Soon after President Trump’s Riyadh speech, the Sunni nations chose to isolate Qatar, a sponsor of State terrorism. In fact, Egypt, Libya and the Emirates already contend Qatari planes and ships are to be banned from their air space and territorial waters.
Qatar is dependent on Saudi Arabia for its only land passage and its ships pass through Saudi territorial waters as well. Presumably Saudi Arabia can declare a total blockade on Qatar if it chooses to do so.
When saber rattling occurred in the past, Qatari officials called on the 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 her neighbors by supporting Hezbollah, Hamas, ISIS and Jebhat 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, billions which have been used for the terrorist network. 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 can paralyze the local economy. A reliance on Iran for defense purposes could be the catalyst for war. If Qatar has leverage, it is through the sponsorship of a US air base and the Navy Fifth Fleet as well as Central Command and Control of US forces in the region. Yet the Trump position has given priority to the war against ISIS, meaning, in effect, that Qatar as a terror sponsor is not an ally, despite the presence of our military operations.
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 the unfolding tension between Sunni and Shia states and the foreboding conflict between Saudi Arabia, the putative leader of Sunni Islam and Iran, the emerging power of Shia nations. Despite a tilt to Iran during the Obama presidency, the contemporary 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 terror will be exposed. Qatar is on the firing line.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org
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