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Why did the oil monarchs quarrel?
A diplomatic crisis broke out in the Middle East. The authorities of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Maldives severed diplomatic relations with Qatar. The Israeli leadership welcomes these restrictive measures. Qatar is accused of supporting Islamic extremism, terrorist organizations and of interfering in the internal affairs of other states. Qatar citizens were banned from staying on the territory of these countries. The countries of the region stop maritime and aviation communications with Qatar. Saudi Arabia excludes Qatar from a coalition that conducts a military operation in Yemen against Shiite-type Islamist Shush militia rebels, supported by Iran. The UAE even stopped exporting sugar to Qatar and importing aluminum from the emirate. Qatar is plunged into international isolation. The closest partners on the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) have taken up arms against a large exporter of oil and oil products, a country with a high standard of living and the world's third largest natural gas reserves.
The reason for the diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf was the statement of the Qatar leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani about the role of the country in the region, published on May 23 by the Qatar QNA news agency shortly after the GCC-US summit. Emir Al Thani regards the political course of individual governments as a threat; they do not have the right to accuse Qatar of terrorism. According to the emir, these governments have already put a label of "terrorism" on the Muslim Brotherhood groupings and oppose the resistance of Hamas and Hezbollah organizations (these groups are recognized terrorist organizations by most countries of the world). Al Thani demanded that Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain stop accusing Qatar of interfering in the internal affairs of other states. Emir regards the terrorist organization Hamas as a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and is ready to assist in concluding peace with Israel. He announced a decision to simultaneously build close relations with the US and Iran. Al Thani recognized Iran as a regional force, with which relations should be established. Emir sees in Qatar a pillar for US military influence, without which the Pentagon cannot act in the Middle East region. At the same time, he stressed that the relationship between Qatar and the US remains tense. According to Al Thani, Donald Trump's recent visit to the Persian Gulf region is being used to accuse Qatar of terrorism and undermine the country's efforts to maintain stability in the region.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani
This statement was deleted 30 minutes after being published, but some pieces of text were published by the MEMRI Institute, which specializes in the problems of the Middle East. Qatar's Foreign Ministry claims that the QNA website was hacked, and the Emir's statement was fabricated. However, there is no smoke without fire.
What kind of game do the Qatari sheikhs play?
The countries of the Middle East do not trust the Qatari leadership much and believe that the emir uses ties with terrorists to influence political processes in Muslim countries. For many years, the ruling dynasty has been trying to strengthen the country's influence in the Middle East. Diplomatic crises in the relationship of Qatar with neighboring states is a common phenomenon. In March 2014, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors due to the suspicion of the Qatar authorities in cooperation with organizations that pose a threat to the security of the GCC members.
Individuals create funds in Qatar through which large amounts of money are transferred to terrorist organizations. According to the Telegraph, the Qatari professor Abd al-Rahman al-Nu'ami each month transferred $ 2 million to al-Qaeda in Iraq, $ 250,000 to the Al Shabaab terrorist organization in Somalia. Madhid Ahl al-Sham Foundation provided funding of the terrorist organization Jabhat al-Nusra, which opposes the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In 2014, the authorities of the UAE sentenced a citizen of Qatar, Mahmoud al-Jaidah, to seven years in prison for sponsoring the Islamist political organization Al-Islah, which, in the opinion of Emirates law enforcers, is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar provides asylum to influential Islamic extremists. On the territory of the country, prominent figures of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the Egyptian theologian Yusuf Abdullah al-Qardawi (journalist of Shariat and Life program on Qatar's Al Jazeera television channel), have been living in the country since the 1960s. According to the Telegraph, Qatar allowed the terrorist organization Hamas to open its political wing in the city of Doha, and Al Thani visited the Gaza Strip until he came to power in the emirate.
The capital of Qatar – Doha
Qatar authorities deny their involvement in the financing of terrorists. The Financial Times presents the transfer of large sums of money to terrorist organizations by Qatar as a ransom for the liberation of the captive citizens of Qatar. According to the publication, Qatar paid $ 1 billion to al-Qaeda terrorists for the liberation of 26 people, including members of the ruling dynasty, taken hostage in southern Iraq during falconry, and 50 Qatari military men who were taken prisoner In Syria.
