Archive | Qatar

Al Jazeera: Blair, US officials on UAE payroll

NOVANEWS

The UAE has paid tens of millions of dollars to expand its regional and international influence by buying positions and the loyalty of key figures, an Al Jazeera documentary has said.

Aired yesterday, “Men around Abu Dhabi” claimed the Emirates paid former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the international envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon and a number of leaders of the US Department of Defence in order to keep them on side.

The channel said that UAE paid $35 million to Tony Blair when he was the envoy for the Middle East Quartet. He was also paid as a consultant, leaked email published by the Sunday Telegraph revealed.

The UAE government paid about $53,000 per month to the Spanish diplomat Bernardino Leon.

Last year, the UAE Diplomatic Academy, which is headed by the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of its Board of Trustees, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, announced that Leon, who served as UN envoy to Libya, will be assigned as its general manager.

At that time, media sources considered the news as a scandal that would undermine the credibility of the United Nations.

Abu Dhabi also paid $20 million in donations to the Middle East Institute in Washington, which is run by US General Anthony Zinni.

Zinni is an American general who once led US forces in the Middle East. After retiring, he served as a special envoy to the region. The US administration chose him and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Timothy Lenderking, as envoys to support the Kuwaiti mediation to resolve the Gulf crisis.

There is also James Mattis, the current US secretary of defence, who was previously hired by the UAE as a military adviser to develop its army and Robert Gates, the former US secretary of defence who attacked Qatar’s policies and Al Jazeera.

The documentary also revealed that Turki Aldakhil, the director of Al Arabiya TV channel, received more than $23 million in return for promoting Abu Dhabi’s agenda in the region.

On 5 June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic relations with Qatar and imposed punitive measures on the small Gulf state accusing it of “supporting terrorism”. Doha strongly denied the claims.

Posted in Middle East, Qatar, UAEComments Off on Al Jazeera: Blair, US officials on UAE payroll

Abrupt Middle East Geopolitical Turnabout: The Qatar, Saudi Arabia and GCC Crisis

NOVANEWS
 

Featured image: Logo of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

It is tempting, and not entirely inaccurate, to dismiss the escalating crisis between Qatar and a number of its neighbors as a petulant princely playground spat. Extending this tempting logic, one could conclude that decisive victory by each of the protagonists would be the optimal outcome. Yet the dispute also reflects deeper dynamics in Arab and regional politics that are shaping the increasingly turbulent and violent realities of the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia’s Gulf Cooperation Council

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which is the locus of the present crisis, was established in 1981 by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Its formation consummated the expiration of the concept of collective Arab action that the League of Arab States aspired to but was designed never to achieve, and presaged the pre-occupation of the region’s regimes with confronting Iran rather than Israel. Although formally established to promote greater economic, political, and security coordination among its member states, the impetus for the GCC’s formation was the collective threat presented to its members by both the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran on the eastern littoral of the Persian Gulf and the Iran-Iraq War, launched the following year by Saddam Hussein, whose efforts the Gulf Arab states supported and bankrolled in intimate coordination with the United States.

In the early 1980s, the only GCC member of consequence was Saudi Arabia–whose size, population, resources, and wealth dwarfed that of the others combined–and, to a much lesser extent, Kuwait. Although Oman, unlike its peers, had not severed relations with Egypt after the latter signed a separate peace with Israel in 1979, the prospect that GCC members would even contemplate pursuing a regional or foreign policy independent of Saudi Arabia in those days would have been considered beyond the realm of fantasy. It is for example inconceivable, after blowback struck and Iraq occupied Kuwait in 1990, that Qatar or Bahrain would have opted for a negotiated settlement of the crisis rejected by Riyadh (and its patron in Washington). Nor could they have permitted the United States to deploy troops and establish military bases on their territory had the Saudis not led by example and consented to such moves.

During the 1990s, this equation began to gradually change. The Iran-Iraq, Kuwait, and Cold Wars were over, the price of oil slumped, and the United States maintained a growing and seemingly permanent military or naval presence within every GCC state. Riyadh, in addition to its relatively diminished strategic importance and ailing, sclerotic leadership, was also dealing with the substantial debts it had incurred–again in intimate coordination with the United States–to assemble and fund the coalition of states that evicted Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. By contrast, Dubai, with its diversified economy fueled in part by extensive sanctions-busting trade with Iran, and never lacking for gaudy ambition, was well on its way to becoming a global city and replacing Kuwait as regional trendsetter. In 1995, Qatar, which even many Arabs would in those days have struggled to find on a map, made the news when its amir was overthrown by his son, Shaykh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, in a bloodless palace coup while yet again vacationing in Switzerland.

A Coup in Doha

Much like Oman after Sultan Qabus seized the throne from his primeval father in 1970, Hamad embarked on a program to transform his country into a late twentieth-century state. Unlike Oman in the 1970s, Qatar was neither in the throes of a decade of armed insurrection (Dhofar) nor shared a border with a communist neighbor (the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen), and could therefore proceed at a measured, deliberate pace. The new ruler of Doha was additionally able to finance his efforts with the proceeds of the as yet undeveloped North Dome/South Pars natural gas field, the world’s largest by several orders of magnitude that it shares with Iran. Production began in 1997, and within a decade Qatar became the world’s leading exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), accounting for almost a third of global supply.

In a different contrast with Qabus, Hamad’s seizure of power was not sponsored by the United Kingdom or other foreign power, thus giving regional discontents–first and foremost Saudi Arabia–the opportunity to reverse this affront to seniority and established conventions of succession. A foiled attempt to restore the ousted amir in 1996 and an additional bid to depose Hamad in 2005 further demonstrated that the construction of modernized states in the GCC region was an infrastructural and administrative rather than political project. Several thousand members of the Bani Murra, whose territory straddles the Saudi-Qatari border (where clashes over unresolved border issues had erupted as recently as 1992), had their citizenship revoked after several of their number were implicated in the attempted counter-coups.

Shaykh Hamad quickly set to work to reduce his vulnerability. Approximately one billion US dollars was invested in the expansion of Al Udeid Air Base so it could accommodate every aircraft in the US fleet. When the US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM), whose area of responsibility covers more than four million square miles on three continents, vacated Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia to reduce the political exposure of the House of Saud after 11 September 2001, it was invited to establish its forward operating headquarters in Al Udeid. The US military presence, with some ten thousand personnel today its largest in the Middle East, provided protection from both Iran and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. More importantly, it also served to deter Saudi designs on its tiny neighbor, which, measuring some 4,500 square miles, is smaller than Yorkshire or Connecticut.

Al Udeid Air Base.jpg

An aerial overhead view of”Ops Town”at at Al Udeid Air Base (AB), Al Rayyan Province, Qatar (QAT), taken from a US Air Force (USAF) KC-135 Stratotanker during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. (Source: Department of Defense / Wikimedia Commons)

Domestically, Hamad initiated a massive development of Qatar’s physical and financial infrastructure, and of its public services. According to most indices the country today has, at USD 130,000, the highest GDP per capita in the world. Its approximately 300,000 citizens enjoy cradle-to-grave welfare and benefits, while in excess of 1.5 million migrant workers keep its institutions, services, and rapidly expanding construction sector operating at maximum capacity. The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the sovereign wealth fund established during the previous decade, is among the world’s best run and resourced. It has purchased iconic locations and prime real estate around the globe, as well as shares in leading corporations such as the London Stock Exchange and Volkswagen. The natural gas that is Qatar’s main export is, in contrast to oil, less prone to sudden price fluctuations, tends to be sold on the basis of long-term contracts that can run decades, and is under significantly less pressure from efforts to deal with global warming and climate change.

Qatar Leaves Home

It was within the region that Qatar made its biggest mark. In the mid-1990s, a joint Arabic-language satellite broadcasting venture between Saudi Arabia and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) came to a premature end after its news station aired reports that violated Riyadh’s strict taboo against critical scrutiny of its policies. Qatar snapped up the suddenly available and professionally trained staff, and less than USD 150 million later it launched the Al Jazeera Satellite Channel on 1 November 1996. Breaking the mold of vacuous reporting by terrestrial channels that specialized in the limitless glorification of mediocre rulers, Al Jazeera was by 1999 providing round-the-clock, free-to-air, high quality satellite news and reporting across the region, and to Arabic-speaking diasporas worldwide. Qatar, its leadership, and foreign policy objectives almost never rated a mention in these broadcasts unless legitimately newsworthy, and doing otherwise would have been superfluous. When some years ago rumors spread that Al Jazeera would be defunded or even shuttered, Shaykh Hamad was reported to have dismissed them with the observation that the broadcaster was of greater value to Qatar than its entire diplomatic corps.

Indeed, Al Jazeera not only offered substantive news coverage but also prioritized issues that spoke to the concerns and aspirations of Arabs from Marrakesh to Muscat, and it was common knowledge that this had been made possible by Qatar’s rulers. It also pioneered deeply unpopular practices, such as interviews with Israeli government officials responsible for perpetuating the occupation of Arab territory. On the whole Al Jazeera offered a refreshingly broad range of perspectives, as a result of which eight Arab states and Ethiopia at one time or another recalled their ambassadors from Doha. Yet those promoting or sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist currents seemed to be consistently over-represented in its broadcasts. One such figure was Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the influential exiled Egyptian cleric who has resided in Qatar since the 1960s and serves as Chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars. Widely viewed as the Brotherhood’s pre-eminent theologian, he for many years had a one-hour program on Al Jazeera every Sunday evening. Entitled Shari’a and Life, it habitually strayed beyond matters of faith to offer Al-Qaradawi’s views and prescriptions on current events.

Many Muslim Brotherhood leaders and rank-and-file members had found a home away from home in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, where political parties are strictly prohibited, after Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and other republican, nationalist regimes expunged them from their body politic beginning in the 1950s–in some cases defining mere membership as a capital offense. Although the Brotherhood as an organization does not share the Salafist orientation of its new hosts, it was a valuable ally to the conservative monarchies and their Western sponsors during the Arab cold war that was raging across the region. Its members were also an important source of skilled labor in the teaching profession and other sectors requiring linguistic or religious proficiency, at a time when the local labor force was still unable to meet such needs. In the 1980s, as Islamist activism took an increasingly militant turn, the Muslim Brotherhood played an important role in funneling fighters away from their home countries to the anti-Soviet Jihad in Afghanistan that Riyadh and Washington alike came to view as their finest hour.

