Trump, Qatar and Saudi Arabia

Everyone wants peace, but terms of this peace remain vague. At least now, the pretense of espousing peace and supporting terrorism will be exposed.

June 24, 2017 22:07
2 minute read.

Countries announced cutting ties with Qatar. (photo credit: REUTERS,INGIMAGE,JPOST STAFF)

Soon after US President Donald Trump’s Riyadh speech, the Sunni nations chose to isolate Qatar, a state sponsor of terrorism.

In fact, Egypt, Libya and the United Arab Emirates already contend Qatari planes and ships are to be banned from their airspace and territorial waters. Presumably Saudi Arabia can declare a total blockade on Qatar if it chooses to do so.

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When saber rattling occurred in the past, Qatari officials called on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps for protection. One might assume that if additional pressure is imposed on Qatar, Iran would be called on for military assistance. At the moment, Qatar is testing the patience of its neighbors by supporting Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic State (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusrah. It provides sanctuary for Muslim Brotherhood leaders who fled Egypt and offers aid to the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Every time a conflict erupts between Israel and Hamas, Al Jazeera – the Qatar-backed network – favors the terrorist organization. The emir of Qatar has given billions to Hamas. He has also given at least half a million dollars to UNESCO, an organization with a distinctly anti-Zionist bias.

Qatar is under great pressure. A Saudi blockade could paralyze the local economy. A reliance on Iran for defense could be the catalyst for war.

If Qatar has leverage, it is through the Al Udeid airbase, which hosts the forward headquarters of the United States Central Command. Yet the Trump position has given priority to the war against ISIS, meaning, in effect, that Qatar as a terrorism sponsor is not an ally, despite the presence of US military operations there.

When Saudi and Qatari leaders meet to discuss their future, Saudi Arabia will consider the imposition of concessions – toning down Al Jazeera rhetoric and withdrawal of support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist organizations. Should Qatar resist – an unlikely scenario – the Saudis could invade and install a new emir – one inclined to support their views.

What this Qatari development suggests is that the unfolding tension between Sunni and Shi’ite states forebodes a conflict between Saudi Arabia, the putative leader of Sunni Islam, and Iran, the emerging power of Shi’ite nations. Despite a tilt to Iran during the Obama presidency, the contemporary Washington, DC, climate is moving toward accommodation with the Sunni states. President Trump is intent on restoring confidence in the US alliance with Egypt and Saudi Arabia and punishing those nations that promote terrorism. Hence, a set of new initiatives and proposals are being negotiated that will lead inexorably to regional realignment.

The Iran monopoly, or possible monopoly, of nuclear weapons, guaranteed through the P5+1 nuclear deal, will be undone directly through the abandonment of the terms or directly through negotiation. In any case, this is a prerequisite for regional stability.

Everyone wants peace, but terms of this peace remain vague. At least now, the pretense of espousing peace and supporting terrorism will be exposed.

Qatar is on the firing line.

The writer is president of the London Center for Policy Research.

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