Broader Ramifications of the Arab States' Rift with Qatar

Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, May 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Broader Ramifications of the Arab States' Rift with Qatar


Several trends began to clarify:

* A distinct new bloc was now acknowledged between Qatar, Turkey, HAMAS in Gaza, with some access to the US. Qatar and Turkey have cooperated for several years in support of asad-Dawlah al-Islamiyah fial-'Iraq wash-Sham (DI'ISH; aka Islamic State) and in the pursuit of penetration of other key areas, such as Libya, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan (and into sub-Saharan Africa);

* Qatar was put, to some extent, "in play", with the ability now to openly restructure its hitherto discreet relations with Iran, and possibly with Russia (alt hough with real reservat ions on the part of Moscow, due to Qatar's support for jihadi movements hostile to Russia). [Moscow, because of other priorities such as access through the Bosphorus into the Med ¡terranean by its Black Sea Fleet, temporizes with Turkey, which has been supporting jihadi ter tor¡sm against Russia.] As well, both Turkey and Qatar see themselves as long-term rivals of Iran, and vice-versa;

* Saudi Arabia may have overplayed its hand by using its belief in its restructured relationship with the US to finally isol ate Qatar. But perhaps not. Certainly the move forces the US to reconsider its Qatar military basing. Other Saudi allies also are strongly dependent on Qatari investments (particularly the UK), and will be forced to choose. Turkey's hope for Saudi funding injections are now over, but then Qatar has more disposable investment funding than Saudi Arabia at present;

* The solid partnership which marked the early days of the US Barack Obama Administration, eight years before, between the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey to support the Muslim Brotherhood, and the removal of Syr ¡an Pres. Bashar al-Assad, has now ended. This means that, now, only Turkey and Qatar are committed to supporting the proxy war inside Syria against Assad, and their prox¡ es were far i ng badly. The break-up of the "Obama coalition" which had given support to the Muslim Brotherhood was a deliberate policy objective of the new US Donald Trump Administration. [Despite some residual US political pressures, the US goal in the region is to defeat DI'ISH and al-Qaida, not remove Pres. Assad.];

* The US was informed in advance of the Saudi-led move to isolate Qatar, but it was likely that Washington would attempt to retain its links with Turkey and Qatar - and therefore a bridge to Iran - while at the same time watching proxy pressure being applied to Turkey and Qatar to cease support for the Mus I im Brotherhood, DI'ISH movement, and other radical Islamist groups;

* It is likely that the price which the Trump White House ext racted from the Saudi Government, in exchange for furt her arms sales and support in Yemen, was a measure of transparency in Saudi Arabian renunciation of support for jihadi groups. It remains to be seen whether the Saudi Government can, in fact, achieve this.

Background to Current Activities: The governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and government of the Aden-based rump of Yemen on Monday, June 5, 2017, abruptly suspended diplomatic relations with Qatar, ostensibly over Qatar's links to terrorist and extremist groups, specifically DI'ISH, al-Qaida, and the Muslim Brotherhood. All five states ordered their diplomats to leave Doha, and ordered Qatari diplomats to leave their posts in the five states. Air transport and trade links with Qatar were cut by the five countries, significantly hampering Qatar, which had been import ¡ ng some 40 percent of its food by land from Saudi Arabia. All three UAE air carriers - Etihad, Emirates, and FlyDubai - suspended air services to and from Doha, effective June 6, 2017. Saudi Arabia on June 6, 2017, revoked Qatar Airways' license to operate in the Kingdom, and Egypt closed its airspace to Qatari aircraft.

The Libyan Interim Government-based in Eastern Libya - also suspended dip i omatic relations with Qatar (and had long accused Qatar of be I ng, with Turkey, the principal supplier of jihadist fighters and weapons into Libya, since 2011, with those efforts supported by the US Obama Administration). …

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