The relationship began to sour during the 1980s, with the emergence of the Sahwa movement in Saudi Arabia. Combining Salafist thought with Muslim Brotherhood politics, it was a persistent thorn in the authorities’ side. These tensions culminated during the early 1990s, with the Brotherhood’s failure to embrace Riyadh’s acquiescence in the stationing of western troops on its soil during the Kuwait Crisis which was subsequently deemed an act of disloyalty and ingratitude, and additionally an implicit challenge to the House of Saud’s Islamic credentials.

By replacing Riyadh as chief patron of the region’s largest and best-organized opposition force, Shaykh Hamad was able to snap up yet another vehicle for projecting his country’s influence. (Salafi Jihadi movements, which during the 1990s would come to openly advocate the violent overthrow of not only the region’s secular republics but also its “apostate” monarchies, were less tolerated. Yet GCC rulers–presumably hoping to keep the peace–tended to turn a blind eye to sympathetic subjects who, as during the Afghan jihad, continued to funnel money and other forms of support to al-Qa‘ida and other such groups.) Although Qatar is the only other Muslim state that has elevated Salafism to official religious doctrine (Doha’s main mosque is named after Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, the rigidly puritanical eighteenth-century cleric and co-founder of the Saudi state), few of the grim practices that are government policy in Saudi Arabia are enforced in Wahhabism’s second home.

Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the State of Qatar (5570842645).jpg

His Excellency Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the State of Qatar (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

By 2010, Doha had successfully escaped from Riyadh’s formerly lightproof shadow. Another Hamad, Shaikh Hamad bin Jasim Al-Thani (commonly known in the West as HBJ), had been a key player in this regard. A cousin of the amir, HBJ had served as Qatar’s foreign minister since 1992, and in 2007 became its prime minister as well. Concurrently the head of the QIA, his business activities and resultant fabulous personal wealth led the amir to quip that while he ruled the country, HBJ owned it. Another prominent Qatari during this period was Shaikha Moza bint Nasir Al-Masnad, the second and most influential of the amir’s three wives. From her perch atop the philanthropic Qatar Foundation, she personified the country’s soft power. Together Moza and the Qatar Foundation sponsored leading international universities and institutions to set up branches in Doha, and established a string of non-governmental organizations to promote freedoms and values across the region rejected and suppressed within Qatar.

Within little more than a decade, such efforts began to pay off. In 2008 Doha successfully brokered an end to a political crisis that had plagued Lebanon for over a year, facilitated by generous payments to its numerous protagonists. It similarly sought to mediate a peace agreement in Darfour, a ceasefire between the Yemeni government and the Houthi movement, as well as one between Djibouti and Eritrea over a border dispute that led to the deployment of Qatari peacekeepers to the Horn of Africa. On more than one occasion, it sought to displace Egypt as sponsor of reconciliation efforts between Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

When in early 2009 the Arab League, under Saudi and Egyptian pressure, refused to convene an emergency summit in response to Israel’s brutal assault against the Gaza Strip, Qatar, partial to Hamas which had since 2007 ruled Gaza, organized an alternative gathering in Doha in support of the Palestinians. The two Hamads used the considerable powers of persuasion and resources at their disposal to call in favors, outbid Saudi offers to boycott the meeting, and exploit the region’s deepening rivalries. In the end, political realities prevailed and the conclave fell short of a quorum, in part because no other GCC state (or Arab League official) saw fit to defy Riyadh. For good measure, Doha had assigned the Palestinian seat at the conference table to Hamas leader Khalid Mashal after PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas begged off, citing irresistible pressure to forsake his people during their hour of need. Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a representative of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez flew in to address those present. Qatar also announced the closure of the trade office Israel had maintained in Doha since 1996, and in subsequent years began to slowly downgrade what had been an increasingly public relationship with the Israeli government at the most senior levels (though Shimon Peres would again make an “unofficial” visit in 2007).

If the Hamads had done well by Qatar, their achievements prior to 2010 would also be easy to exaggerate; a self-assured UAE had similarly poked Riyadh in the eye in 2009 when it scuttled plans for a GCC monetary union after Saudi Arabia used its clout to locate the proposed central bank in its capital rather than Dubai. More notably, Oman several years later hosted secret American-Iranian negotiations that would in 2015 result in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear agreement). While Qatar had successfully placed itself on the map and was adeptly punching above its weight, only the most paranoid potentate considered its activities a threat to the regional order. It was, after all, part and parcel of this order.

Hubris

As with so much else, things began to change with the era of upheaval the Arab world entered in December 2010. As the Muslim Brotherhood used its organizational experience and acumen to enter government in Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia, and carve out a leading role in the Syrian opposition, Al Jazeera became the official broadcaster of the Arab uprisings. It seemed to take particular glee in the downfall of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, whose intelligence services had participated in the aborted 1996 coup to restore Shaykh Hamad’s father to power. Within a month Yusuf Al-Qaradawi returned to Cairo and delivered the Friday sermon in Tahrir Square. Attended by hundreds of thousands, it was simultaneously broadcast on Egyptian state television and of course Al Jazeera.

Qatar was suddenly the most influential member of the Arab League, engineering its endorsement of foreign military intervention in Libya, in which it participated, as well as the suspension of Syria’s membership and transfer of its seat to Doha’s protégé, the opposition Syrian National Council. When the Syrian uprising against nearly half a century of Ba’thist rule metamorphosed into civil war, Qatar was a leading financier and supplier of the armed opposition groups that emerged throughout the country. It seemed the entire region was being remade, if not in Qatar’s image, then at least in accordance with decisions made in Doha. The mouse was audibly roaring. In 2010 Qatar even succeeded–widespread allegations of bribery notwithstanding–in winning the rights to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. In 2013, acting with US consent, it invited the Afghan Taliban to open an office in Doha to facilitate negotiations to end the conflict in central Asia.

Doha’s indulgence of challenges to the region’s ancien régimes also had clear limits, particularly as the unrest spread closer to home. It endorsed and supported the Saudi-led 2011 GCC intervention in Bahrain to crush popular protests against the highly repressive Al Khalifa monarchy, and that same year signed on to a GCC plan for Yemen that saw President Ali Abdallah Salih transfer power to his deputy rather than cede it to those seeking to install a new and different kind of political system. Disturbances in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich, Shi’a-majority Eastern Province were also pointedly ignored.

Similarly, Qatar’s rulers, as thin-skinned and absolute in their powers as their GCC counterparts, did not hesitate to jail domestic critics inspired by regional events. In 2011, local poet Muhammad al-Ajami received a life sentence for the crime of lèse-majesté on the basis of several verses he had composed. The Doha-based Arab Democracy Foundation, which specialized in bombastic declarations about how the will of Arab peoples elsewhere would never be defeated, had not a word to say on the matter, while the Doha Centre for Media Freedom made do with an expression of “concern.” Nary a peep emanated from the numerous foreign institutions that had accepted Qatari largesse; many had done so with all but a formal communiqué implying they were motivated by the opportunity to civilize a new generation of Arabs. (Al Ajami received a royal pardon in 2016.) More recently the abysmal conditions experienced by migrant workers building the facilities for the 2022 World Cup has become an international scandal, but one that journalists in situ find almost impossible to investigate.

Several factors helped Qatar achieve a role out of any proportion to its geography, demography, or even economy. Egypt had for some time ceased to fulfill its traditional leadership role in the Arab world. In Saudi Arabia, the waning years of King Abdallah’s reign were characterized by an increasingly dysfunctional and divided Saudi elite often incapable of formulating a consistently coherent foreign policy and keeping other GCC members in line. Qatar’s closest regional ally, Recep Tayyip Erdoganof Turkey, by contrast suffered from an excess of clarity and ambition, commanded one of the region’s largest and most powerful states, and unlike his predecessors took a keen interest in the Middle East. Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) additionally had much in common with the Muslim Brotherhood, and promoted itself as a model for the latter’s various Arab branches as they tried their hand at governance. Finally, Qatar took a pragmatic approach to foreign affairs. It maintained relationships with both Israel and Hamas, the United States and Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Nemesis

In almost dialectical fashion, Doha’s moment of triumph also sowed the seeds of its unraveling. By 2012 the reputation of Al Jazeera Arabic offerings, now serving as an undisguised soapbox for ever more explicit Qatari foreign policy goals and the various allies and proxies mobilized to achieve them, was diminishing rapidly. As the saying goes credibility takes years to build, is sacrificed in an instant, and once lost is gone forever. (Al Jazeera English, whose relevance to regional politics is minimal, by contrast largely continued as a conventional news broadcaster.)

The ascendant Muslim Brotherhood, with its very different conception of Islamist politics to that practiced by Gulf regimes, its promotion of the ballot box as arbiter of political power, and growing role in government, was perceived as an existential threat by the region’s hereditary rulers. So too was the possibility that more militant Islamists groups, which openly challenge the potentates’ religious credentials and which called for their heads, might gain in strength. Where the custodians of the regional order had heretofore prioritized containing Iran–a project in which various Sunni Islamist organizations could play a useful role–they now focused primarily on restoring the regional status quo, in which such organizations would need to be removed from power and their Qatari and Turkish sponsors marginalized. (With many specialists convinced that the Brotherhood would easily sweep a theoretical election in Saudi Arabia, King Abdallah declared it his country’s main enemy).

Anti-Morsi demonstrators marching in Cairo, 28 June 2013 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

A key turning point was the 2013 coup that deposed elected president Muhammad Morsi and his government in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous and pivotal state. The seizure of power replaced the Muslim Brotherhood with a military regime led by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was determined to eradicate it. It also represented a shift from a Qatari client to one virtually dependent on Saudi and Emirati patronage for survival. Egypt re-imposed its blockade on the Gaza Strip, now exponentially more severe than anything enforced during the worst days of Mubarak; Tunisia’s Islamists voluntarily stepped out of government; and Qatar’s candidates began to fall short in Syrian opposition leadership elections.

