Monday, June 12, 2017

Repercussions of the escalating Qatar-Gulf conflict

By Lal Khan

The Qatari elite could opt for Turkey’s support, as Erdogan is inclined towards the Muslim Brotherhood and having a military base in Qatar.
On June 5th, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and others announced severing diplomatic relations with Qatar and cutting of air, sea and land links. The seemingly irrelevant alliance Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) suddenly seems to be perilously splintering. Wednesday’s attack on Iran’s national parliament and shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini has been blamed on Saudi Arabia by the Iranian hawks. The rivalry between the Saudi monarchy and the Iranian mullah aristocracy this has morphed into an acute crisis very few had envisaged.
There is panic buying in Qatari bazaars as 40 percent of the food supplies to Qatar get transported via the land route through Saudi Arabia. Qatari nationals have been ordered to leave Saudi Arabia. Qatar’s 1,000-strong military force in the coalition attacking Yemen has also been expelled from this ‘Islamic’ military alliance. The Saudis and Emiratis have accused Qatar of “embracing sectarian Islamic terrorist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Daesh (ISIS), and Al-Qaeda and supporting Iranian-backed terrorist groups in the Saudi province of Qatif and in Bahrain.”
The Qatari monarchy has been challenging the Saudi domination in the region. Qatar is the world’s second-largest exporter of natural gas and will host the football World Cup in 2022. It also finances and hosts the Al Jazeera, the internationally prominent media network that broadcasts the views of Arab dissidents of the Egyptian and GCC regimes. However it shuns the voices of the Qatari dissidents. In the last decade Qatar eclipsed Saudi Arabia as a regional arbiter to resolve disputes, hosting warring factions from Afghanistan, Sudan, Lebanon, and facilitating the Palestinians’ reconciliation talks.
Qatar, Kuwait and Oman are the three GCC states that still maintain relations with Iran. This irks the other monarchies. Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood rivals the Saudi and Emirati sponsored Salafists in Egypt further sours the relations. Large financial aid from the Qatari monarchs supported Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood regime that came into power after the ebbing of the 2011 uprising in Egypt. However when the second revolutionary upsurge rattled the led Al-Ikhwan regime the military took power with the Saudi support.
The Qatari elite could opt for Turkey’s support, as Erdogan is inclined towards the Muslim Brotherhood and having a military base in Qatar The Saudis organised a grandiose reception for Trump inviting leaders from 55 Muslim countries to Riyadh as a venerated audience for his speech. They also doled out massive arms contracts for the US military industrial complex. Trump’s foreign policy advisers are presumably in favour of the UAE ruler’s quest for America to move its military base from Qatar to the Emirati Sheikhdom for years.
The Qatari elite could opt for Turkey’s support, as Erdogan is inclined towards the Muslim Brotherhood and having a military base in Qatar. However, Erdogan might not dare to confront the Al Sauds at this delicate juncture. Iran also has a defence pact with Qatar that obligates it to defend the Sheikhdom in the event of a Saudi attack. The clerical regime is also offering Qatar food supplies. Saudi bullying can further move Qatar into Iranian arms.
This will escalate the dangers of a military conflict between the two major theocratic Islamic sectarian rival powers on the opposite shores of the Persian Gulf. Such a conflict can trigger huge rise in oil prices generating a much deeper slump of the world capitalist economy. Kuwait’s Emir, Sheikh Sabah has been shuttling to capitals of the adversary regional regimes to defuse an escalating crisis but with no real progress. Trump initially tweeted supporting the Saudi actions: “Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!” However the Washington bureaucracy toned him down. Just the following day Trump offered his services as a mediator between the feuding Arab monarchs.
This burgeoning crisis is the outcome of the severe economic crisis that has hit the economies of these rich Gulf States with the collapse of the oil prices in the last few years and their existence is threatened by mass internal revolts. They cannot afford to dole out goodies to their tiny populations anymore.
The new generation of these despotic monarchical rulers are going berserk with the notion of increasing their power through sponsoring proxies of Islamic terror. Treachery is the new of diplomacy among these Gulf royalties. The imperialists dissected the Middle East into these tiny statelets with very little populations and massive reserves of oil and gas during the First World War and in its aftermath. Ever since the European and the US imperialists have plundered and subjugated these Gulf States through these puppet monarchies. Now these regimes are teetering on the brink.
The Arab revolt of 2011 shook these autocracies. The terrorist reaction that is devastating the region was fomented by these regimes in connivance of the imperialists. This policy has backfired as the rogue terrorist outfits are menacing their own royal masters.
But this situation can turn into its opposite. The masses in the Arab world shall rise again. The new upsurge can go the whole hog. Such a revolutionary resurgence of the youth and toilers can overthrow these reactionary and obscenely rich sheikhdoms, obliterating the imperialist lines drawn to divide the Levant and unite the Arab and other peoples of the region into a voluntary socialist federation of the Middle East.

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