Mohammad Pervez Bilgrami- India
Saudi Arabia, the most powerful Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member country, along with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt, took an astonishingly drastic decision on June 05, to impose harsh sanctions on a fellow GCC member, Qatar. The land, sea and air embargo followed by a ridiculous ‘terror list’ designating many Qatari and Qatari-funded charities as ‘terrorists’ made the situation worse.
They also designated five dozen Qatar-based eminent personalities as “terrorist”. Saudi Arabia and UAE, who suffer from a severe legitimacy problem, had also issued separate ridiculous ‘terror lists’ in 2015, including many honourable social and charitable Muslim organisations of Europe, America and Asia. The new joint ‘terror list’ also signed by Bahrain and Egypt is as ridiculous as the previous one.
Following the sanctions imposed by Saudi-led bloc minions and ruling factions like Maldives, Mauritania, Senegal, Chad, and Aden based Hadi government of Yemen, eastern government of Libya, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. Kingdom of Jordan and Djibouti downgraded the diplomatic relations with Qatar.
There are no takers of Saudi sanctions and blame of ‘terror sponsor’ on Qatar. Apart from some minions and monarchies, all the major Muslim countries either criticized the Saudi move or flatly refused to follow the Saudi-led embargo on Qatar. Turkey openly sided in unequivocal terms with Qatar and expedited the deployment of additional Turkish troops on its military base in Qatar. Major Muslim countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Algeria, Iran and others called for a peaceful diplomatic solution of the engineered crisis.
The United Nations categorically clarified that it is not bound by Saudi Arabia's "terror list" after the kingdom named several high-profile Qatari charities that carry out life-saving work in war-torn and impoverished countries. Qatari charities have been working extensively with the UNHCR, UNICEF, the World Food Programme, Oxfam, CARE, and USAID. The Amnesty International also condemned Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain for banning the movement of mixed families, students, workers and other ordinary citizens to and from Qatar. The Russians and the Germans have also called for a dialogue.
The US president Donald Trump, who received massive gifts from Saudi royals recently during his Saudi Arabia visit, tweeted (he tweets like entertainers than a political leader) in favour of the Saudi decision. On the other hand, the officials from his administration took a balanced approach, and are calling for a dialogue to solve the crisis. In Continuation of their ambiguous and perfidious policy, Americans approved the $ 12 billion deal to supply sophisticated F-15 fighter jets to the same ‘terrorist sponsor’ state, Qatar.
The veracity of unpopularity of this callous move among the general Arab and Muslim masses can be gauged from UAE and Bahrain’s announcement of lengthy jail term for expressing sympathy for Qatar over sanctions. The hugely unpopular move of Qatar embargo among ordinary Arabs and Muslims is actually not sustainable.
Saudi Arabia with its own native population, large economy and most importantly being custodian of two holy mosques of Islam is expected to devise its own foreign policy, especially at the regional level. Unfortunately Saudi foreign policy is shaped from the most destabilizing player in the region, the UAE, which works in a close cooperation with the American CIA and carryout joint operations in shaping up the regional order. The recent leaked cables explained how UAE was behind the failed coup attempt in Turkey. Not only this, UAE was also suspected to instigate the much-hyped Gezi riots in Turkey in 2013.
The significant development arising from the Qatar crisis is Turkey’s increasing role in the GCC and Arab world politics. After giving a clear message to trouble making rulers in the region, the Turks have also intensified diplomatic efforts in solving the Qatar crisis. The most notable missing stopover from Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavasoglu’s recent GCC visit is Abu Dhabi.
The Qatar embargo, which is in the series attempts to strengthen the status quo in the region, started from successful coup attempt in Egypt, forced compromise on Ennahda in Tunisia, failed coup attempt in Turkey and squeezing of Hamas in Palestine. The extreme fear of reemergence of Arab revolution is forcing the Arab rulers to silence Al Jazeera, and enforcing Qatar to submission is a preemptive exercise.
With its minuscule native population and an amalgamation of seven tiny autonomous islands, the UAE is an unreal state. Saudi Arabia must distance itself from such troublemakers. After the death of King Abdullah and enthroning of King Salman, the Saudis hinted to bring about tangible changes in their policy especially against Muslim Brotherhood, but it seems nothing has changed and the same old UAE aligned policymakers are back in the palace court.
The UAE funds and backs the forces which destabilize the Muslim countries and create chaos in the region, actually executing the broad based policy of the CIA and the Pentagon. Some UAE operatives are Mohammed Dahlan in Palestine, renegade general Khalifa Haftar in Libya, and secessionist Aidaroos al-Zubaidi in Yemen. By blindly following reckless UAE misadventures in Palestine, Libya and Yemen will give the similar results to Saudis as in Iraq and Syria.
Saudi Arabia needs to understand its position as a largest country on the Arabian Peninsula, and which is expected to play a decisive and constructive role in solving major regional crisis rather than punishing and sanctioning the fellow small GCC states like Qatar. With such kinds of self-indulgent steps, Saudis are not only hurting their own reputation but inadvertently breaking up the very framework of GCC.
Once this sanction crisis is over, Qatar will move more towards Turkey and other reliable partners for its national security, the two other GCC members Oman and Kuwait will follow the suit.
According to some media reports, the Egypt’s coup leader el-Sissi who has already turned his country into a big begging bowl has called for Turkey’s inclusion into Qatar boycott. The nefarious nexus of UAE and el-Sissi’s Egypt is busy in manufacturing artificial crisis to the major regional powers from addressing the real problems in the region. Now Saudi policy makers must calculate the returns of billions of dollars they wasted on el-Sissi, a fraction of which would have created wonders for Saudi foreign policy.
Saudis needs to realize that it is a high time for them to reverse their anti-change policies in the region. It is extremely difficult to swim against the tide for long in the region which is vying for a change. The message from manufactured Qatar crisis is clear that there are very few tiny sellouts among the Muslim countries.
Thus, the Qatar fiasco is a lesson for Saudi policy makers to chart out its independent policies that are pro-change and not the policies devised in Washington and Abu Dhabi. By pushing Qatar to corner, Saudis have already opened ample space for new strategic alignments in the region.
It now remains to be seen whether the lesson learnt from the Qatar fiasco will compel Saudi Arabia to relinquish its hawkish attitude towards the small GCC members while compelling the Kingdom to behave like the true Custodian of two holy mosques of Islam.
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