Within the Gulf, the campaign reached its apex in the UAE where al-Islah, an association established by exiled Brotherhood members that had been licensed by the authorities during the 1970s, was accused of establishing a clandestine military organization to seize power in the country. The trial of ninety-four purported plotters resulted in the sentencing of fifty-six of them. If it was a sham, it was no show trial; a relative of one defendant was imprisoned for tweeting about the proceedings. In 2014, both Saudi Arabia and the UAE listed the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

A week before al-Sisi’s coup, Shaykh Hamad suddenly abdicated in favor of his–and Moza’s– thirty-three-year-old son, Tamim. Although Hamad had undergone two kidney transplants, health reasons were neither cited nor convincing as an explanation. According to some reports, it was part of an informal deal with Riyadh and other GCC detractors whereby the amir’s departure would ensure that the furious Saudi-led counterrevolution would not consume the Al-Thani family, who were perceived as chief sponsors of regional instability. Others surmised that the voluntary transfer of power to a new generation was a final, two-fingered salute directed at the octogenarian monarch next door, whose trusteeship Hamad had spent most of his career defying. Perhaps it was both. In the event, Shaykh Hamad took HBJ with him into retirement, as the latter’s prominence and power would have made it impossible for Shaikh Tamim to rule in his own right.

Whether Riyadh and Abu Dhabi believed the new amir was as errant as his father, wanted to test the youngster’s mettle, or were simply determined to ensure Qatar would once again play by old rules, crisis ensued in March 2014. In a prelude to the current dispute, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha and threatened further measures if Qatar did not correct its conduct. Tamim was said to have reneged on commitments undertaken at a 2013 GCC summit relating to the preservation of regional security and stability, hostile media, and members’ non-interference in each other’s affairs–concepts so broad they could encompass a poor restaurant review.

Within months the dispute was overtaken by a more urgent crisis when the Islamic State movement swept from northeastern Syria into northwestern Iraq and its second city of Mosul, declaring a caliphate. Reports that negotiations between Iran and the United States over the nuclear file were making unprecedented progress towards an international agreement additionally spurred the GCC to close ranks. On the strength of various understandings, a new document that restated the 2013 commitments, and Qatar’s expulsion of a number of Brotherhood leaders and cadres, Kuwait successfully mediated a November 2014 return of the recalled ambassadors to Doha. Yet the underlying tensions that had been building over nearly two decades remained unresolved.

The Reinvention of Saudi Arabia

In January 2015, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdallah, who had effectively ruled the country since his predecessor and half-brother Fahd was incapacitated in 1995, breathed his last. The kingdom’s founder, King Abdulaziz (commonly known as Ibn Saud), had fathered over forty sons from numerous marriages. Although Ibn Saud passed the crown to one of his sons, succession since then has proceeded horizontally among siblings rather than vertically between generations. With nature steadily depleting the supply of available candidates (two of Abdallah’s half-brother crown princes died within the space of a year), the monarch established the Allegiance Council (a princely consultative body) in 2006 as well as the position of deputy crown prince in 2014, to ensure a consensual and therefore smooth transition to the next generation. Such measures were necessary because, in contrast to traditional monarchies, every one of Ibn Saud’s numerous grandsons, rather than just the offspring of the last of his sons to occupy the throne, are eligible for the succession, thus multiplying the possibility for rivalry and royal conflict within the world’s largest oil exporter.

When Salman became king in 2015, he appointed his half-brother Muqrin as crown prince and his nephew, the powerful interior minister (and Washington’s favorite Saudi) Muhammad bin Nayif, to the position of deputy crown prince. It was the first time a member of the third generation had been placed in the line of succession, and the seeming absence of widely-anticipated dissent appeared to vindicate the measures Abdallah had taken before his death.

Image result

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef (L) and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (R)

A mere three months later, however, King Salman ousted Muqrin, promoted Muhammad bin Nayif to crown prince, and appointed his own twenty-nine-year-old son, Muhammad bin Salman (often referred to as MBS) as deputy crown prince. The supreme offices in the kingdom were now concentrated in a branch of the House of Saud descended from only one of Ibn Saud’s wives, Hissa Al-Sudairi, whose sons–including former King Fahd, former Crown Prince and Defense Minister Sultan, former Crown Prince and Interior Minister Nayif, and King Salman–are known as the Sudairi Seven. Not less importantly, the royal reshuffle strongly suggested that the ailing Salman sought to pass the crown to his own progeny, thereby transforming Saudi Arabia into a “regular” monarchy.

Almost immediately, MBS began to amass powers to rival a monarch, including Minister of Defense, Chairman of the newly-established Council for Economic and Development Affairs, and head of the newly-created Aramco Supreme Council, effectively usurping energy policy from the Ministry of Energy, Industry, and Mineral Resources.

The following year MBS unveiled Vision 2030, a blueprint inspired by McKinsey & Company consultants that sought to transform the Saudi economy (and by implication, society) in response to the prolonged decline in oil prices since the US shale industry burst onto the scene. A centerpiece of the plan, which has been highly controversial domestically and within royal circles as well, calls for the sale of five per cent of Saudi ARAMCO, the state-owned oil company valued at between USD 1-2 trillion that is the jewel in the Saudi crown. The proceeds, in combination with savings resulting from various reforms and austerity measures, are to be leveraged to achieve a catalogue of utterly preposterous targets including a five-fold increase in non-oil government revenue, a five-fold increase in the non-profit sector’s contribution to GDP, a fifty per cent expansion of the private sector, and an increase in life expectancy by six years–all by the end of the next decade. Vision 2030 was also clearly designed to serve the more attainable objective of enabling MBS to leapfrog his cousin Muhammad bin Nayif in the line of succession before his father’s death.

That MBS was determined to fling the traditional Saudi policy-making process to the wind was even more evident in foreign affairs. The days in which Riyadh carefully crafts a domestic, regional, and international consensus before leading a change in direction from behind were replaced with aggressive recklessness. According to a leaked report authored by the German intelligence service BND:

The previous cautious diplomatic stance of older leading members of the [Saudi] royal family is being replaced by an impulsive policy of intervention … [MBS] is a political gambler who is destabilizing the Arab world through proxy wars … [His concentration of power] harbors a latent risk that in seeking to establish himself in the line of succession in his father’s lifetime, he may overreach … Relations with friendly and above all allied countries in the region could be overstretched.

This was most clearly evident in Yemen, where within months of becoming the world’s youngest defense minister, MBS unleashed a war supported (among others) by Qatar and the United States, to restore the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi that had been ousted by Houthi rebels working in alliance with former president Salih.

But instead of resulting in the quick and decisive victory that would bolster his military and leadership credentials, the war on Yemen has developed into an ongoing quagmire that has fragmented and effectively destroyed the country, killed many thousands of civilians, and made Yemen a first-order humanitarian emergency. It has inflicted material as well as human losses on Saudi Arabia, and additionally enabled Yemeni incursions and missile attacks into Saudi territory. As a consequence, MBS appears eager to bring his adventure to an end, but conditions that preserve rather than damage his reputation and ambition have yet to be found.

The Houthi relationship with Iran, much exaggerated but becoming a reality on account of the war, was cited as a key motivation by Saudi Arabia. This reflects a broader shift in Riyadh, where confronting and containing Iran’s growing influence in the region has since the 2014-2015 thaw in US-Iranian relations often taken precedence over marginalizing other Islamists and restoring the status quo disturbed by the Arab uprisings. In Syria, for example, the Saudis put aside their rivalry with Qatar and Turkey over control of the Syrian opposition, and crafted Jaysh al-Fath, a coalition of Syrian rebel groups in which Jabhat Al-Nusra, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qa‘ida, played a leading role. Similarly, an International Crisis Group report published this year found that Saudi Arabia was engaging in “tacit alliances” with al-Qa‘ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and “regularly fought alongside” the forces of Ansar al-Shari’a, an AQAP subsidiary. Writing earlier for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Gulf affairs specialist Neil Partrick reached a similar conclusion, and additionally noted that “Saudi Arabia made sure to repair its relations with the MB [Muslim Brotherhood] Islah Party” during the run-up to the war, and that this effort included putting it “back on Riyadh’s payroll.”

Another Gulf State Punches Above Its Weight

Although the UAE has been the most active member of the coalition in terms of committing ground forces to Yemen, it has eschewed alliances with Islamists. This reflects both its congenital hostility to them since 2011 (which also explains its comparative absence from the Syrian theatre), and the reality that its forces operate primarily in areas of the country where the Houthi-Salih coalition has been expelled, and the primary conflict is now between government forces and Islamist militias. The UAE, a federal state comprising seven hereditary emirates in which the ruler of Abu Dhabi, whose territory encompasses eighty-five per cent of the country, traditionally serves as president, was under its founding leader Shaikh Zayid bin Nahyan generally characterized by neutrality in inter-Arab conflicts and a balanced regional policy within a context of deference to Saudi leadership.

More recently it has developed a much more assertive stance. Although the UAE for example does not recognize Israel, the latter is permitted to maintain a diplomatic mission in the UAE capital under the umbrella of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The Emirati air force has also conducted joint exercises with its Israeli counterpart in the United States and Greece. Informal security links are said to run extremely deep and include the purchase of Israeli weapons systems and technology.

Spearheading such changes has been Muhammad bin Zayid (MBZ), who has since 2004 been Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE armed forces, and the country’s de facto ruler. Early on, he adopted Palestinian warlord Muhammad Dahlan to unseat Hamas after the latter won the 2006 Palestinian Authority legislative elections. Since Dahlan’s defeat in the Gaza Strip and then downfall in the West Bank on account of a personal dispute with his chief patron, Mahmoud Abbas, MBZ has been promoting him as Abbas’s successor. He was appointed national security advisor to the emirate of Abu Dhabi, and conducts various missions on behalf of his new benefactor in Egypt, Libya, Serbia, and elsewhere. (In a more recent twist, Hamas and Dahlan in mid-June reached a number of understandings on cooperation in a joint effort to weaken Abbas. Because their implementation is reliant on Egyptian facilitation and Emirati funding, this effectively puts the UAE and Hamas in the same camp, even as Abu Dhabi points to Qatar’s sponsorship of the Palestinian Islamists as a factor in the present GCC crisis.).

One of MBZ’s most notable achievements has been the development of the UAE special forces into a significant military asset and their deployment across the region. Crucial to this endeavour was Erik Prince, formerly of Blackwater and brother of US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and a large contingent of Colombian mercenaries imported by Prince to develop the force. The prince’s contract reportedly netted Prince in excess of half a billion dollars.

UAE ground forces have fought in Yemen to regain territory from the Houthis, and participated in a botched February 2017 raid in conjunction with US Navy Seals to eliminate an AQAP leader that resulted in the killing of numerous civilians. More recently, reports have emerged of horrific torture chambers operated by the United Arab Emirates in Yemen, in what appears to be close coordination with the United States. The Emirati air force has been active against Islamic State movement targets, and as far afield as Libya in support of renegade general (and former CIA asset) Khalifa Haftar. Such adventurism has led US Defense Secretary James Mattis to label the country “Little Sparta.” Even though serving a different agenda and using different instruments, the UAE’s growing regional clout in important respects echoes that of the other small state to its north, Qatar. In a further resonance, Saudi and Emirati forces have recently been working at cross-purposes in Yemen, competing for dominance over various proxies.

