Qatar. The Saudis quickly supported their only vassal in an attempt to point away from themselves.

LNG’s value was underestimated by Qatar’s GCC neighbors to begin with.

However, it soon become a valuable source to generate cheap electricity and Qatar’s neighbours were asking for it.

Qatar placed a moratorium on LNG sales because, it had to wait for Iran’s rates of extraction to equals its own because that, their agreement was based on “equal benefits”.

Qatar’s neighbors in the meanwhile, were accusing it of siding with Iran against its neighbour’s economic interests. Qatar was also unwilling to offer any special deals to them in terms of favorable pricing.

In the meanwhile, Qatar sets up diplomatic relations with the US.

Following the Gulf War, the Muslim Brotherhood (an Egyptian organisation working to promote the influence of Islam) had led calls to throw out the US Army (infidels!) from the Islamic holy land of Saudi.

Qatar offered US a base for their Middle Eastern Command.

It developed its own foreign policy wherein it supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (Later outlawed by Saudi Arabia, for revolts after the Gulf War), the Hamas in Gaza and various groups in Libya and Syria opposed by Saudi and the UAE.

Qatar always suspected that, the coup against its Emir was engineered by Bahrain with Saudi resources and hence was never sympathetic to them.

Qatari TV Channel Al-Jazeera added salt to injury by making reports against the interests of Saudi and other GCC governments.

The Trump visit gave Saudis and Emiratis a golden opportunity to show upstart Qatar its place.   

The Shia-Sunni Divide

Is an ancient religious divide at the root of most Middle Eastern political conflicts.

It is one division which has been consistently exploited by various Western powers in their quest for control over the Middle East’s vast oil reserves. Added to that, were the complications introduced by Cold War interests.

In this conflict, Saudi Arabia and Iran continue to compete for domination in the Islamic world and everything in Middle Eastern politics revolves around this on sectarian divide.

Matters got serious with Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution in Iran which intensified this competition.

The Saudis backed Saddam in his 8-year long war (1980-88) with Iran and sponsored militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union which had invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Many see Saudis as US proxies in this effort.

Iran on the other hand was supporting Shia fighters in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen all against Saudi’s Sunni interests and indirectly against US interests who were trying to dislodge Soviets in the Middle East.

Roots of the current crisis are in Syria

Syria is a Sunni majority under Shia (like) rulers, whilst Bahrain is a Shia majority under Sunni rulers. Therefore, like Iran supports rebels in Bahrain, Saudi supports rebels in Syria.

The ISIS too is said to have Saudi support.

The US under the “New World Order” doctrine of President Bush (Sr), seeks to unravel the Cold War infrastructure by dislodging the regimes like in Libya, etc.

Syria being the last of the Soviet bases left is proving to be quite a challenge with Russia fighting hard to give it up.

Eventually, the much touted $100 Bn Trump arms deals boils down to unraveling the Syrian situation, riding on the back of the ancient Shia-Sunni divide.

Qatar seems to have borne the brunt – at least for now!

Trump continues to Tweet away – his recent one being,” his Middle East tour was already paying off and that, this was the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism”

In the meanwhile, the US diplomats have been struggling to find a way out of this situation; not only because, the Middle Eastern tinderbox seems to have suddenly flared up but also because somewhere, President Trump seems to have missed the strategic fact that, Qatar was the US Command Base in that area, from where most of its operations including the Syrian one is conducted.

Worse still is that, all this mess has broken down the time-tested US alliance in the Middle East. A huge cost paid by the US for Trump to demonstrate his masochistic anti-Iran stance.

As I was writing, the BBC reports that, the Iranian Parliament and the Khomeini shrine have been attacked – credit claimed by Sunni backed ISIS.

I hope that, Iran demonstrates the much-needed political wisdom in this situation and resists from taking any retaliatory action.

This is a time when the worst of my geopolitical fears are playing up and the last thing the world needs is a full-blown military conflict in the Middle East.

The White House Secretary therefore, most unsurprisingly has said that,

“The US still wants to see this issue de-escalated and resolved immediately”.

I pray, he is the statesman the world badly needs.


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One Reply to “The US will now have to dispatch a statesman to unravel the Qatar mess…………”

  1. Saudi Arabia calling or rather declaring Qatar guilty of Terror Funding and Terror Support is a joke. Remains a mystery how Trump extended support on this line of thinking….

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