It was only a first step, and yet a necessary one. Mauritius, Mauritania, the Maldives, Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Libya (well, what's left of the latter two, anyway) all have severed relations with Qatar, the tiny peninsular state best known for creating the Al-Jazeera news platform. Jordan also downgraded relations with Doha, apparently under pressure from its wealthier and stronger neighbors. A few months ago, I wrote a piece outlining why Qatar is a more imminent threat to the Western World, Israel, and Middle East stability than the lack of a peace process with the Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, or even certain Salafist outfits. And just a short time later, it seems that much of what I (and others I referenced in my post) warned about has been acknowledged. Predictably, much of the mainstream media has excoriated the Gulf States and their allies for their severing of ties with Qatar, and slammed President Trump for seemingly supporting them in the move. Indeed, they are right that the same countries that are accusing Qatar of extremism have either funded & supported terrorists in the past or rule with an iron fist---and this, too, must be challenged and condemned by the entire world. And yet the Western media is missing the point. By joining hands with Al Jazeera and painting this as some sort of humanitarian catastrophe, declaring it a threat to "Arab unity" in the face of Iranian and Sunni-jihadist aggression, or saying it could upend the economy and oil shipments, esteemed writers and "experts" are choosing the dangerous status quo, perhaps unaware of (or simply ambivalent towards) the destabilizing and dangerous activities that Qatar has propelled in the region since 2011. 

BACKGROUND: 
Qatar has long annoyed Saudi Arabia and Egypt with its policies and Al Jazeera-based propaganda. Hypocritically for the tiny nation-state, which is a known abuser of human rights, its primary media outfit has condemned the human rights abuses of Riyadh and Cairo for over a decade. Its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamic body that promotes an imperialist doctrine of destroying the current world systems of government and replacing them with an Islamist caliphate, irks the secular dictatorship of Egypt and poses a challenge to Saudi Arabia's role of being the Islamic custodian and courting Western support. Qatar's prestige came to a head in the late 2000s and early 2010s, when it strengthened ties with Turkey's President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, himself an ardent supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. The 2011 ignition of the Arab Uprisings presented an opening for Qatar to export its own revolutionary ideology and install proxies throughout the region. Al Jazeera hastily spread online videos of protestors in Syria, Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere, explaining their demands to Westerners and showing a horrified world how they were often brutally repressed by their governments (which happened to be at odds with Doha). No Arab country lobbied more for the removal of Libya's Muammar Qaddafi than Qatar, which saw an opportunity to remove a secular dictator and replace him with Islamists. In Egypt, the secular Hosni Mubarak, who'd maintained a close partnership with the United States and a cold peace with Israel, was overthrown with Doha's support--and replaced with Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood candidate. When Hamas (the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) temporarily saw downgraded ties with Iran over differences in Syria, Qatar stepped in to fill the void, politically and economically. And Qatar, like Turkey, funded several terrorist factions of the Syrian opposition. 

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WHY NOW?: 
Qatar has long played both sides in seeking to expand its influence. If Switzerland's policy in WWII (or at other times) was to remain non-aligned, Qatar's has been to be aligned with everyone. It established trade ties with Israel while supporting Hamas as a "legitimate resistance movement". It's courted Tehran while seeming to be buddy-buddy with its Sunni Arab neighbors. It's cooperated with the Gulf states in Syria against the Assad regime while also supporting certain extremist factions that its neighbors largely refrained from engaging with. Its media darling, Al Jazeera, criticized their ways of governance while ignoring Qatar's own brutality directed its residents. Doha saw Bashar al-Assad as a partner before suddenly changing its mind in 2011 and lobbying for Syria to be expelled from the Arab League, while arming opposition groups. During the presidency of Barack Obama, the Arab states had no choice but to remain on friendly terms with Qatar, for a number of reasons. One was that Obama had no love for these countries, and likely agreed with Al Jazeera's blatant criticism of their policies. He also was eager to maintain a friendship with Turkey and stability within the Arab World, while also cozying up to Iran. This made the Gulf less eager to clean up house and more focused on containing Iran and cooperating with the West on the shared threat of Sunni jihadists. Now, however, Donald Trump sees no reason to discuss the human rights abuses of the Gulf states, so long as they are more proactive in combating terror, making overtures to Israel, and rolling back Persian expansionism in the Middle East. During his trip to the Middle East, Trump noted that many Arab leaders shifted the blame for rising extremism on Qatar and Al Jazeera--something Trump himself has acknowledged in his statements since the economic and political siege on Doha. Despite Trump selling arms to Qatar and joining Russia, Iran, and Turkey in seeking to broker a "peaceful dialogue" to settle the dispute, he is widely seen as more sympathetic to Cairo and Riyadh than his predecessor, or even other recent presidents. With his backing, along with the tacit support of Israel and European countries distracted by other events, Saudi Arabia and its coalition seem to see this as a green light to exact vengeance against their troublesome "little brother". 


