26 June 2017

There's Stupid, and There's Psychopathic, and Then There Is the House of Saud

The House of Saud, the Gift that Keeps Giving
I am referring to, of course, the latest kerfuffle between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, with the rest of the its toady petty monarchs around the Persian Gulf, have recalled diplomats, expelled Qatari citizens, and blockaded the land border to Qatar:
For years, the tiny, energy-rich country of Qatar has carved out a niche in the Arab world by trying to be everything to everyone. It housed an American military base and flooded the region’s airwaves with its influential media, all while keeping close ties to Iran and a wide selection of Islamist movements.

On Monday, five countries in the region announced that they were forcing Qatar to choose: Its powerful neighbor Saudi Arabia, Egypt and at least three other Arab nations severed all ties with the country, escalating their accusations that the Qatari monarchy supported Sunni Islamist terrorism and Iranian designs on the region.

Those Arab nations not only abruptly suspended diplomatic relations, as they have in the past, but also surprised many by cutting off land, air and sea travel to and from Qatar. All but Egypt, which has 250,000 people working there, ordered their citizens to leave Qatar.

The move created an immediate crisis for Qatar, whose only land border is with Saudi Arabia and which imports about 40 percent of its food from the Saudis. Residents said that people were stocking up on food and cash. And Qatari diplomats and citizens were scrambling to meet a 48-hour deadline to leave some Persian Gulf countries where they had been posted.
Qatar, which in the context of the Gulf monarchies I would describe as the best of a bad lot, has been ruffling feathers in the reason for a while.

It has been generally supportive of the Islamic Brotherhood and its related groups (most notably Hamas), and it has relatively friendly relations with Iran, but the thing that really upsets other regional governments, particularly the House of Saud, is that it operates the Al Jazeera which actually provides relatively impartial news coverage of the region (except, of course, in Qatar, funny how that works).

Further complicating the matter is the fact that Doha has been cultivating a relationship with Turkey, and will be allowing Ankara to construct a military base on the peninsula, which would put a Turkish military presence in the area for the first time since the fall of the Ottoman empire.

This, along with a mammoth air base operated by the US in Qatar means that their military influence is far greater than their (90% expat) population and the size of their military would imply.

In any case, a list of demands was presented to Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the other gulf states:
  • Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard from Qatar and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with U.S. and international sanctions will be permitted.
  • Sever all ties to “terrorist organizations,” specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State group, al-Qaida, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.
  • Shut down Al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.
  • Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.
  • Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence currently in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside of Qatar.
  • Stop all means of funding for individuals, groups or organizations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, the United States and other countries.
  • Hand over “terrorist figures” and wanted individuals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to their countries of origin. Freeze their assets, and provide any desired information about their residency, movements and finances.
  • End interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs. Stop granting citizenship to wanted nationals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Revoke Qatari citizenship for existing nationals where such citizenship violates those countries’ laws.
  • Stop all contacts with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Hand over all files detailing Qatar’s prior contacts with and support for those opposition groups.
  • Pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other, financial losses caused by Qatar’s policies in recent years. The sum will be determined in coordination with Qatar.
  • Align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as on economic matters, in line with an agreement reached with Saudi Arabia in 2014.
  • Agree to all the demands within 10 days of it being submitted to Qatar, or the list becomes invalid. The document doesn’t specify what the countries will do if Qatar refuses to comply.
  • Consent to monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.
It's a laundry list of demands, and I think that some of them were inserted do provide some obfuscation or wiggle room.

I've highlighted the items that I think are the the real causus belli, which reduces to Iran, Turkey, and a (relatively) free press being what really upsets Riyadh.

One theory about these demands is that they are not a serious set of demands, but rather they have been issued with the goal of justifying a Saudi invasion.  (Think about the Austrian demands to Serbia that precipitated World War I.)

In any case, the immediate response by Qatar has been to reach out to Turkey and Iran for needed supplies, which also is very clearly a f%$# you to the other members of the GCC:
Qatar is in talks with Iran and Turkey to secure food and water supplies amid concerns of possible shortages two days after its biggest suppliers, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, cut trade and diplomatic ties with the import-dependent country.

"We are in talks with Turkey and Iran and other countries," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject, adding that the supplies would be brought in through Qatar Airways cargo flights.
So right now, it looks like Qatar is turning into yet another clusterf%$#, much like its aimless intervention in Yemen.

To quote Dean Vernon Wormer, "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son."


Post a Comment