Why is Qatar targeted?
The US decided to redesign the natural gas and oil-rich region due to the increasing influence of Iran and Russia.
Qatar became the centre of attention for the whole world; Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and United Arab Emirates cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar. Qatari diplomats were ordered to return to their country within two days and Qatari citizens within 14. Airspaces and sea borders were also blocked.
This was followed by a declaration by Libya, Yemen and the Maldives that they will sever their diplomatic ties with Qatar. Although it is not the subject of this article, the decision by these three countries is not that important. In Libya, there are three governments and tens of militia groups; it is not possible to talk of a structure that can take a decision. In Yemen, it is questionable whether the government that is considered legitimate represents even 10 percent of the population; Houthis supported by Iran control 80 per cent of the country. Whereas the Maldives are made up of 1200 islands in the Indian Ocean.
HOW DID THE CRISIS ERUPT?
The crisis erupted after the Amir of Qatar, Temin Bin Muhammed es-Sani, gave a speech during a graduation ceremony while Saudi Arabia was holding a summit in Riyadh against Iran. The Amir, referring to Iran, said: “this enmity would not be clever.” He described Hezbollah and Hamas as “resistance movements”; unusual coming from a Qatari official. These statements, given simultaneously with the Riyadh Summit of two weeks ago, were totally against the spirit of the summit attended by chief guest President Trump and representatives of over 50 countries.
The crisis has been escalating ever since. Initially, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrein and Egypt banned broadcasting of Qatari media outlets in their own countries, starting with Al-Jazeera. At the same time, while Trump was visiting Riyadh, Foreign Secretary of Qatar, Sheikh Muhammed bin Abdulrahman, met with General Qassem Suleymani of the Jerusalem Task Force in Baghdad. Immediately after this, Saudi newspaper Al Riyadh, known for its close ties with the king, made a reference to the possibility of a sixth coup and the overthrown of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad es-Sani.
THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST QATAR IN THE USA
The UAE had been lobbying in Washington for some time to associate Qatar with “terrorism and links with terrorist organisations.” Therefore, they instructed ranking USA ex-officials and many well-known authors to achieve this.
Conferences against Qatar were organised in the US and many other countries. UAE lobbyists published 13 articles in American newspapers, claiming Qatari links with terrorist organisations. In these articles, demands were made for US military forces to be withdrawn from Al-Udeid airbase to bases in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
It is important to remember that the Jihadist groups supported by Saudi Arabia or Qatar are not much different from one another. Qatar is accused of terrorist links for their support especially for Ihvanul Muslimin (Muslim Brotherhood). However, Saudi Arabia, one of the countries that are making this accusation, openly supports the “al-Islah Party”, which is a Yemeni fraction of Ihvanul Muslimin.
WHY IS THE CRISIS DEEPENING?
Some in the Arab media argue that these developments are due to major differences between King Salman Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and his predecessor, the Salafi King Abdullah. King Salman differs from his predecessor by naming his rulership as a “Period of Decisiveness”. He is not reluctant to declare war on his enemies, as he did in Yemen. Nevertheless, the answer to the question of “why is the crisis deepening?” is hidden in the developments since the crisis in Syria has erupted.
In the sixth year of the Syrian crisis, it is possible to say that the influence of Iran and Russia has markedly increased in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. Michel Aoun, known for his closeness to Iran, became the President following a two-year crisis of presidency in Lebanon.
Numbering hundreds of thousands, Hasdi Sabi regiments, not only under the influence of but also trained by Iran, won considerable official recognition within Iraqi Prime Minister’s office. The recapture of Aleppo irreversible changed the balance in Syria to the Assad regime, an ally of Iran.
Despite the three-year “Operation Decisive Storm”, led by the Saudi and their allies, Houthis control 80 % of Yemen, which has a two thousand kilometre border with Saudi Arabia.
In addition, Iran definitely became the winner with the nuclear agreement signed with the P5+1 countries (five members of the UN Security Council + Germany).
All these developments forced the US and their new president to make a move in the region, which is rich in oil and natural gas. In a statement linked to the ‘ballistic missile launch’ in February, Trump indicated a hardening stance against Iran. He embarked on creating a ‘Sunni block’ or an ‘Arab NATO’ against Iran. At this juncture, countries that opposed this policy, such as Egypt and Qatar, had to be brought back into line.
THE AMMAN SUMMIT; INCUBATION OF A SUNNI ALLIANCE
The 28th meeting of the Arab League in Amman, Jordan became a milestone in building of the Arab NATO. Steps to create a ‘Sunni Alliance’ have been taken at the Summit, in the image of Trump.
The most important outcome of the Summit has been the stance taken by Egypt, a key player in the Arab world. In his speech, President Sisi made it clear that he will align with this axis by saying “The influence of Iran must be opposed strongly”.
As always -having been ignored for the last six years- the Palestinian issue was brought to the agenda as ‘a cover for the new Sunni Alliance’.
RUSSIA’S COUNTER MOVE
Iran acted swiftly to counter the summit in Jordan; Hasan Ruhani, President of Iran, visited Moscow at the same time as the summit in Amman. During this visit, Putin’s words of “two countries making utmost efforts to further their relationships and develop a strategic partnership” were interpreted as an indication that Russia will act with Iran in matters relating to the Middle East. This explanation was also a clear answer to the Amman summit that targeted Iran.
2014 AMBASSADORS CRISIS
Actually, a similar crisis took place in countries that can be called the back gardens of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In 2014, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrein suddenly withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar. Egypt followed this with an announcement that it will not send their ambassador to Doha; influenced by its own internal conflicts. Saudi Arabia was the first country to celebrate the coup against Ihvan power by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi - the Chief of Defence, in July 2013, while Qatar continued to support the Ihvan in Egypt. Qatar gave shelter to many Ihvan leaders in the capital city of Doha.
This stance by Qatar strained relationships in the Gulf Cooperation Council and for the first time in its 30 year history ambassadors were withdrawn. However, the current crisis is far deeper than that of 2014.
WHERE DOES TURKEY STAND IN THIS CRISIS?
Unlike other Gulf countries, Turkey clearly has serious economic and political ties with Qatar. For example, in 2016, during the presidency of Ahmet Davutoglu, it was agreed that a joint military base would be built in Qatar. However, there appear almost no steps that Turkey can take to comfort its “partner” due to its present position in the Middle East, and especially because of its Neo-Ottoman politics. Turkey is subjected to an unprecedented scale of “isolation” by other countries in the region as well as the imperialist USA and Russia.
LESSONS FROM THE CRISIS
The first conclusion to be drawn from this crisis is that the US decided to redesign the natural gas and oil-rich region due to the increasing influence of Iran and Russia. In an attempt to redesign the region, President Trump has decided to sign an agreement worth $380 billion with the most influential and largest country of the Gulf, Saudi Arabia.
Second conclusion; influenced by its own strength in ‘media and wealth’, Qatar “bit off more than it can chew” in regards to the crisis in Egypt and Syria; as it did in all the crises in the region. This time Qatar has been put in its place.
Thirdly; new surprises in North Africa are likely as the attempt by imperialists and their satellites to penetrate the oil and natural gas region continue. As long as the attempts to control energy and pipelines continue, new additions and withdrawals to and from different blocks, new interventions and manoeuvres will be observed.
Looking back on the events, hundred years after the most important and well-known agreement of Sykes-Picot, the importance of “imperialist powers withdrawal from the region” is better understood.