When King Salman succeeded to the Saudi throne and immediately set about systematically deposing or marginalizing Abdallah’s courtiers and confidantes, with whom MBZ had maintained close relationships, the elevation of Muhammad bin Nayif to crown prince caused particular concern in Abu Dhabi. A Wikileaks cable that detailed how MBZ had in a discussion with US diplomat Richard Haass compared the Saudi prince’s father to a monkey, caused what might be termed a permanent rupture. The UAE’s comparatively warm welcome of the Iranian nuclear agreement strained matters further.

MBZ rebuilt the relationship by assiduously cultivating the like-minded MBS, who conveniently was together with his father clipping Muhammad bin Nayif’s wings at every opportunity. MBZ was also quick to cultivate Donald Trump after the 2016 election. In December, he flew to New York to meet the president-elect and his key aides at Trump Tower without–contrary to protocol–informing the US government of his visit (according to the Washington Post the White House only learned of it when his name was discovered on a flight manifest). Shortly thereafter, the same newspaper reported, MBZ and his brother brokered a covert meeting between Erik Prince and an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, where the UAE has extensive property holdings, to set up a backchannel between the incoming American administration and the Kremlin. MBZ is also said to have arranged for MBS’s audience with Trump shortly after he took office, which in turn resulted in Trump’s May 2017 visit to Riyadh.

Enter Trump

By any measure, the Saudis have played their hand with the Trump administration extremely well. They reached out to his closest associates, provided the new president with the effusive praise that gets his attention, and then sent MBS to Washington to detail the contributions Saudi Arabia can make to both his foreign and domestic agendas. With the new administration’s relationships with its neighbors and traditional allies experiencing various levels of crisis, they succeeded in making Riyadh rather than Mexico City, Ottawa, or London the destination of Trump’s inaugural foreign visit.

The previous November, the Saudis had been eagerly counting the days until Obama would be replaced by Hillary Clinton, and US Middle East policy would revert to its longstanding pattern of intimate partnership with the Kingdom on the basis of a shared regional agenda and pursuit of common objectives, particularly in Syria and Iran. While no less taken aback than the rest of the planet by Trump’s unexpected victory, the Saudi leadership was additionally apprehensive on account of his inflammatory campaign rhetoric against their country, faith, and resources. But this was trumped by the winning candidate’s consistent hostility to Iran on the campaign trail, and the even greater animosity towards it expressed by presidential gurus like Steve Bannon and the incoming national security team.

Demonstrating their influence and authority by convening a GCC and Arab/Islamic summit to supplement the Saudi-US one (the source of Trump’s idiotic claim that history had never witnessed such a gathering and probably never would again), the Saudi leadership announced the formation of a new Islamic coalition (a “Middle Eastern NATO”) against “terrorism,” with Trump as its spiritual godfather; dangled the prospect of an Arab-Israeli peace agreement in front of the US president and his son-in-law; reheated existing deals concluded with the Obama administration, and additionally signed letters of intent for new ones that allowed the new US president to boast that he had secured hundreds of billions of dollars in new contracts; and lost no opportunity to engage in the ostentatious displays of wealth and kitsch that Trump so adores.

The reset in US-Saudi relations was a superlative success, to the extent that Trump virtually held Shi’a Iran responsible for the emergence and growth of Sunni extremist organizations across the region. More importantly, he anointed his new best friend Salman as Washington’s indispensable Arab partner and supreme leader of the Arabs and Muslims. Trump had effectively extended Salman carte blanche to remake the region in accordance with their joint vision of durable security and stability, and appointed him regional commander of the alliance against Tehran. The neglect that had characterized the Obama years, always more a matter of perception than reality, had come to a definitive end, and Riyadh felt empowered and emboldened to reassert its leadership role. In the immediate term, this meant bringing Qatar to heel.

Crisis

During the Riyadh summit, Saudi and Emirati leaders are said to have complained to Trump about Qatari misconduct with respect to Iran and Islamist groups, pointing out that this undermined the key pillars of Trump’s Middle East policy. When the US president relayed these concerns and their source during his separate meeting with the Qatari ruler, Shaykh Tamim reportedly retorted that the US president was barking up the wrong tree, noting that not only al-Qa‘ida but also the Islamic State movement obtain most of their funding and support from Saudi and Emirati sympathizers, and that Dubai additionally serves as the Iranian economy’s main window to the world. Yet only days later Doha, citing irresistible pressures, expelled a number of Hamas military leaders with immediate effect and informed the movement that additional measures may follow.

According to the Financial Times, the Saudis and Emiratis were particularly perturbed by a complex deal brokered by Qatar in April of this year to obtain the release of twenty six of its citizens–including at least one member of the royal family–who had been taken hostage in southern Iraq in 2015 by pro-Iranian Shi’a militias while on a hunting expedition. In addition to paying a ransom of some 700 million US dollars to the captors, most of which is said to have ended up in the coffers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the hostages’ freedom was made contingent on a population exchange in Syria. The Syrian component of the deal included the evacuation of several thousand Syrian Shi’a civilians from the town of Madaya, where they had for several years been under siege by Syrian Islamist groups including Jabhat Tahrir al-Sham, the recently re-branded al-Qa‘ida affiliate formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra. With Qatar disbursing an additional 200 million US dollars to the Syrian rebel groups to secure the evacuation, it stood accused of not only directly funding al-Qa‘ida, but engaging in a pattern of using hostage negotiations as cover to fund radical Islamists in Syria in order to promote regime change in Damascus and consolidate its influence over the Syrian opposition. (The operation was exposed when bales of cash totaling hundreds of millions of dollars were discovered in a Qatari plane at Baghdad Airport).

Then, days after the conclusion of the Trump visit, the official Qatar News Agency (QNA) website on 24 May carried statements attributed to Tamim in which he expressed support for Hizballah and Hamas; praised Iran and Israel; denounced Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt; and disparaged both Trump and the purported deals concluded in Riyadh. Qatar denied its amir had made the statements, claimed the QNA website had been hacked, and called in the FBI to investigate. By then the media war had already begun. The statements were massively circulated and vociferously denounced by Saudi and Emirati-sponsored media, and the circulation and transmission of Qatari-sponsored media were blocked in the offended states. The tone and ruthlessness of the ongoing media campaigns easily matches that of countries that have been engaged in prolonged warfare.

In early June, the email account of the UAE’s Ambassador to the United States, Yusuf al-Otaiba, described by the New York Times as “a personal tutor in regional politics to Jared Kushner”, was hacked. Its embarrassing contents–particularly concerning Otaiba’s calls to relocate CENTCOM’s regional headquarters away from Qatar, his close relationship with the extreme pro-Israel Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and disparaging assessments of Trump in exchanges with Obama officials during the transition–were prominently publicized by Qatari-owned media.

Immediately thereafter, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt on 5 June announced they were severing diplomatic relations with Qatar. In addition to recalling their diplomats from Doha and giving Qatar’s emissaries forty-eight hours to leave, they severed all land, sea, and air links with it; closed their air space to Qatar’s national airline in apparent violation of the Convention on International Civil Aviation; ordered the repatriation within fourteen days of all Qataris residing in their territory as well as (Egyptians excepted) of their citizens living in Qatar; and expelled Qatar from the coalition that has been reducing Yemen to rubble. Because Qatar’s only land border is with Saudi Arabia, through which it obtains forty per cent of its food supply (including more than ninety-five per cent of fruits and vegetables), this has amounted to a virtual blockade. A number of Arab and Muslim recipients of Saudi and Emirati largesse including Jordan, Mauritania, The Maldives, the exiled government of Yemen, and the powerless one of Libya, also announced a downgrading or severance of their relations with Qatar. Jordan additionally revoked Al Jazeera’s operating license.

The following days saw additional measures imposed against Qatar, particularly by the UAE. Qatalum, the aluminum producer jointly owned by Qatar Petroleum and Norway’s Norsk Hydro, was forced to re-route exports from its traditional port, Dubai’s Jabal Ali, to alternatives in Oman. Similarly Qatar, the world’s second largest producer of helium, had to close down production facilities on 12 June because the gas could no longer be exported overland through Saudi Arabia. On 7 June, the authorities in Abu Dhabi announced that any resident expressing opposition to its policy towards Qatar, or sympathy for Doha, faced the prospect of fifteen years in prison and a hefty fine. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain followed suit with similar measures.

The rapidity with which this crisis escalated and intensified has been remarkable. Amidst unverifiable rumors of divisions within the Qatari, Saudi, and Emirati leaderships about their respective handling of events, and even talk of a military option if the political one fails, Kuwait and Oman–the only GCC states that declined to take measures against Qatar–commenced mediation efforts. But tensions were further heightened when President Trump, who appeared unaware that Qatar hosts the largest US military base in the region, in his Twitter account all but took personal responsibility for the campaign against it, presenting it as a signal achievement of his foray into the Middle East to slay the beast of terror. Needless to say, his comments left the State Department and Pentagon scrambling to re-assure Doha that neither CENTCOM’s relocation nor regime change are under consideration.

While details remain scarce, Qatar’s detractors have strenuously denounced “violations” of the agreement that ended the 2014 diplomatic rupture. Although there have been reports of a list of ten demands, others speak only of “grievances.” The Qataris, who insist they will only discuss issues relating to compliance with GCC commitments and only after the blockade has been lifted, for their part maintain that the Kuwaiti and Omani mediators have yet to transmit or be provided with a list of specific violations or demands in this regard.

Whether the expulsion of Hamas from Qatar and the closure of Al Jazeera form an opening gambit or are designed for rejection is difficult to divine, but Qatar’s adversaries initially seemed to be holding all the cards. Doha was forced to rely on Iran and Turkey for food and other imports, and their airspace for its national carrier to remain operational, thus making its conduct only more suspect. Furthermore, a diminished Al Jazeera lacked the credibility and audience it once had to mobilize regional public opinion. Qatar’s currency and credit rating have been in decline, and questions are being raised about its ability to successfully host a World Cup in which it had already invested massively.

