by John Galt
March 12, 2014 21:45 ET
As the United States and European Union continues its inane focus on the lost cause known as the Ukraine, a greater threat to geopolitical instability and petrodollar realpolitik is lurking on the horizon where the United States Central Command is based.
The beginning of this political conflict started when the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates withdrew their Ambassadors from the tiny nation of Qatar last Wednesday. The CNN article from March 5th said the following, inferring something about the Qatari press including Al-Jazeera:
They said GCC members had signed a deal November 23 that included “a security agreement and a commitment to the principles that ensure non-interference in the internal affairs of any of the GCC countries, either directly or indirectly, and not to support any activity that would threaten the security and stability of any of the GCC countries from organizations or individuals, including support for hostile media.”
To drive home the point, two of the final paragraphs indicated the severity of the political divisions:
Tensions between Qatar and the rest of the GCC have increased in recent years.
Wednesday’s announcement is the clearest sign yet of a rift between Gulf Arab nations and Qatar, a perceived supporter of Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East — which are viewed with suspicion or outright hostility by some fellow GCC members. Qatar denounced last year’s ouster of Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsy, who hails from the Brotherhood.
So what does this really mean? Qatar retaliated by immediately seeking out an alternative to the GCC and Saudi influence by seeking a meeting and alternative to the Royal Family’s dominance from Riyadh:
From the March 7, 2014 article above via the Tehran Times:
Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has called for the expansion of relations with on Oman in a move apparently meant to undermine Saudi Arabia’s efforts to dominate the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council and exercise greater influence in the Arab world.
In a phone call made by the Qatari ruler to Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said on Thursday, the two influential Arab rulers reviewed means of boosting and developing ties in addition to the latest regional developments.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recalled their envoys from Doha this week in what many said was a response to Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who was overthrown by the military in July.
Egypt has welcomed the decision of the three Persian Gulf states to withdraw their envoys to Qatar and said its own ambassador “will not return” to the emirate.
“The Egyptian ambassador to Doha, who has been in Cairo since the beginning of February, will not return to Qatar at the present time, and his remaining (in Egypt) is a sovereign political decision,” the government said, according to AFP.
This escalation against the Saudi royal family and their desired path for the GCC did not set well with their plans to block any further actions by Islamist radicals in the region or especially their own country. Thus the news from Monday indicates that the GCC’s remaining members, or at least the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (via Arabian Business):
By Courtney Trenwith
Monday, 10 March 2014 9:48 AM
Saudi Arabia has threatened to block Qatar by land and sea unless it cuts ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, shuts down broadcaster Al Jazeera and expels local branches of two US think tanks, according to US-based Huffington Post.
The threats were made during a private meeting between the foreign ministers of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states in Riyadh last week – before the kingdom, the UAE and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, a source who was present at the meeting said.
Saudi foreign minister Saud bin Faisal reportedly said only those three requirements would be sufficient to prevent Qatar from “being punished”.
Days later the Gulf state was left embarrassed by the departure of ambassadors from the three neighbouring countries historically close to Qatar.
On Friday, Saudi Arabia also declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, following the same decision taken in Egypt in December.
The two US think tanks targeted are the Brookings Doha Centre and the Rand Qatar Policy Institute, while Al Jazeera has been accused of deliberate bias towards the Muslim Brotherhood in its reporting on the conflict in Egypt as well as playing a significant role in the ousting of leaders in Tunisia and Egypt during the Arab Spring.
Three journalists from Al Jazeera English have been detained since late 2013, accused of joining a terrorist group, aiding a terrorist group, and endangering national security. A fourth journalist, from Al Jazeera Arabic, Abdullah Al Shami has been held for six months and is being tried in a separate case.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have spent $32bn supporting Egypt’s military government post-Brotherhood. Former president Mohamed Morsi was deposed in July last year but there is no real end to the conflict in sight.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar share about 64km of sea and land borders and there have been clashes in the past. The borders were disputed for 35 years and a final agreement was only signed in 2001.
Qatar is not taking the threat of a sea blockade seriously, according to the Huffington Post. But the land border – across which a substantial amount of food and goods flows to the Qatari capital Doha – can be easily closed by the kingdom.
Several Saudi and Emirati journalists also have quit their jobs in Qatari media following calls to do so by their governments.
The diplomatic dispute is unprecedented between the GCC members, who otherwise had been working to form closer economic and security ties.
To understand the quandary the United States is in, should Saudi Arabia take military action, the US might well be obligated to fight or defend the Al-Udeid Air Base outside of Doha, Qatar from its Saudi allies should the decide to attack. A blockade as outlined in the story above is an act of war and the US will have to attempt to remain neutral or worse, promise to defend its interests in Doha. Othwerise, CENTCOM could well be on its way home to Tampa and America might well end up deprived of watching Al-Jazeera on a nightly basis. If the House of Saud thinks they will not have any support against the Qataris, America had best think again as the Royal Family’s Crown Prince is in China this week negotiating long term deals for oil sales, construction in the Kingdom and quite possibly even weapons purchases from China.