The Siege of Qatar… The Void Blame Game
By Chérif AMIR
In June 2017, four Arab countries, Saudi Arabia, United Arab of Emirates, Bahrein and Egypt have decided to suddenly cut all diplomatic relations with the tiny Emirate of Qatar. According to the codes of diplomacy all Qatari ambassadors based in the four Capitals were declared persona non-grata and had to leave respectively Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Manama and Cairo in 48 hours, and they did comply. The declaration of this cut of diplomatic relations, was immediately followed by land and air blockade, preventing Doha from accessing the airspace and sea ports of the four countries, including the highway accessing the Arab peninsula via Saudi Arabia. Only an access was permitted with Kuwait and the Sultanate of Oman.
The young ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamad El Thani, was the apparent instigator of this angry reaction mounted by his young counterparts Crown Prince Mohamed Ben Salman of Saudi Arabia and Mohamed Ben Zayed of the UAE. The clash started when the Qatari official news agency had reported that the Emir of Qatar stated that the relations with Iran are vital for the gulf States’ security and that it is unwise to escalate the already existing tensions between the Arab Capitals and Tehran. This declaration was considered as an insult for the young de facto ruler of the Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohamed Ben Salman (MBS). The boycotting countries explained through their media channels why they decided to isolate Qatar from the rest of the Arab countries. The main accusation is the financing and the harboring of the fanatic Arch terrorist groups in the Middle-East including the terrorist movement of the Muslim Brotherhood.
This accusation towards Al Thani dynasty in Qatar, is not a surprise for all the observers of the dramatic bloody events which took place in the region since 2011, especially under the guise of the “Arab Spring” uprisings.
The blockade of Qatar is taking a new shape every day, the three Gulf countries and Egypt who took these steps apparently did not expect that the tiny Emirate would be that defiant and would form quickly new fronts and alliances against its foes.
The geopolitics “behind the scenes”.
The war in Syria is quickly heading towards its end with an outstanding outcome -the survival of the Syrian President Bahsar El-Assad- thanks to the lethal Russian military intervention against the Islamic terrorist groups sponsored by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. This unexpected geopolitical defeat of this trio supporter of terror, left the Syrian crisis in an historic suspense since the Sykes-Picot agreements in 1916. Another factor that increased the loss of the sponsors of terrorism was Donald Trump’s strategy in the Middle-East. The US President was clear about his intention towards the relations with the rich Gulf countries especially with the house of Saoud. The Trump theory is simple, it’s all about money and it’s the following:
“If you don’t pay appropriately for the protection we are offering you, you won’t get any of it under my administration…” The Saudis realized that the game has changed drastically, not only on the Syrian battlefield, but also in their palaces. The newly appointed young Crown Prince of the Al Saoud dynasty, Mohamed Bin Salman (MBS) 31 years old, currently the minister of defense and the commander in Chief of so-called Arab coalition in the disastrous war in Yemen, is eager to secure, at any price, his place as the next monarch of the rich oil kingdom. This ambition led the Saudis to become more Machiavellian than ever.
MBS has a sharp character and knows that a scapegoat has to be offered before “judgment day” unfolds to shake this region at the end of the war in Syria. The internal scapegoats in the house of Saoud were slaughtered quietly. But regionally, the damage was too huge and the “cleanup” time is approaching. Qatar was the “good disciple” adopting the Saudi Wahhabi ideology; it funded generously all kinds of terrorist groups, transformed Al Jazeera channel into a propaganda machine in favor of the Islamic State, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and against the rulers in Egypt, Syria and sometimes against Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.
Now that this camp has lost the war in Syria and did not achieve its goals in Yemen, the Saudis had to make someone pay for all this mess and make him bare the burden of terrorism. Like in the drug cartel, the little thug -Qatar- pays for the crimes of his boss -Saudi Arabia- , that does not mean that the little thug is innocent or less criminal than the “Godfather” but he’s the little one, the weakest member of the gang and the easy suspect for the authorities, which is the Trump administration in this case.
On the other hand, the US President knows well the crimes committed by all the gang members: Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, but the Saudis quickly reconfigured their status and invited President Trump to their capital and struck a deal worth $460 billion to upgrade their “firewall” or defense package with Washington. Qatar was left out of this new arrangement. So was Turkey who chose lately to join the Russian-Iranian camp hoping to block any attempts made by the Kurds to gain an independent State, a worry which Ankara shares with Tehran. Once this deal was made, the Gulf countries felt it was time to dispense of the Qataris who have been deeply involved in terrorist funding, a fact tweeted by President Trump himself. The green light was given to a Saudi led campaign to isolate Doha and bring to an end its harmful role in the region.
Nevertheless, the European countries and Russia had something else to say- non of the EU members endorsed this embargo imposed on Qatar, nor did Russia accept the idea that Doha would be portrayed as the lone terrorist supporter entity in the region, especially when the relation between Riyadh and Moscow are not good at all.
So how come the Wahhabi entity of Saudi Arabia lead a coalition against terrorism and against the countries funding it while, Wahhabism is the core of terrorism and the House of Saoud is the main sponsor of this bloody brand?!!! Qatar was and is the backyard of the Gulf States where the dirty work was usually made. Qatar was caught red handed in an another wrongdoing ; it has developed its bilateral relations with the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran, the Arch enemy of the Wahhabi Kingdom. When Doha received the thirteen impossible-to-meet demands from the four countries, it had addressed wisely the Iranian question. Qatar said that one of the countries besieging it, namely, the UAE, has excellent economic relations with Iran. Doha was asked not only to downgrade its relation with Iran, but also to expel the Iranian Revolutionary Guards present on the Qatari soil. Hence, Doha -who denied the presence of any IRG elements in the country- asked that the Emirates do the same and expel all the Iranian citizens from its territory, which means that Abu Dhabi will suffer a significant economic damage if it will take such a step. The famous 13 demands were handed to Qatar via the Kuwaiti mediator, with a 48 hours ultimatum.