Where some observers took the demands made of Qatar seriously, others suggested the specific issues raised were either submitted for propaganda value or are marginal to the real interests of Saudi Arabia and the others. Rather, their purpose is to force Doha to dance to the GCC tune, cut it back down to its miniature size, and ensure that it once again follows the lead of more powerful neighbors rather than pursue an independent regional agenda that too often works at cross purposes with theirs.

Qatar’s fortunes took a sudden turn for the better on 7 June. Trump called Tamim, and during their discussion the US president emphasized the importance of restoring calm and stability to the GCC, invited his Qatari counterpart to the White House, and offered help with mediation efforts–thereby giving the Kuwaiti-Omani mission a vital endorsement. Earlier that day, the FBI announced that QNA had indeed been hacked by Russian parties, but left unstated on whose behalf they may have been acting. That same evening the Turkish parliament—with whom Qatar had in 2016 concluded a mutual defense treaty—adopted a resolution to dispatch an additional three thousand troops to the beleaguered country. The tripwire force that effectively took any military option being contemplated off the table arrived the following week, during a joint military exercise between Qatari and US forces that sent an equally pointed message. Meanwhile a growing chorus of international powers, including Russia, the European Union, and Germany, made clear they need another crisis in the Middle East, this time between its main energy exporters, like a hole in the head. Unsurprisingly, they have consistently pressed for a speedy and peaceful resolution.

Two days later, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, presumably in consultation with the White House, issued prepared remarks in which he essentially praised Qatar and its alliance with the United States, while also calling upon it to more rapidly take more effective measures against the “funding of terrorism.” He further appealed to its adversaries to begin lifting the blockade on account of its humanitarian impact during the month of Ramadan, and the obstruction of US military and business activities. He again endorsed and offered to participate in a negotiated resolution of the dispute. Only hours later President Trump, in prepared rather than impromptu remarks of his own, repeatedly denounced Qatar as a virtual state sponsor of terrorism. For good measure, he revealed that its misconduct had been raised with him by his “good friend” King Salman during his visit to Riyadh, once again throwing his weight behind the states ranged against Doha. Earlier that same day Saudi Arabia and the UAE designated fifty-seven individuals and entities connected to Qatar as terrorists–some of whom are also known for links to Saudi Arabia and some of whom are said to be in prison. A week later, Trump would, despite his assessment of Doha’s nefariousness, celebrate the sale of advanced fighter aircraft worth 12 billion US dollars to its air force.

Consequences

The unsustainable intensity of the Qatar crisis suggests it is headed for either catastrophic escalation or speedy resolution. Absent the removal of Tamim and his replacement with a pliant relative in the very near future, a scenario that seemed at best highly improbable and is now increasingly distant after an attempt was recently foiled, a renewed Qatari commitment to the 2014 agreement, sweetened with a few symbolic concessions, a public reconciliation, and a monitoring mechanism, seems the most likely outcome.

That said, the situation is sufficiently tense that a rash move or miscalculation could have unforeseen consequences–particularly as Qatar and its increasingly reckless adversaries have each failed to rally decisive regional and international support, while Washington’s response has been divided at best. While uncontrolled escalation would be disastrous for Qatar, it is also unlikely to be kind to Saudi Arabia or the UAE and indeed the GCC as a whole, for whom a reputation for stability and insulation from regional upheaval is these days no less valuable than its energy products. The impact on the broader global economy could also be significant.

Should a quick resolution that essentially sweeps the dispute under the rug indeed materialize, it would be an impressive reversal of Qatari fortunes. At the same time, this crisis, not unlike the war in Yemen, is intended to showcase MBS’s leadership abilities and thus his eligibility for the Saudi throne. He can therefore ill afford a climb down that further punctures his reputation. For the UAE and MBZ, the stakes are arguably more ideological, and the crisis will have been a poor investment if it does not produce a clean break between Doha and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The big winners so far are Iran, Syria, and their Lebanese ally Hizballah, who cannot but be delighted by the audible cracks in the alliance ranged against Damascus and Tehran and that may well spell the end of the GCC. Iran and Hizballah will additionally hope that Hamas has finally learned the lesson that no ally of the United States can be a true friend of the Palestinians. Turkey has also, yet again, demonstrated that in today’s Middle East it has a role to play in every crisis and that others ignore Ankara’s interests– whether in the Gulf, Syria, or Iraq–at their peril. On the flip side, there are growing noises within Riyadh and Abu Dhabi that the campaign should expand to include Turkey–which has recently been claiming that the UAE is implicated in the 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan.

The crisis has also been of enormous propaganda value to Iran as it ferries hundreds of tons of food and other basic necessities to Qatar in an effort reminiscent of the Berlin airlift–albeit to the richest country on earth rather than the Gaza Strip. Turkey, and–perhaps more significantly in view of attempts to place Doha under Arab quarantine–Morocco have been stocking Qatar’s supermarket shelves as well. Yet, even as The Economist concludes that the blockade “isn’t working,” over the longer term structural dependence on Iran and Turkey is not an option Qatar’s rulers can sustain for political reasons.

Israel appears to be a beneficiary as well. A restrained Qatar that reduces support to Hamas is a welcome gain, but more importantly Tel Aviv has been able to further consolidate its budding relationship with other Gulf states. The Netanyahu government’s June decision to drastically reduce electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip pursuant to a contemptible request by Mahmoud Abbas, which it had previously rejected because the Israeli security establishment warned this could lead to a new conflagration with Hamas, can only be read as an effort to demonstrate its value and reliability to its Arab partners, and the feasibility of a diplomatic approach that focuses on Arab-Israeli normalization rather than Palestinian statehood to the new regime in Washington.

The clear losers are, of course, the Arabs–all of them. Their institutions have once again revealed themselves to be thoroughly and irredeemably dysfunctional. The crisis is being resolved not within or by the region, but rather on the basis of which protagonist can buy the most US weapons, recruit the most lobbyists, and elicit the most patronizing statements from the White House, Pentagon, State Department, and European capitals. The fate of Qatar is being decided by the location of CENTCOM.

However this crisis is resolved, Qatar will have to seriously weigh the consequences before it again contemplates punching above its intrinsically light weight, and will to one extent or another have been brought to heel within a Saudi-dominated coalition directed against not only Iran, but also further upheaval in the region that even today retains the possibility of transforming its disenfranchised subjects into empowered citizens. This crisis is thus both a petulant princely playground spat worthy only of indifference, and an attempt to determine the future of an entire region in which indifference is not an option.

Postscript: House of Salman?

On the morning of 21 June, King Salman deposed Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayif, simultaneously stripping him of all government functions and powers, and replaced him with his son, MBS. Although as discussed above the move has been widely anticipated, the timing nevertheless caught most by surprise, and raises the possibility that Salman is either seriously ill or intends to abdicate soon in favor of his son. Simultaneously, and in a development that is certain to have far-reaching political consequences even if intended for only one-time invocation, Salman “amended sections of the 1990 Basic Law to move to vertical royal succession from father to son for the office of king.”

Thus far, no new deputy crown prince has been appointed, and given the generational shift there is reason to suspect the post may be abolished altogether. Although these changes have been formally endorsed by the Allegiance Council and the clerical establishment, reports of dissent, particularly from within the ruling family, are rife. There are additional suggestions of discontent among clerics considered close to Muhammad Bin Nayif and Prince Mit’ib bin Abdallah, son of the previous monarch who remains commander of the National Guard, the regime’s praetorian guard. There may well be serious trouble ahead for the House of Saud on account of this power play.

In the meantime MBS, now also deputy prime minister, has consolidated his position further, most prominently through Salman’s appointment of Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayif, considered an MBS ally, to the position of interior minister. Abdulaziz is also a nephew of Muhammad bin Nayif, “thus perpetuating Nayif’s old fiefdom over the most important ministry for domestic security.” No doubt this appointment was concurrently made with a view to limiting partisan royal dissent to the latest reshuffle.

MBS now single-handedly controls Saudi energy, security, economic, and foreign policy. The partnership between MBS and the UAE’s MBZ can now be expected to dominate GCC decision-making and regional policy. This does not augur well for the prospects of GCC-Iranian détente, is likely to produce a further improvement in relations with Israel at the expense of the Palestinians, and will almost certainly result in an intensification of the Syria conflict and other proxy wars, including that in what is left of Yemen.

The elevation of MBS also suggests a hardening of the Saudi-Emirati position towards Qatar. Yet, unless Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have an ace up their sleeve or are reckless enough to directly intervene in Qatar, it is difficult to see how they can prevail in view of growing international impatience with the persistence of this crisis and the instability it is producing in a corner of the world critical to the global economy.

Posted in Middle East, Qatar, Saudi ArabiaComments Off on Abrupt Middle East Geopolitical Turnabout: The Qatar, Saudi Arabia and GCC Crisis

Nazi regime to expel Al Jazeera, block broadcasts & revoke journalists’ credentials

NOVANEWS

Israel has announced plans to effectively expel the Al Jazeera network from the country, revoking journalists’ credentials, shutting the company’s bureau in Jerusalem and pulling its broadcasts from national cable and satellite television networks.

Israeli Communications Minister Ayoub Kara announced the measures Sunday at a news conference. Journalists and representatives from Al Jazeera were not permitted to attend.

“We are going to set measures in order to illustrate our war on terrorism, on radical Islam and our solidarity with the sane Arab world,” Kara stated.

While the proposal will not take immediate effect, Kara confirmed that both the Arabic and English versions of the news channel will be shuttered once the proposal is passed in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament).

“I am the only one [in government] who is an Arabic speaker, who understands Arabic and my native language is Arabic. You cannot fool me with Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic. I know how to identify how disturbing reporting becomes incitement instead of being free speech,” he added.

Kara claimed that such extreme measures are ostensibly intended to improve journalistic practice in the country by creating “a situation that channels based in Israel will report objectively.”

“We have based our decision on the move by Sunni Arab states to close the Al Jazeera offices and prohibiting their work.”

“I congratulate the Minister of communications, Ayoob for my guidance took today in line with practical steps to stop the activity of incitement in Israel,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Kara’s proposal on Twitter.

In July, Netanyahu announced that he was working to shut down the network which he accuses of stoking tensions and inciting violence in Israel, particularly at the al-Aqsa mosque where six Palestinians and five Israelis, including two police officers, have been killed in recent clashes.

“This attack on Al Jazeera is really an attack on all critical independent journalism.” Aidan White, director of the London-based Ethical Journalism Network told Al Jazeera.

The network’s offices in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank city of Ramallah would not be affected.

