The Saudi-Qatar tensions: real reasons

Source: Wikimedia

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar and Yemen announced a break in diplomatic relations with Qatar. Qatar was accused of supporting terrorism, in particular the ISIS, as well as the international Islamic movement "Muslim Brotherhood". The current crisis is not the first in the relationship between Saudi Arabia and its allies on the one hand, and Qatar on the other. However, given the redistribution of forces in the Middle East and the clearly marked US stake on for Saudi Arabia and Israel, for Qatar, it can have serious consequences.

Background to the conflict

The current crisis is a continuation of the "war of words" that broke out between Saudi Arabia and its allies and Qatar immediately after the visit of US President Donald Trump to Riyadh on May 20-21, 2017. Just after return from the capital of the Saudi Kingdom, which hosted the Arab and Muslim Summit, and a meeting with the heads of state of the Council of Cooperation of the Arab States of the Persian Gulf, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, delivered a speech to the graduates of the military school. He de facto criticized the current position of the US, opposed the isolation of Iran, announced that most likely Donald Trump will soon step down as president of the United States, and therefore should there is no real reasons to bet on him, voiced significant disagreements between Qatar and the United States and implied that there was the presence of a threat from neighboring states, alluding to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Later, after Qatar's official media disseminated this information, a stiff reaction was received from other Persian Gulf states and Egypt. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain turned off access to the Internet pages of the Qatari media, including Al Jazeera TV, and the media controlled by the Saudi and the UAE launched an information war against the Qatari leadership. Qatar officially disavowed reports of its media, declaring a hacker attack, but Riyadh and the allies continued the information campaign against Doha, claiming that Al Tani's controversial statements, whether they had a seat or not, reflect Qatar's unacceptable position on a number of issues.

The reasons for the quarrel

One of the main problematic points in Qatar's relations with other states of the Persian Gulf is its support for the Muslim Brotherhood movement. In 2014, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE have already withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar, protesting against the support of Doha by this movement. This also explains the anti-Qatar position of Egypt, the current government of Field Marshal Al-Sisi came to power after the overthrow of Mohammed Mursi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Another reason for disagreements is the difference in attitude towards Iran. Qatar, since 2015, despite the confrontation with Iran in Syria and Yemen, is opposed to the isolation of Iran, in particular, it is caused by common economic interests - both states share the same gas field in the Persian Gulf. On the eve of the summit in Riyadh, during which Iran was named the main enemy of mankind, the Foreign Minister of Qatar spoke in favor of cooperation with this country, openly opposing not only Saudi Arabia, but also the current US administration.

Indicator of changes in the balance of interests

In general, the differences between Qatar and Saudi Arabia reflect the struggle of these monarchies of the Gulf for influence in the Middle East. The countries are cooperating in Yemen and Syria, but they confront each other in Egypt, where they support two opposing sides of a smoldering civil conflict, and Libya, where Doha stands for the Islamists of Tripoli, and Riyadh for General Haftar. At the same time, Qatar has not changed its policy significantly before. A sharp change in attitude towards Qatar indicates a narrowing of the fields, where this country and Saudi Arabia cooperate. In Yemen, their anti-Hussein coalition is de facto broken, and the stake of war is no longer a matter of victory, but of a worthy withdrawal from the military campaign. In Syria, both states are de facto excluded from the partition of this country on spheres of influence, where on one hand the trio of Russia, Iran and Turkey decide the fate of the north, and the pro-American and pro-Israeli Kurds act also in this region, and in the south the pro-Saudi and pro-Qatari groupings find it increasingly difficult to demonstrate subjectivity in the context of the US , Great Britain, Jordan and Iran struggle for the Baghdad-Damascus highway and the at-Tanf crossing. At the same time, these same factors open a window of opportunity for a temporary alliance between Doha and Tehran against Riyadh. Therefore, Qatar can easily afford to secretly support Iran against its rival, the Saudis. The Shiites are a serious problem for Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but not for Qatar, where they are almost none, and therefore the Iranian use of the Shiite factor in the struggle against Saudi Arabia and its Bahraini satellite is not dangerous for Qatar.

The change of paradigm

The events around Qatar reflect the conflict between the two paradigms regarding the Middle East.

Qatar represents an old paradigm of Obama and Hillary Clinton. Saudi Arabia - a new one, where the influence of the neocons is noticeably strong. It was on Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood that the USA chose to support during the "Arab spring". This caused both a cooling of relations between the US and Israel (Qatar is the main sponsor of Hamas), and with Saudi Arabia. The rhetoric of rapprochement with Iran (or rather with Iranian reformists) is quite consistent with the logic of the Obama administration's Iranian policy of refusing to isolate that country and engage it in global processes to stop Tehran's rapprochement with Moscow.

Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel testifies to the final change of this paradigm. Now the United States is putting a stake on Israel and Saudi Arabia alliance, in which Qatar has no place, as there is no place for the revolutionary forces of the Muslim Brotherhood too. It is significant that the emir of Qatar is credited with statements about the imminent impeachment of Trump just in the spirit of American liberals from the camp of Obama and Hillary.