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Qatar Conflict

The proclamation of Mohammed bin Salman as Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is a sign of stability and determination in the Gulf region. The isolation of Qatar by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates is a strategic decision in favor of political moderation and against aggression. Qatar has long engaged in a policy of appeasement toward Iran and its allied terror organizations…

Mohammed Bin Salman al-Saud’s Office / Wikimedia / Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Mohammed Bin Salman al-Saud’s Office / Wikimedia / Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

The confrontation between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain with Qatar is a serious one. At stake is the future direction of politics in the Arab world, including its position on Israel and Western states. In terms of strategies for the future, the conflict is also an exceptionally important one for the NATO member states, particularly the United States and also Israel. Western democracies would be well advised to realize that the conflict with Qatar is not simply a diplomatic skirmish, but a dispute over the leadership and position of the Arab world and the events taking place in the whole of the Middle East.
In the early 1980s, in the wake of the war between Saddam Hussein’s aggressive Ba’ath regime in Iraq and the equally aggressive Shiite revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran, the Sunni states, led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, came to realize that policies of belligerence posed a risk to the entire Arab world. The region’s oil and gas wealth was being used to fund destructive conflicts rather than to promote development. These conflicts posed a threat to the fragile balance of the entire region.
Since then, the moderate Sunni countries of Egypt and Saudi Arabia have increasingly come to pursue a policy of stability. A clear signal for this policy of equilibrium was the Arab Peace Initiative, launched by Saudi Arabia in 2002. The initiative called for the recognition of Israel in return for the Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 Armistice Lines, as well as the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Ultimately, this initiative foundered on the question of Palestinian refugees.

Policy of rapprochement

After the defeat of Iraq and the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, Iran sought an expansionist role in the Gulf region. The Iranian government under the mullahs obtained decisive influence over Iraq, which for a time remained under US occupation. At the same time, Tehran began providing weapons and financial support to the Shiite Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. Finally, Iran established itself as the key source of support for the embattled Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. At the same time, Iran systematically pursued its nuclear weapons program and continued to call for the destruction of Israel. Iran also lent support to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. All of this made Iran a thorn in the side of Saudi Arabia.
The wealthy oil-and-gas emirate of Qatar, which is situated on the eastern flank of Saudi Arabia, pursued a deliberate Schaukelpolitik or policy of oscillation. The Qataris hoped to ingratiate themselves with all sides, including the aggressive regime in Iran. Qatar has thus supported the Shiite Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, the radical Sunni Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian offshoot in Gaza. In the Syrian civil war, Qatar is supporting dictator Assad and his allies.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Gulf States have now lost patience and are no longer prepared to tolerate Doha’s dangerous policy of appeasement. Saudi Arabia’s newly proclaimed Crown Prince, and Defense Minister, Mohammed bin Salman, son of King Salman, is waging an energetic policy of stability – aiming to quell belligerent Iran, de-escalate the Israel-Palestine conflict, and support Egypt in its independent development. This policy will require good relations with the United States, Germany, and other western countries, and a credible but not expansive defense policy. Riyadh’s clear political line is being thwarted by Doha’s policy of oscillation. Doha would be well advised to take Riyadh seriously and to shift toward Saudi Arabia’s policy of rapprochement. The western democracies should attempt to convince Doha to join forces with Riyadh’s policies of stability, which offer the only reasonable course action in the region.■

Photo Credit: Mohammed Bin Salman al-Saud’s Office / Wikimedia / Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

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