The network will not give up its Jerusalem bureau without a fight, however.

“Al Jazeera deplores this action from a state that is called the only democratic state in the Middle East and considers what it has done is dangerous,” an unnamed official with Al Jazeera told the AFP.

The broadcaster “will follow up the subject through appropriate legal and judicial procedures,” he added.

Saudi Arabia and Jordan have both shut Al Jazeera bureaux this year as part of the ongoing ‘cold war’ playing out in the Gulf, which culminated in the full blockade of Qatar.

Egypt banned the Al Jazeera network and several other websites that were critical of the government in May and broadcasts have also been blocked in the UAE.

Posted in Middle East, ZIO-NAZI, Media, QatarComments Off on Nazi regime to expel Al Jazeera, block broadcasts & revoke journalists’ credentials

The QATAR ‘Diplomatic Crisis

NOVANEWS
The QATAR ‘Diplomatic Crisis’: Understanding a Tangled Web of Pantomime/Hypocrisy

 

It was difficult to work out exactly what is behind the ‘Qatar Diplomatic Crisis’ that seemed to suddenly emerge early in June.

The Qatar diplomatic crisis apparently began on 5th June when several countries – principally Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE – abruptly cut off diplomatic relations. This included trade and travel bans.

Subsequent to this, the Saudi-led group of governments has issued an ultimatum to Qatar in the form of a list of demands that the Gulf State will have to meet.

Why? On the surface of it, Saudi Arabia and the other countries have criticised Qatar for funding terrorist organisations. There has also been criticism of Qatar’s relations with Iran and criticism too of the Al-Jazeera broadcaster that is based in Qatar.

Donald Trump joined in, endorsing the isolation of Qatar and accusing it of being a state sponsor of terrorism.

My immediate thinking was that this is all a scripted pantomime being played out for public consumption.

When President Trump was in Saudi Arabia a few weeks ago and his big, dramatic summit was held, he gave a big speech – directed at Muslim governments – about stopping all support for extremists and terrorist groups. ‘With God’s help, this summit will mark the beginning of the end for those who practice terror and spread its vile creed,’ the president had said. ‘At the same time, we pray this special gathering may someday be remembered as the beginning of peace in the Middle East—and maybe, even all over the world. But this future can only be achieved through defeating terrorism and the ideology that drives it…’

It seems likely that this plan to ostracize Qatar was already on the cards before Trump even made the speech: what has immediately played out (in regard to Qatar) might simply have been a related script in which Trump gets to look like he’s taking hard action against terrorists and their supporters in the Middle East; and then, by sanctioning and condemning Qatar, the Saudis get to look like they’re cooperating with the US President and acting against state-sponsors of terrorism in the region.

Essentially, everyone (accept Qatar) gets to look good and it seems like decisive action is being taken.

The cleverness of this is that no one can dispute Qatar’s activities in state-sponsored terrorism. The problem with it is that the Saudis aren’t exactly innocent bystanders.

That Qatar has been a key player in funding and supporting terrorism and extremism in Syria (as well as in Libya and elsewhere) is beyond dispute. Qatar played a major role on the ground in Libya in the operation to overthrow Gaddafi and a major role in supporting jihadist militias in Syria in the programme to overthrow the Syrian state. In addition to this, of course, its broadcaster – Al-Jazeera – played a major, central propaganda role in the Arab world in facilitating the collapse of Libya and the demonisation of both the Gaddafi government and the Assad government.

And Qatari money has been behind much of what has been tearing up the Middle East.

However, to suggest that Qatar has been doing all of this alone is a joke. The Saudis and Qatar have appeared to be hand-in-hand the entire time. Both were directly supporting Salafist/jihadist groups in Syria and pumping billions of dollars into the war. Both, for example, made the grand gesture of donating over a billion dollars to militias that were trying to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya in 2011.

Moreover, Qatar has been deeply allied to the United States, Britain and others in its sponsoring and facilitation of Islamist extremist groups and terrorism: in Libya, for example, Qatari agents and British special forces were operating hand-in-hand on the ground.

And Donald Trump, and everyone in the Trump administration and US military, knows all of this.

The Saudis, in the meantime, seem to have come to an agreement with the Trump administration that its own role in supporting terrorist/extremist groups could be forgotten (including involvement in 9/11), in exchange for vast flows of Saudi money into the US military-industrial complex. President Trump and the Saudis apparently just signed defense contracts worth somewhere in the region of 100 billion dollars.

And then, suddenly, Qatar was being sacrificed on the altar of bloodstained ultra-capitalism: suddenly, Qatar alone was responsible for all the terrorism.

There are likely other things behind this move against Qatar too.

As a number of observers highlighted very quickly, Qatar maintains relatively good relations with Iran, certainly compared to the Saudis and the other Gulf Arab states. Qatar and Iran share ownership of South Pars/North Dome Gas-Condensate field – the world’s largest natural gas field.

In April this year, the Qataris lifted a self-imposed ban on developing the gas field with Iran, requiring better cooperation between the two countries around their mutual interest. Qatar might simply be being punished – not for its sponsoring of extremist or terrorist activity, but for contradicting Saudi, Israeli and US interests in regard to Iran.

Most of what is happening in the Middle East seems to revolve around the Saudi/Iran proxy war or the Israel/Iran conflict.

The other problem, of course, is that Qatar doesn’t only fund and support Muslim Brotherhood organisations and various Salafist/Wahhabist jihadist groups across the region, but it also supports Hamas in Israel.

It is well worth noting an item of US legislation – something called the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act of 2017.

As a Journal of America piece notes, the legislation specifically included threats to sanction Qatar for its support of ‘Palestinian Terror’. It was sponsored by various US lawmakers who, according to Al-Jazeera, received more than $1 million from lobby groups all linked to Israel, Saudi Arabia or the UAE.

Concerning Al-Jazeera, the international news broadcaster features prominently in the list of demands that have been issued to Qatar – specifically, a demand that Al-Jazeera be shut down.

As much as Al-Jazeera has acted as a propaganda broadcaster (its role in both the Libyan and Syrian crises qualifies it as one of the worst propaganda machines of this century), it is no more or less so than most other broadcasters, includingCNN, FOX, the BBC and others.

And, like the BBC, although Al-Jazeera has been guilty of major propaganda activity (and ‘fake news’, essentially), it has also – like the BBC – produced some genuinely high quality journalism at times too (in regard to investigating Lockerbie, for example, or uncovering the fact that Yasser Arafat was assassinated and didn’t die naturally).

I am not trying to sing Al-Jazeera’s praises here: but singling out Al-Jazeera for condemnation or a total shut-down seems dubious, given the comparable activities of most other major broadcasters.

Also, the one thing Al-Jazeera doesn’t do is follow a pro-Israel script. In fact, Al-Jazeera has a record of being highly critical of the Israeli government, the occupation and of the activities of Israeli lobbies in the US, and it has produced or financed serious investigative journalism over the years in regard to uncovering things relating to Israel.

This fact may be significant.

This is how convoluted and twisted the entire state of geopolitical relations and proxy terrorism/warfare has gotten.

Because, while Israel may oppose Qatar for its sponsorship of Palestinian extremist groups, in other areas Qatari and Israeli policy has previously coalesced – in Syria, for example, where both governments have been supporting Al-Qaeda and ISIS related jihadist groups fighting to overthrow the Syrian state and establish a ‘caliphate’.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have seemingly been of one mind until now. And, even more jarringly, Qatar and Iran are seeking to develop a lucrative, shared project, even as Qatari money is funding Sunni militias and extremists who are at war with Shia militias and extremists, many of whom are Iranian-backed.

In any case, what seems to be evident here is the ongoing hypocrisy and fakery concerning the ‘War on Terror’.

In this instance, Saudi Arabia’s links to extremist ideology and terror has become so widely known (or at least so widely believed to be the case) that something has to be done to shift the blame or focus off of the Saudis. At the same time, President Trump needs to live up to his self-made image of the big tough guy who was going to do something about Islamist-related terrorism.

And since Qatar is actually guilty of all those things, this becomes easy to do – the fact that it also serves Israel’s interests in cutting off support to Palestinian militants and serves Saudi-US-Israel interests in stopping Qatari cooperation with Iran is probably what pushed this action to be taken.

As the AntiMedia has also pointed out, over the passed two years Qatar has also been conducting major business (allegedly to the tune of over $86 billion) with China and in Chinese Yuan, signing agreements designed to established further economic cooperation with China: which may have given the US all the more incentive to punish or isolate Qatar.

Even taking all of that into account, it is hard to imagine that this seeming action against Qatar is going to amount to much. For one thing, there is just too much Qatari money invested in the UK and the US.

The BBC reports that ‘The UK is Qatar’s single largest investment destination, with £35bn in place and another £5bn on its way in the next five years.’

The same report reminds us that ‘At the height of the financial crisis in 2008, Qatar and Abu Dhabi pumped some £7.3bn into Barclays bank as it attempted to avoid being bailed out by the UK government, Qatar paying £4bn.’

It is also looking to invest some $35bn (£27bn) into the US economy over the next few years.

Britain has also in recent years increased the sale of arms to Qatar, identifying the rich Gulf state as a “priority market”for its weapons, according to documents witnessed by The Guardian. In 2014 the Qatari Amiri Guard was reported to have ordered more than £3m of British-made Heckler and Koch assault rifles, according to a copy of a “purchase order” document exposed by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

The UK approved export licences for the sale of £23 million of weapons to Qatar since 2008, including assault rifles and components for machine guns. Given that Qatari agents have been found supplying weapons to Islamist terror groups in Syria and Iraq (including ISIS/Daesh), these arms sales become even more dubious.

Britain also recently, and for the first time, set up a national UK pavilion at the annual Milipol military equipment exhibition in Doha, the Qatari capital.

What’s worse – and this really just demonstrates what a buffoon ‘President’ Trump is – less than a week after siding with the Saudis and accusing Qatar of funding terrorism, Trump signed off on the sale of $12 billion worth of weapons to Qatar (!).

Qatari Defense Minister, Khalid Al Attiyah, met with Trump’s Defense Secretary James Mattis just a couple of weeks ago: what they signed was only the first part of a deal that is supposed to result in the Qatari purchase of over $21 billion of American weapons overall.

This was barely a week after Trump had accused Qatar of funding terrorists.

Which should demonstrate beyond any doubt that (1) whatever this diplomatic crisis is about, it isn’t about stopping terrorism, and (2) it’s all massive hypocrisy and deception all around.

