Who is the third party in the Gulf crisis?

Published 28.06.2017 01:02
Updated 28.06.2017 01:03
People walk in the popular Souq Waqif market in the Qatari capital, Doha, on June 7, two days after the Gulf nations severed their diplomatic ties with Qatar.
People walk in the popular Souq Waqif market in the Qatari capital, Doha, on June 7, two days after the Gulf nations severed their diplomatic ties with Qatar.

The anti-Qatar coalition is probably being used by a third party in order to pull Turkey toward the West by closing the doors of the Arab and Muslim worlds

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt have sent Qatar a list of 13 conditions that must be met if the tiny Gulf nation wants the sanctions imposed on it lifted, setting a deadline of 10 days.

Among other things, Saudi Arabia and its allies are asking Qatar to reduce its ties with Iran, stop funding the Houthi fighters in Yemen, shut down the Al Jazeera news channel and stop the construction of a Turkish military base in the country.

It would be understandable if the Saudis were angry at Qatar because of the latter's supposed links with the Shiite players in the region, especially with Iran. However, the list of conditions proves that Saudi Arabia's only concern is not the relationship between Qatar and Iran. Riyadh also claims that Qatar is funding several terrorist groups all over the world. It is hard to believe that Qatar's foreign policy was that influential and efficient, to the point of frightening regional players such as Saudi Arabia or Egypt.

The list of steep demands includes an interesting article, which maybe explains why the Saudis are so angry. They are asking Qatar to align itself "politically, economically and otherwise" with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). In other words, Saudi Arabia does not want Qatar to have an independent foreign or domestic policy.

We, of course, do not know why Qatar should accept all these conditions. Asking Qatar to shut down a television network and to cancel its security deal with Turkey has only one meaning: Saudi Arabia does not want Qatar to have any foreign connections.

Just recently, the Saudis have managed to take two islands in the Red Sea from Egypt, through a deal concluded with coup-leader and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. And now, they are putting suffocating pressure on Qatar. All this seems like expansionism. There are, however, a number of obstacles the Saudis have to deal with.

Let's take the Turkish military base under construction in Qatar. It is not hard to guess that the base is not solely a Turkish and Qatari initiative. The Turkish military would not take such an important step without consulting its NATO allies first. Perhaps that is the reason why Egypt is trying to deal with Qatar: This new military base demonstrates that Turkey is now one step ahead of Egypt in the Gulf region. That is one of the reasons why the el-Sissi regime has decided to get along well with the Saudis, without hesitating to even hand them over some territory, in the hope of building an anti-Turkey front on the Arabian peninsula.

Nonetheless, everyone seems to forget that the U.S. has good relations with Qatar, as well, which hosts an important American military base. The U.S. also has good relations with Riyadh and Cairo and it may indeed have been pleased when the Saudis tried to limit the Iranian/Russian influence over the region. But there are some limits. Egypt and Saudi Arabia must be very careful while implementing an escalation policy.

They need to be careful, especially when you remember that the rulers of Egypt and Saudi Arabia are not in a very comfortable position in their own countries. They know perfectly they are expandable, i.e. the moment they do something the West does not like, they may lose everything. You only have to look at these countries' political history to find examples.

By imposing sanctions on Qatar, all these countries have indirectly adopted a hostile position toward Turkey, as well. From a strategic point of view, it is difficult to understand why the Saudis or the Emiratis would be disturbed by the presence of the Turkish military in the Gulf. It is not like Turkey is a security threat to them. However, they have probably been pushed to this antagonistic position against Turkey by a third player. Maybe there is another player in the game, one that is using this "anti-Qatar coalition" in order to pull Turkey toward the West, by closing the doors of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

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