News Release

Qatar Crisis and Iran: A “Win-Win” for the U.S. Establishment?

JUNAID AHMED, junaidsahmad at gmail.com Ahmed is in Virginia for a brief period. He is assistant professor, faculty of advanced studies at the University of Lahore in Pakistan. He is also director of the Center for Global Dialogue. He said today: “The GCC strategy to isolate and strangulate Qatar is a ‘war of attrition’ against the one GCC member state that had a modicum of autonomy from an otherwise unified Gulf autocratic strategy to isolate and target both Iran and all the regional ‘problematic’ mass oppositional elements, including Hamas, Hezbullah, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc. The paranoid, insecure, and schizophrenic Saudi ruling family has used this opportunity to get full Egyptian-Israeli backing for an effort they know is fully in sync with what President Trump recently conveyed to his friends in Riyadh: let’s all get together to target Iran.” Ahmed is also secretary-general of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

CHRISTOPHER DAVIDSON, cmd at christopherdavidson.net, @dr_davidson
Davidson teaches politics at Durham University in England. He has written several books on the Gulf monarchies. His latest is Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for the Middle East. [See video summarizing the book’s findings.]

He just wrote the piece “The Qatar crisis: A ‘win-win’ for the United States?” which states: “Notably, in the wake of the Arab spring, which witnessed the brief resurgence of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups, both Saudi Arabia and the UAE had identified such forces as potential existential threats to their own regimes, not only because the Brotherhood enjoyed much support amongst their own conservative populations, but also because it offered the region an alternative Islamic governance model that dispensed with the need for hereditary monarchies.

“Long on the lookout for a counterweight to Saudi dominance over the Arab world, wealthy but vulnerable Qatar had been bankrolling the Brotherhood in Egypt and — through its massively influential Al-Jazeera network — providing its leaders with consistently favorable international coverage. Understandably, the palaces in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi were alarmed.

“The Saudi and UAE-organized coup d’état in Egypt in 2013 was supposed to have put the Brotherhood and Qatar back in their places. To some extent it did, but with Doha, even until now, continuing to harbor Brotherhood and other such exiles, this has certainly remained a bone of contention. …

“Pundits have put forward a number of reasons as to why the escalation has happened right now.

“Many, for example, have pointed to a strengthening relationship between Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, and their common goal of cutting off Qatari assistance to Hamas. Certainly, Qatar’s hosting of a Hamas conference last month did not go down well, and perhaps helps explain why — according to the leaked emails of the UAE’s ambassador to the U.S. — a recent high profile anti-Qatar symposium was staged by a major Washington-based, pro-Israel think tank.

“Much has also been made of Qatar’s apparent dealings with Iran, with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi undoubtedly being unnerved by reports of two recent phone calls between Emir Tamim Al-Thani and President Hassan Rouhani, both of whom were supposed to have called for ‘stronger ties than ever before.’ …

“While such objections may indeed have been contributing factors to the current crisis, the more likely catalyst has, however, been the role played by the new U.S. administration.

“Even if the Donald Trump team has clearly been trying to fleece Saudi Arabia out of its remaining assets by getting the kingdom to buy up weapons it can ill-afford, and even getting it to invest in U.S. physical infrastructure at a time when it really needs to be investing in its own infrastructure, there has nonetheless been a strong feeling in Riyadh that the new White House is a going to be a much firmer ally than the previous U.S. presidency.”

Also, see this overview interview with Davidson in Open Democracy earlier this year “What is the role of the West in the Middle East?“:

He said: “As it was in the rest of the world, the extraction of natural resources was an obvious priority, so all indigenous attempts to nationalize economic assets — regardless of any progressive, liberal, or even democratic agendas — needed to be intimidated or destroyed by the U.S. In 1955, according to secret correspondence between British officials, President Dwight Eisenhower had even called for a ‘high class Machiavellian plan to achieve a situation in the Middle East favorable to our interests which could split the Arabs and defeat the aims of our enemies.’ …

“By the latter part of the twentieth century, with the West’s demand for Middle Eastern resources intensifying and with the Soviet Union still undefeated, a much darker strategy started to form in which U.S. and British officials sought to cultivate an ultra-conservative, pan-Islamic movement capable of countering secular, progressive or potentially Soviet-aligned national liberation movements, or even simply nationalist governments. …

“In the 1990s such Islamic fighting forces remained a strategic, but volatile asset for the U.S. and British intelligence agencies, with Al-Qaeda veterans helping form a jihadist ‘foreign legion’ in the Balkans to assist the Bosnian and Kosovan forces against Serbia, and with the ‘Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’ – whose leaders were living in Britain — being protected and paid by MI6 as part of a plot to remove Muammar Gaddafi from power. …

“By March 2011 a parallel campaign had also been launched to help re-direct the ‘Arab Spring’ to states such as Libya and Syria that remained antagonistic to Western interests. Willfully fostering, funding, and weaponizing localized uprisings in an effort to create fresh nationwide revolutions, key U.S. and British allies such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE all played major roles in destabilizing these long targeted Arab states, under the banner of the Arab Spring.”