Posted in QatarComments Off on The QATAR ‘Diplomatic Crisis

Qatar: ‘Neighbors’ leading economic siege hacked our news agency

NOVANEWS
Image result for Qatar CARTOON

Qatar says it has evidence showing the same “neighboring” countries that are leading a boycott campaign against Doha had a hand in the alleged hacking of its state news agency, an incident that triggered an unprecedented diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf region.

Attorney General Ali bin Fetais al-Marri Ali bin Fetais al-Marri told a press conference in Doha on Tuesday that the hacking incident originated in “neighboring countries,” without naming them.

“We have evidence to show that iPhones originating from the countries laying siege to us have been used in this hacking. We have enough evidence to point the finger of blame at these countries,” Marri said.

Last month, the Qatar News Agency (QNA) released comments attributed to Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, describing Iran as an “Islamic power,” praising the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas and criticizing US President Donald Trump.

Qatar said hackers had broken into the QNA website and published the fake news, but the denial did not convince the Riyadh regime and its Persian Gulf Arab allies.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Qatari attorney general said it was “very soon” to give specific phone numbers for those he said were responsible for the hacking.

He also noted that Qatari investigators had traced the internet service providers used to the Saudi-led allied countries.

“We have sent the information to the countries concerned and we are awaiting their response,” Marri pointed out, adding, “As far as we are concerned, the case is very clear.”

Following the hacking report, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties and cut off transport links with Qatar in early June, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism, an allegation rejected by the Qatari government.

They put 12 organizations and 59 people associated with Qatar on a terror sanctions list.

Marri said the blacklist was “baseless” and stressed that Qatar would legally pursue those who had done harm to it.

Qatar has long been at odds with other Arab countries about the Muslim Brotherhood, which the UAE and Egypt regard as a terrorist group.

Back in March, 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain temporarily recalled their ambassadors from Doha after alleging that it has been interfering in their domestic affairs. The diplomatic relations resumed eight months later when Qatar ordered some Muslim Brotherhood members to leave the country.

The recent dispute, however, is said to be the worst to hit the Persian Gulf since the formation of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981.

Observers say the fresh rift surfaced in the wake of Qatar’s break with past policies and its leaning toward Russia and Iran.

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said lately that Doha would not “surrender,” vowing to keep “the independence of our foreign policy.”

Posted in QatarComments Off on Qatar: ‘Neighbors’ leading economic siege hacked our news agency

Qatar hacked by Arab neighbor states, not Russia, as previously reported by CNN

NOVANEWS
CNN busted by Qatar for spreading more fake news

Image result for CNN QATAR CARTOON

By Alex Christoforou 

The reason cited by CNN for the ongoing Saudi-Qatari conflict, in which a coalition of Saudi-led states cut off diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar, originates with a CNN report (via its always handy anonymous sources bullwhip), that Russia is believed to have been behind a Qatar news hack.

CNN propaganda word-play is highlighted in bold…

US investigators believe Russian hackers breached Qatar’s state news agency and planted a fake news report that contributed to a crisis among the US’ closest Gulf allies, according to US officials briefed on the investigation.

The FBI recently sent a team of investigators to Doha to help the Qatari government investigate the alleged hacking incident, Qatari and US government officials say.

Intelligence gathered by the US security agencies indicates that Russian hackers were behind the intrusion first reported by the Qatari government two weeks ago, US officials say. Qatar hosts one of the largest US military bases in the region.

The alleged involvement of Russian hackers intensifies concerns by US intelligence and law enforcement agencies that Russia continues to try some of the same cyber-hacking measures on US allies that intelligence agencies believe it used to meddle in the 2016 elections.

The goal of Russian hackers, according to CNN’s unnamed US officials…

US officials say the Russian goal appears to be to cause rifts among the US and its allies. In recent months, suspected Russian cyber activities, including the use of fake news stories, have turned up amid elections in France, Germany and other countries.

It’s not yet clear whether the US has tracked the hackers in the Qatar incident to Russian criminal organizations or to the Russian security services blamed for the US election hacks. One official noted that based on past intelligence, “not much happens in that country without the blessing of the government.”

The FBI and CIA declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the Qatari embassy in Washington said the investigation is ongoing and its results would be released publicly soon.

Russian officials immediately denied the allegations, and they were correct to do so, as moments ago Qatar announced that the news agency cited by CNN as being “hacked by Russian” was in reality hacked by states linked to the boycott and blockade of Qatar.

According to a report cited by Reuters, Qatar’s attorney general has stated that Arab neighbor states (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates) were responsible for the hacking of Qatar’s state news agency…

Qatar’s attorney general said on Tuesday his country has evidence that the hacking of Qatar’s state news agency was linked to countries that have severed ties with Doha.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cut their ties with Doha earlier this month over comments alleged to have been made by the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and posted briefly on the Qatar News Agency’s website on May 23 which Doha said had been hacked.

The comments quoted Sheikh Tamim as cautioning against confrontation with Iran and defending the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shi’ite movement allied with Tehran.

U.S. and European officials have said that while U.S government agencies and experts were convinced that the news agency and the Qatari government’s Twitter feed were hacked, they have not yet determined who did the hacking.

“Qatar has evidence that certain iPhones originating from countries laying siege to Qatar were used in the hack,” the Qatari Attorney General Ali Bin Fetais al-Marri told reporters in Doha.

Marri said it was too early to explicitly name the countries responsible for the hacking and declined to comment when he was asked if individuals or states were behind it.

Posted in QatarComments Off on Qatar hacked by Arab neighbor states, not Russia, as previously reported by CNN

The blockade of Qatar may have more to do with Palestine than we think

NOVANEWS
Image result for blockade of Qatar CARTOON
By Nasim Ahmed | MEMO 

Israeli officials must have been tripping over each other in their rush to endorse the Saudi-led blockade on Qatar. “The Sunni Arab countries, apart from Qatar, are largely in the same boat with us since we all see a nuclear Iran as the number one threat against all of us,” said Israel’s former defence minister Moshe Ya’alon. The blockade represented a “new line drawn in the Middle Eastern sand,” tweeted US-born former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, while revelling in the regional turmoil. “No longer [is it] Israel against Arabs but Israel and Arabs against Qatar-financed terror,” he added.

Defence minister Avigdor Lieberman described the crises as an opportunity for Israel and “certain” Gulf states. “It is clear to everyone, even in the Arab countries, that the real danger to the entire region is terrorism,” he insisted. The extreme right-winger added that the Saudi-led bloc had cut ties with Qatar “not because of Israel, not because of the Jews, not because of Zionism,” but “rather from fears of terrorism.”

Rejoicing over the punishment of a country which Israeli officials describe as a “pain in the ass” raises all sorts of questions, not least the connection between the siege imposed on Qatar and US legislation introduced by Republican Congressman Brian Mast to impose sanctions with respect to foreign support for “Palestinian terrorism”, and other purposes.

Introducing the bipartisan Bill (H.R. 2712 Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act of 2017) Representative Joshua Gottheimer said, “I’m proud to lead on this effort to weaken Hamas, a heinous terrorist network responsible for the death of far too many innocent civilians, both Israeli and American”. According to him, “Our bipartisan bill will ensure that anyone who provides assistance to this enemy of the United States and our vital ally Israel will face the strength and determination of our country.”

In their findings, the sponsors mentioned that Hamas had received significant financial and military support from Qatar. The sponsors cited the press conference at the Sheraton Doha in Qatar, where Hamas launched its new Document of General Principles and Policies, dubbed the movement’s new charter. “While this document was meant to convey a more moderate face to the world by referencing the 1967 borders,” the bill alleges that the “Hamas’ document, [which] neither abrogates nor replaces the founding charter… still calls for a continuation of terrorism to destroy Israel.”

The bill, which sets out to authorise sanctions on any foreign entity or government that provides support to Hamas, goes on to say that, “It shall be the policy of the United States to prevent Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), or any affiliate or successor thereof from accessing its international support networks.”

While noting the implications of the legislation, it is worth remembering that most of the proposals in this new bill are actually redundant, except for the section on Qatar. As the Arab Centre Washington DC – a research organisation furthering political, economic and social understanding between Arabs and the US — points out, the proposed law introduces sanctions already covered under existing legislation. Hamas and the PIJ are both designated as Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTOs) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist entities (SDGTs) by the US State and Treasury Departments respectively. With that in mind, it is already illegal for US entities or institutions to support such groups. Thus, the sanctions proposed in this bill that pertain to US jurisdiction are superfluous.

Furthermore, the Arab Centre points out, formally targeting Iran is also unnecessary because Tehran has already been declared a state sponsor of terror by the State Department and prohibitions against arms export, financial and technical services and US aid to Iran are already in place. This only leaves Qatar, which would be the only new target under this legislation. The stealthy manner of the attack on Qatar did not hide the true intention of supporters of the Bill. “I am proud” said Gottheimer, “to support the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act that will make countries like Qatar pay a price for their support for terrorism. In the fight against terrorists there is no middle ground. If you support terrorism, justice will eventually be served.”

So what has that got to do with Israel? While Israel has been unable to join the Saudi-led move to impose a blockade on Qatar directly, it hasn’t stopped it from taking part in substantial lobbying behind the scenes, with the UAE, to get what in reality is an anti-Qatar piece of legislation passed and carry out the necessary groundwork for a blockade of this magnitude.

It is alleged that the bill’s sponsors in the House include a number of lawmakers who have received substantial donations from pro-Israeli lobbyists as well as from those advocating on behalf of Saudi Arabia. Indeed, it is reported that ten US legislators sponsoring the anti-Qatar Bill have received more than $1m over the last 18 months from lobbyists and groups linked to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Author and commentator Trita Parsi believes that the similarities between the US-allied Arab nations’ “terror list” and the H.R. 2712 bill show growing cooperation between Gulf Arab states and Israel. “The coordination between hawkish pro-Israel groups and the UAE and Saudi Arabia has been going on for quite some time,” Parsi told Al-Jazeera. What is new, he continued, is seeing pro-Israel groups such as the Foundation for Defence of Democracies “coming out with pro-Saudi [articles] and lobbying for them [the Saudis] on Capitol Hill.”

The cultivation of a political narrative to support the siege was also reported earlier this month by The Intercept. It said that emails released by a group called “Global Leaks” had shown that the UAE ambassador to the US, Yousef Al-Otaiba, and the foundation — a pro-Israel neoconservative think tank — have been working together on demonising Qatar. The emails obtained by The Intercept show FDD and UAE collaboration with journalists who published articles accusing Qatar and Kuwait of supporting “terrorism”.