At that time Qatar had already cultivated new major allies.
-Turkey’s Recep Tayyeb Erdogan, decided to dispatch soldiers and logistic reinforcements to the Turkish military base in Qatar, immediately. Erdogan also sent food supplies to the Qatari markets, and warned against any escalation against Doha.
– Iran decided to open a trade maritime and aerial route with Qatar while the question of the IRG remained a suspenseful issue.
The response of major superpowers’ position was surprisingly in favor of Qatar
– As for Russia, the Qatari minister of foreign affairs, traveled to Moscow and met with his counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. At the end of the discussions, Mr. Lavrov asserted that his country’s stance from this conflict is clear : Dialog and deescalation is the ultimate path for the Gulf States facing Qatar.
The interesting question is why Moscow decided to adopt this policy in favor of Qatar while the latter is heavily invested in funding the same terrorist groups Russia is fighting in Syria? The possible answer lies in another question: Who on earth would be fooled by a lie such as Saudi Arabia leading a campaign to fight terrorism?!!! The Master of the Kremlin who was the main game changer in the Middle-East is very well aware of behind the scene spins and understands the need for the Saudis to start a blame game, while Qatar did all the dirty work assigned to its dynasty by the West and Saudi Arabia.
– The EU, especially Germany was skeptic about the siege imposed on Qatar, because Berlin -as the rest of the West- knows that Doha has a lot to say about the real financiers of terrorism and that the tiny Emirate holds a crucial vault of info regarding the secrets of many terrorists groups and the secret services who supplied them with finance and logistic aide through Qatar. The Saudi led campaign is aiming at covering-up the true players behind these groups. That is why, Germany sent its Minister of foreign affairs to the Persian Gulf and met his counterparts in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar. At the end of his tour, the German official got the trophy as the secret service in Germany managed to sign an agreement with Qatar, authorizing the Germans to get access to all the confidential documents in the hands of Qataris concerning all the suspected terrorist groups. The apparent reason given for this agreement was the bilateral coordination between the two countries in the fight against terrorism.
What happens next?
The 48 hours ultimatum expired, the ministers of foreign affairs of Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia gathered in Cairo to take a firm decision against Qatar which did not even wait for the deadline to expire and refused the 13 demands. During the long hours of meetings, discussing the positions of Russia, Trukey and the EU, news has spread that the White House has changed its stance towards Qatar and changed its tone from condemnation to the call for reasoning and dialog.
The Saudis were reluctant to take further measures against the Qataris, as the Al Thani dynasty showed its “boss” -the Al Saoud dynasty- that it can gather allies, get diplomatic and military immunity and start revealing the truth about the Mega sponsors of terrorism.
It is expected that this stand-off will last for sometime as the major powers showed that they are not eager to see -at least for now- an escalation in the Persian Gulf and especially that the Gulf countries are rather constrained in their foreign affairs decisions from the West and from Washington in the first place. So the Status Quo remains.
Winners and losers of the Status Quo.
It is not clear who the winners are, there is a slowdown in events, for instance, now:
-Saudi Arabia knows that it has flaunted its power once again in the face of the tiny island of Qatar, and made it clear that it is still the boss. By the way, this is exactly the tribal mentality of the Arabian desert. There has to be a dominant tribe, which is Al Saoud over the rest of the tribes in the so-called Gulf “Emirates”.
-Qatar narrowly escaped destruction, the ruling dynasty was about to pay a heavy price for its role in harboring and financing Islamic terrorism.
-Turkey, was able to play the military card and it worked but the question is…for how long?
-Iran is an obvious winner, as it secured an ally and a trade partner in the heart of the Gulf States – and it’s Qatar. Now Tehran is able to play the role of the defender of the sovereignty of Doha against the “aggression” of Riyadh.
-The West and Russia are once again playing cards on the gambling table of the Middle-East, Moscow showed the Qataris that it is a reliable partner and can prevent any harm from happening.
-The United States which has the biggest overseas military base in Qatar, made it clear that it’s all about money – once Doha bought F-15 fighter jets with the price of $4 billion, the White House decided to soften its position towards Qatar.
-Finally, there’s a loser in all that and it is Egypt. If we examine the 13 demands handed to Qatar, we’ll find that almost all of them are related to Egypt in one way or another. Stretching from the demand to shut down Al Jazeera channel, to the demand of handing over terrorists living in Qatar who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, to the demand to cut relations with Iran. Egypt is the only country which never supported terrorism in Syria or elsewhere in the region, besides Cairo was always a main topic from Al Jazeera with reports full of bigotry, bias, and distorted and unfair coverage. But still, the diplomatic weight of Qatar is heavier than Egypt’s, and unfortunately Cairo’s diplomatic efforts did not succeed at the end. In contrast, while Qatar is securing the Status Quo, it is still making Egypt pay a dear price in the war against terrorism in Sinai.
The geopolitical arena in the Middle-East will definitely change- sooner better than later- and time will tell if the House of Al Saoud will collapse before the Al Thani dynasty in Qatar.
*Picture 1: Russia Today
**Picture 2: https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/209258-Turkey-Iran-urged-to-provide-food-to-Qatar