Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani. Karim Jaafar—AFP
There are no winners in the ongoing rift between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors
Three years after facing the wrath of its Gulf neighbors, Qatar is once against under the spotlight; but this time the United Arab Emirates—of which Qatar is a member—want to make it suffer through blockade and ouster of the expat Qatari population. Doha’s crime? Siding with Iran in a developing Mideast crisis grown out of Iran-Arab contradictions in the region, from Yemen to Iraq-Syria.
Qatar is small in the real sense. Its population of 1.7 million is 80 percent foreign workers, mostly labor, but it has thousands of millionaires and is the richest state in the world in terms of per capita wealth. It abuts Saudi Arabia and is dependent on it for imports like food and building material. Its gas deposits, the world’s largest, are shared with Iran under the Gulf and serve as its primary leverage: the ability to oblige entities that it senses as future troublemakers. But it ends up showing flexibility to all comers, including terrorists from the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, while also being home to America’s military Central Command (CENTCOM). It offended the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia by counterbalancing the aid of $20 billion the two gave General Sisi of Egypt to tame the Brotherhood poisoning the Gulf population with propaganda. Qatar funded the Brotherhood instead, which brought on the rupture of 2014.
If Qatar has the infinite flexibility of the small, no one else is acting sensibly in the region either. Islamic State is unquestionably the big threat to the world, from America and Europe to South Asia. But neighbor Turkey is more interested in striking the Kurds of Syria-Iraq instead of Islamic State. Russia too is bombing the Syrian Sunni rebels on the advice of President Assad, the besieged Alawite ruler of Syria. Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. are more bothered about the Iranian militias in Iraq-Syria fighting Islamic State and wouldn’t mind funding the latter. President Trump has compounded the confusion by turning against Iran, which means indirectly helping Islamic State, which in turn threatens America and its NATO allies with “conversion” of their Muslim citizens to terrorism.