It is no surprise then that the main reason given for this blockade makes little sense. For Saudi Arabia and the UAE to accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism is like the pot calling the kettle black. If there was any substance to the allegation, then the US would not have endorsed a recent arms deal with Qatar and nor would Washington maintain a major military base there. The stated reasons for the blockade have no merit whatsoever. Moreover, the blockade of Qatar cannot be examined in isolation from efforts that have been underway in the US to suppress Palestinian resistance in the name of fighting terrorism. Neither Qatar nor any of the Gulf countries benefit from this standoff whatsoever; for the main beneficiary, we must look to Israel.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Qatar, Saudi ArabiaComments Off on The blockade of Qatar may have more to do with Palestine than we think

Former Qatari Zio-Wahhabi P M: We Made a Mistake by Supporting Rebels in Syria

NOVANEWS

Image result for Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim CARTOON

Former Qatari Prime Minister: We Made a Mistake by Supporting Rebels in Syria
American Herald Tribune 

The accusation of financing terrorism levelled by some [Persian] Gulf countries against Qatar has “no solid base” , he said in an interview with the Charlie Rose show on PBS.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim demanded the countries that cut off relations with Qatar should provide evidence of their allegations.

The former Prime Minister demanded that international law should tackle the violations, including cutting off food supplies, separating families and closing of airspace, made by the countries that have isolated Qatar.

He expressed surprise at the position taken by Saudi Arabia and others soon after the participation of the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in the Riyadh Summit.

On Syria, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim said everybody including the US made mistakes while dealing with the crisis in that country. “As time passed we discovered that some groups have other agendas and we stopped dealing with them one after another.” He stressed that these mistakes were not intentional.

He pointed out that the punitive measures against Qatar were taken without convening the [Persian] Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC).

“If Saudi Arabia disagrees with any country, they will do what they want without referring to the GCC,” he said adding that he respected King Salman and Saudi Arabia, but the new situation has changed many things for the members of the GCC.

On Qatar’s alleged support for Iran, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim said: “This is a big joke,” stressing that there was not a single incident where Qatar supported Tehran. He added that the Qatar has normal relations with Tehran. He said Qatar is ready to hold an open dialogue if the problem is related to Iran.

On the presence of some members of the Taliban movement in Qatar, he said that there are five Taliban members, who are in Qatar at the request of the US.

Posted in QatarComments Off on Former Qatari Zio-Wahhabi P M: We Made a Mistake by Supporting Rebels in Syria

Qatar stood by Gaza when nobody else did

NOVANEWS
Image result for Palestine Scholars Association LOGO

Head of the Palestine Scholars Association, Dr Marwan Abu Ras, lauded Qatar’s pro-Palestine position and stressed Palestinians’ support for the government and people of Qatar.

“We are here today, in the blockaded Gaza Strip, to tell the world that our sole enemies are the Israeli colonizers who forced us out of our own and only lands,” said Abu Ras. “It is high time Arabs and Muslims combined forces in the face of the Israeli occupation.”

“We, Palestine Scholars, hail all those who have rallied round the Palestinian people and Gaza. We are most grateful to Qatar which has left its stamp in every street and at every home in besieged Gaza,” he said.

“Our homes have been lit, infrastructure rehabilitated, and hospitals equipped thanks to Qatar,”  added Abu Ras as he paid tribute to the Qatari government and NGOs.

He slammed the Israeli occupation and all the other parties who have been involved in underway schemes to tighten grip around Gazans’ neck and famish the Palestinians.

Posted in Gaza, QatarComments Off on Qatar stood by Gaza when nobody else did

Liars Lying About Nearly Everything

NOVANEWS
Terrorism supporters in Washington and Riyadh close ranks against Qatar

Image result for Qatar LEADER CARTOON

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review 

The United States has been using lies to go to war since 1846, when Americans who believed in manifest destiny sought to expand to the Pacific Ocean at the expense of Mexico, acquiring by force of arms California and what were to become the southwestern states. In 1898 the U.S. picked up the pieces of a dying Spanish Empire in a war that was driven by American imperialists and the yellow dog reporting of the Hearst Newspaper chain. And then came World War 1, World War 2, and Korea, all avoidable and all enabled by deliberate lying coming out of Washington.

More recently, we have seen Vietnam with its Gulf of Tonkin fabrication, Granada and Panama with palpably ridiculous pretexts for war, Iraq with its nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, Afghanistan with its lies about bin Laden, Libya and its false claims about Gaddafi, and most recently Syria and Iran with allegations of an Iranian threat to the United States and lies about Syrian use of barrel bombs and chemical weapons. And if one adds in the warnings to Russia over Ukraine, a conflict generated by Washington when it brought about regime change in Kiev, you have a tissue of lies that span the globe and bring with them never-ending conflict to advance the American imperium.

So lies go with the American Way of War, but the latest twist and turns in the Middle East are bizarre even by Washington’s admittedly low standards of rectitude. On the 5th of June, Saudi Arabia led a gaggle of Arab and Muslim nations that included the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain to cut off all diplomatic, commercial and transport links with Qatar, effectively blockading it. Qatar is currently isolated from its neighbors, subject to sanctions, and there have even been Saudi threats of going to war against its tiny neighbor. Salman al-Ansari, the president of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee, even tweeted: “To the emir of Qatar, regarding your alignment with the extremist government of Iran and your abuse of the Custodian of the two sacred mosques, I would like to remind you that Mohammed Morsi [of Egypt] did exactly the same and was then toppled and imprisoned.”

It is the second time the Saudis have moved against Qatar. Two years ago, there was a break in diplomatic relations, but they were eventually restored. This time, the principal allegation being directed against Qatar by Riyadh is that it supports terrorism. The terrorist groups that it allegedly embraces are Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s affiliation. Hezbollah and Hamas are close to Iran which is perhaps the real reason for their being singled out as many would call them resistance movements or even legitimate political parties rather than terrorists. And the Iran connection is critical as Qatar has been under fire for allegedly saying nice things about trying to respect and get along with Tehran, undoubtedly somewhat motivated by its joint exploitation with Iran of a vast gas field in the Persian Gulf.

Qatar’s ownership of al-Jazeera also has been a sore point with the Saudis and other Gulf states as its reporting has often been critical of developments in the region, criticisms that have often rankled the Saudi monarchy and the Egyptians. It has been accused of spreading propaganda for “militant groups.” One of the Saudi demands to permit Qatar to again become a “normal” Arab Gulf state would be to close down the network.

The terrorism claims by the Saudis are, of course, hypocritical. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia are well known as sponsors of Salafist terrorism, including the funding and arming of groups like ISIS and the various al-Qaeda franchises, to include al-Nusra. Much of the money admittedly comes from private individuals and is often channeled through Islamic charities, but both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been extremely lax in their enforcement of anti-terror and money laundering regulations. In a 2009 State Department memo signed off on by Hillary Clinton it was stated that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” Qatar, meanwhile, has been described as a “permissive environment for terrorist financing.”

The Saudis also have considerable blood on their hands by way of their genocidal assault on neighboring Yemen. In addition, the Saudi Royal House has served as the principal propagator of Wahhabism, the virulently fundamentalist version of Islam that provides a form of religious legitimacy to terror while also motivating many young Muslims to join radical groups.

The falling out of two Gulf Arab regimes might be a matter of relatively little importance but for the unnecessary intervention of President Donald Trump in the quarrel. He has taken credit for the burgeoning conflict, implying that his recent visit to the region set the stage for the ostracizing of Qatar. His twitter on the affair, posted on June 6th, read “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!” And he again came down on Qatar on June 9th during a press conference.

Trump’s tweets might well be regarded as simply maladroit, driven by ignorance, but they could also provide a glimpse of a broader agenda. While in the Middle East, Trump was bombarded with anti-Iranian propaganda coming from both Israel and the Saudis. An escalation of hostilities with the intention of starting an actual war involving the United States to take down Iran is not unimaginable, particularly as the Israelis, who have already endorsed the Saudi moves, have been arguing that option and lying about the threat posed by Tehran for a number of years.

A war against Iran would be very popular both with the U.S. congress and the mainstream media, so it would be easy to sell to the American public. The terrorist attack in Tehran on June 6th that killed 17 is being blamed in some Iranian circles on the Saudis, a not unreasonable assumption. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack but it must also be observed that both the Saudis and Israelis have good connections with the terrorist group. But if the possibility of a possible Saudi hand is true or even plausibly so, it guarantees a rise in tension and an incident at sea could easily be contrived by either side to escalate into a shooting war. The United States would almost inevitably be drawn in, particularly in light of Trump’s ridiculous comment on the tragedy, tweeting that Iran is“falling victim to the evil they promote.”

There is also other considerable collateral damage to be reckoned with as a consequence of the Trump intervention even if war can be avoided. Qatar hosts the al-Udeid airbase, the largest in the Middle East, which is home to 10,000 U.S. servicemen and serves as the Combined Air and Space Operations Center for Washington and its allies in the region and beyond. Now the United States finds itself squarely in the middle of a fight between two alleged friends that it doesn’t have to involve itself in, an intervention that will produce nothing but bad results. Backing Saudi Arabia in this quarrel serves no conceivable American interest, particularly if the ultimate objective is to strike at a non-threatening Iran. So the fallback position is to lie about what the support for the aggressive Saudi posturing really means – it is alleged to be about terrorism, which is always a popular excuse for government overreach.

And the ultimate irony is that when it comes to terrorism the United States itself does not emerge without fault. As early as 2011, the U.S. was arming Syrian dissidents from the arsenals in Libya, flying in weapons to Turkey to hand over to the rebels. Many of the weapons, as well as those provided to Iraqi forces, have wound up in the hands of ISIS and al-Nusrah. U.S. advisers training rebels have conceded that it is impossible to determine the politics of many of those receiving instruction and weapons, an observation that has also been made by the Obama White House and by his State Department.

So watch the lies if you want to know when the next war is coming. If the House of Saud, the Israelis and Donald Trump are talking trash and seem to agree about something then it is time to head for the bomb shelter. Will it be Iran or an escalating catastrophe in Syria? Anything is possible.

Posted in QatarComments Off on Liars Lying About Nearly Everything

Shoah’s pages

www.shoah.org.uk

KEEP SHOAH UP AND RUNNING

November 2017
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930