The emirate can secretly use private funds as a foreign policy tool. The situation in the Middle East is uncertain, and it is not entirely clear whose influence would prevail in the region - secular regimes or Islamists. In case Islamists dominate the region, Qatar intends to use its financial dependence as a guarantee of the security of the ruling regime. Qatar actually bribes Islamic extremists, and they refrain from organizing terrorist attacks on the territory of the emirate. Qatar is considered to be a country with a low level of terrorism activity. Qatar is counting (thanks to its links with radical Islamists) to compete with Saudi Arabia for regional leadership. In 2011, the emirate supported radical Islamists in the person of the Muslim Brotherhood, believing that they have the prospect of coming to power in Egypt and other Muslim countries. The Muslim Brotherhood operates in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and the terrorist organization Hamas, which is in power in the Gaza Strip, is linked to them too.
After imposing sanctions, planes from Qatar fly to Europe via Iran and Turkey
Territorial disputes imposed a negative impact on relations between Qatar and neighboring states. There is a territorial dispute between Qatar and Bahrain around the Havar islands in the Persian Gulf. In 1986, the Qatari troops landed on the islands after the Bahrain authorities decided to build fortifications there. In 1991, Qatar demanded from the International Court of Justice to decide to whom these islands belong. In 2001, the islands were divided between two states. In the years 1992-96, Qatar and Saudi Arabia had tense relations on the issue of demarcation of the border. The issue was resolved only in 2008. Saudi Arabia did not allow Qatar in 2006 to build a gas pipeline to Kuwait on its part of the sea shelf.
Why does Qatar need Iran?
The restrictive measures of the Muslim countries towards Qatar are aimed at ensuring that Emir Al Thani revises relations with Iran, which is perceived by secular oil monarchies as a threat to their security. Since the arrival of the Ayatollah regime in Iran in 1979, the country's leadership has been hatching the idea of spreading the Islamic revolution to other countries of the Near and Middle East, where religion is separated from the state until now. Sheikhs are afraid that Islamists in their countries might come to power, who would take oil under their control and deprive them of their source of income. The Husit rebellion in Yemen is a kind of development of the scenario of planting the Iranian model of a theocratic state system in other countries of the Middle East. Iran periodically exerts pressure on the countries of the region. Under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's warships blocked the Strait of Hormuz, an important transport artery for the export of oil from the Persian Gulf to the United States. Iran has territorial disputes with the UAE around the three islands in the Persian Gulf.
Despite the fact that Qatar also has a dispute with Iran around the South Pars gas field, Emir Al Thani avoids criticizing Iran's political course. Officials of both countries meet periodically. To some extent, the foreign policy of both countries has common features. Iran and Qatar are interested in playing the role of regional leaders and see a rival in Saudi Arabia. Both countries control the largest reserves of natural gas in the region. Doha and Tehran are flirting with Islamic extremists. Iran is sponsoring the Hezbollah terrorist organization in southern Lebanon. Only in the conflict in Syria and Yemen, Iran and Qatar support different sides. Iran is also loyal to Qatar. After the introduction of restrictive measures by other Middle Eastern countries, the Islamic Republic sent ships with food to the shores of Qatar.
And what do the US think?
Unlike Muslim countries, the US took a low-key position in the diplomatic crisis. The administration of the Republicans did not impose sanctions on Qatar. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis believe that the disputes between the Gulf countries would not affect the overall efforts in the fight against ISIS. For the United States a split among the participants in the antiterrorist coalition is unprofitable. This will entail a strengthening of the positions of the regime of Bashar Assad, Iran, Russia in the Syrian conflict.
There is mutual dependence in the field of defense between the United States and Qatar. It is profitable for Qatar to play the role of a regional ally of the United States in the fight against terrorism. America has a powerful army and navy and views the Persian Gulf as a sphere of vital interests. Qatar's air force supports the United States in the anti-terrorist coalition and inflicts air strikes on the positions of ISIS in Syria. The United States and Qatar cooperate in the field of electronic intelligence. According to the Qatar edition of Doha News, the US military was preparing Syrian rebels in Qatar to fight ISIS. If necessary, Doha expects to use US military assistance. The US enjoys good relations with Qatar because in 2003 the emirate provided for the US Air Force a large air base in the region near the capital. The air base is used for flights to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
American military base "El-Udeid" in Qatar
Turkey is also solidar with the US position. President Recep Erdogan offers mediation in resolving the diplomatic crisis, and the Foreign Minister expressed regret at the actions that Saudi Arabia and its partners are undertaking.
Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries let the Qatari leadership understand that if the emirate continues to play an independent game and flirt with Islamic extremists and Iran, the country faces international isolation.