Asia Watch

Qatar bullying

The unquiet American president recently tweeted that his trip to the Middle East was “already paying off”.

Jun 12, 2017
The unquiet American president recently tweeted that his trip to the Middle East was “already paying off”. Nothing could be closer to the truth. For just a few weeks ago did he sashay into town preaching the need to come together to confront Islamist extremism. Fast-forward to today and the entire Arab gulf is hurtling towards confrontation with the small kingdom of Qatar.
 
While this may or may not be good news for Iran, it is certainly welcomed by the region’s two biggest players. Namely, Saudi Arabia and Israel. For the former, it underscores that there is no such thing as a no-strings-attached arms deal, especially one that comes complete with a $350 billion-price tag. In leading the pack against Doha over ties to Hamas, Riyadh is likely trying to push the latter into choosing ‘wisely’ between Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). For the Saudi kingdom has already seemingly washed its hands of Qatar over the latter daring to term Tehran a force of regional stability. As for the Jewish state, what better way to celebrate half a century of military occupation of Palestinian lands than having the big boys of the GCC reinforce the notion of Hamas as a terrorist organisation?
 
For to be clear, the entire crisis does smack of being manufactured, among other things, to undermine the Palestinian cause, thereby legitimising Israel’s presence in the region. Thus Doha has been cast as the scapegoat for neither kowtowing the line on Iran as well as regularly contributing to the then Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in the never-ending wake of systematic Israeli destruction. Bibi, of course, has been keen to frame the current crisis in terms of the threat of radical Islam. Yet this repackaging of the Palestinian issue within this false context is aimed at making the world forget that this is not a religious war. But one of occupation.
 
In the long-term, the crisis raises legitimate concerns over the mandate of the Saudi-led Islamic Alliance, a bloc that Pakistan may or may not have been too quick to join. For it appears that new and well-thought out battle lines are being carved out in the region to ensure that never again are the people of the Middle East to feel giddy on the hope of another Arab Spring, one that could go all the way. According to pundits in the know, this new alliance comprises Western-backed nations such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, most of the Gulf States as well as Jordan and Morocco. This grouping is said to have firmly in its sights a new and improved and expanded axis of evil: Iran, Syria, ISIS, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
 
While we urge Pakistan to remain officially neutral on the conflict, we do urge Islamabad to use all back channels available to it to try and diffuse escalating tensions. It is not only the right thing to do — it is also in its interests. This bullying of Qatar did not just come out of nowhere. The kingdom’s membership of both the so-called Muslim NATO as well as the GCC hasn’t safeguarded it against sanctions. It also looks unlikely to save it from possible regime change machinations. Meaning that if we are next in line for our close ties with Iran, Gen Raheel may not be able to save us.
 
Daily Times, June 12, 2017

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