But there are other reasons, too. While the Arab World is discreetly building an alliance with Israel to take on Iran, Qatar's historically more open ties to the Jewish state--and its reference to budding Israeli-Gulf ties more generally--leave Saudi Arabia and its close cohorts vulnerable to terrorist and Iranian propaganda about Israel conspiring with the Arab states of a grand scheme to destroy the Arab World via terrorism and ignore the Palestinians. Qatar's power and reputation has been diminished by the Arab Spring. Islamists in post-revolution Tunisia are being rolled back in favor of more secular leadership and parties. Turkey's image in Europe and other Western countries has been tarnished by Erdogan's growing authoritarianism, increased ties to Russia, and Islamism. Similarly, Arab countries view him with disdain due to his support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar, as well as increased engagement with Iran on the Syria issue. The government of Mohammed Morsi in Egypt fell in 2013, giving way, once more, to a secular army strongman who has pursued a relentless witch hunt against Islamic extremists and the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas lost a devastating war to Israel in 2014, and has become more isolated ever since, including by the Palestinian Authority. And Qatar's support for jihadis in Libya and Syria has only led to more bloodshed and tarnished the reputation of neighboring Gulf states, who are seen (often justifiably) as "guilty by association". Qatar's increasingly friendly ties with Iran was the straw that broke the camel's back. With its position weakened, its ally in Ankara losing influence and friendships in European capitals, and its proxies being hunted down or rolled back, Qatar is left looking like a terrorist-supporting and hypocritical country that disturbs the regional peace while trying to look like a peace broker to the outside world (not unlike how the Tehran regime presented itself to the West under Obama's tenure). The Arab countries have nothing to lose, but more to gain, from challenging Qatar and calling its bluff. They get to look as if they are taking heed of the West's concerns about the funding of terrorism, especially in the age of the unpredictable wrath of President Trump. 

WHERE TO GO FROM HERE?: 
It is said that there are "four camps" in the Middle East. The first is the Sunni jihadist camp, led by the likes of ISIS and Al-Qaeda, seeking to establish a caliphate through a violent campaign of terror. The second is led by Iran, trying to export its "revolutionary" Shiite propaganda throughout the region and reform the Persian Empire through satrap-like control over proxies in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The third is the Muslim Brotherhood camp, led by Qatar and Turkey, to recreate a caliphate through more moderate means to dominate the world. And finally, the camp of stability, led by secular dictators (Egypt), monarchs (Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia), and the only democracy (Israel). With ISIS on its way to defeat in Iraq and Syria and Al-Qaeda's standing severely diminished after the Obama years, the only way to consolidate this camp of stability is to eliminate and incorporate the Muslim Brotherhood camp. By pushing Doha to its limits, the Arab countries hope to remind it who's boss and bring it alongside their worldview a la the Islamic Republic. If the campaign is successful, Turkey will likely be the next target of such a move. By uniting the Sunni nations and making overtures to Israel (laying the groundwork for Palestinian statehood, even if it won't be possible in the foreseeable future), there will be more order in the Middle East and a united front, a sort of Middle Eastern version of NATO, can emerge to challenge and roll back Iranian power. Already, the Arab countries are displaying tacit signals to Israel--including offers of economic ties, cutting off contacts with Hamas, and condemning Qatar's involvement in the Gaza Strip--that they are ready to make peace so as to work together to keep Tehran at bay. It is imperative, for the sake of regional peace, peacemaking, and ending worldwide or region-wide terror that the Western World supports what Saudi Arabia and its allies are doing in regards to Qatar. 


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