In international politics there is no permanent friendship or enemies but only permanent interest. Thus dramatic changes on alliance formation and their disintegration is almost a regular play on the stage of international politics. However, explaining a change in the status quo can’t be explained just focusing on one or two factors. The recent Qatari crisis which further destabilizes the already unsettled region of Middle East is such a case. Between 5 and 6 June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen, Egypt, the Maldives, and Bahrain all separately announced that they were cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar. The real reason for this unprecedented event is still unclear but analyzing factors connected with geopolitics of the region particularly the cold war rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia; global energy politics and the impact of Muslim brotherhood’s politics can give a picture of the hidden reality.
The geographical location of Qatar
The State of Qatar is located in the Arabian Peninsula. On its south border there is Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which is the only country Qatar has land border with. Bahrain is on the west and UAE and Oman are on the east of Qatar. Qatar also has navel border with Iran across the Persian Gulf. This small country of 11437 square kilometers has 60 kilometers long border with Saudi Arabia. This makes Qatar quite dependent on Saudi Arabia in matters such as import of products.
The formation of GCC and Qatar’s role
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was established by an agreement concluded on 25 May 1981 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia among Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE in view of their special relations, geographic proximity, similar political systems based on Islamic beliefs, joint destiny and common objectives. Presently it encompasses a total area of 2,672,700 sq. km. The official language is Arabic. The GCC Charter states that the basic objectives are to have coordination, integration and inter-connection between Member States in all fields, strengthening ties between their peoples, formulating similar regulations in various fields such as economy, finance, trade, customs, tourism, legislation, administration, as well as fostering scientific and technical progress in industry, mining, agriculture, water and animal resources, establishing scientific research centers, setting up joint ventures, and encouraging cooperation of the private sector. Though sounds like a peaceful alliance but it should be mentioned that GCC came to existence after the Iranian revolution. These Arab countries are all monarchies, some constitutional like Qatar and some absolute like KSA. Out of the fear of the fate of Shah of Iran, these countries monarchies formed up this alliance to protect their rule in the peninsula.It should also be mentioned that Saudi Arabia’s intention to become a hegemon in the peninsula is pretty much real and the forming of GCC was one of the major step towards that. The Saudi monarchy wishes to resist and stop all sort of Iranian influence in this region and to lead the Muslim world. Qatar as small nation was expected to follow the leadership of Saudi Arabia. As all the GCC countries have oil based economy this should not have been much problem but the discovery of large source of liquid natural gas (LNG) on the Qatari-Iranian navel border changed the scenario.
Arab US summit and Qatar’s uncomfortable agreement. Why?
The one of the main issues of Riyadh summit is to secure Israel state at the level of Arab and Islamic countries. The purpose of Arab peace plan with Israel endorsed by Arab summit is to make a normal relation with more than fifty Arab and Muslim nations.
Qatar’s Petroleum politics
Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of liquified natural gas and produces up to 77 million tonnes of gas each year. Bloomberg says the “official narrative” behind the Gulf crisis and suggests that Saudi Arabia’s isolation of Qatar, “and the dispute’s long past and likely lingering futures are best explained by natural gas.”The reasons for not gas as the source of discord are numerous and start in 1995 “when the tiny desert peninsula was about to make its first shipment of liquid natural gas from the world’s largest reservoir. The offshore North Field, which provides virtually all of Qatar’s gas, is shared with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s hated rival.”
The result to Qatar’s finances was similar to the windfall that Saudi Arabia reaped from its vast crude oil wealth.The wealth that followed turned Qatar into not just the world’s richest nation, with an annual per-capita income of $130,000, but also the world’s largest LNG exporter. The focus on gas set it apart from its oil producing neighbors in the Gulf Cooperation Council and allowed it to break from domination by Saudi Arabia, which in Monday’s statement of complaint described Qataris as an “extension of their brethren in the Kingdom” as it cut off diplomatic relations and closed the border.In short, over the past two decades, Qatar becomes the single biggest natural gas powerhouse in the region, with only Russia’s Gazprom able to challenge Qatar’s influence in LNG exports.
Qatar rapidly emerged as the dominant and lowest cost producer at a time when its neighbors started demanding the commodity on their own, giving the tiny state all the leverage. As Bloomberg ads “demand for natural gas to produce electricity and power industry has been growing in the Gulf states. They have to resort to higher-cost LNG imports and exploring difficult domestic gas formations that are expensive to get out of the ground, according to the research. Qatar’s gas has the lowest extraction costs in the world.”Of course, with financial wealth came the need to spread political influence.
Education system as supporting features for brotherhood and Hamas politics
One of the major facts of this diplomatic crisis is Qatar’s support of Muslim brotherhood and Hamas. One person who should be named above all for this would be Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood has a long history, and dates back to the arrival of Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi in the country. Qaradawi is a household name across the Arab World, and is one of the region’s most recognizable Islamic scholars, or ?ulam??. He was born in Egypt in 1926 and, drawn to the preaching of Hasan al-Banna, was among the scholars who decided to eschew high-ranking positions at Egypt’s flagship Islamic education institution al-Azhar to instead join the Muslim Brotherhood. Qaradawi has been offered the post of General Guide of the Brotherhood twice, refusing both times, but has long been thought of as a spiritual guide to the movement. Qaradawi’s influence on Qatari society and the local religious scene is one element that demonstrates that Qatar’s broader support for the Brotherhood is not simply a question of power politics, but is personal and social too.
Qaradawi left Egypt in 1961, going into exile during one of Gamal Abdul Nasser’s bouts of repression of the Brotherhood. Unlike many of his Brotherhood-affiliated scholarly peers who were leaving the country at a similar time for refuge in Saudi Arabia (where King Faisal (d.1975) was welcoming Brotherhood scholars as part of his “Islamic solidarity campaign” to counter the pan-Arab socialism supported by Nasser), Qaradawi was sent to Qatar. It was his first time on an airplane. At that time, Qatar was a backwater and still a British protectorate. Discovery of the vast natural gas fields that would propel Qatar to become the wealthiest country in the world in terms of $GDP per capita was still some way off. More importantly here, Qatar had no real religious educational institutions or local scholarly establishment to speak of. In his doctoral dissertation examining Qatari Islamic institutions, Hamed A. Hamed paints a dire picture of the quality of local Qatari imams during that period: “preachers in Qatar were not qualified to perform the duties expected of them. By and large the majority was only able to read and write and therefore lacked the ability to address topics pertaining to problems of Qatari society [… For their Friday sermons], they depended solely on an old book of fifty-two sermons, equal to the number of weeks in the year.” Qaradawi, who at the time was a respected Islamic legal scholar, recalls in his memoirs that he went to the country as a “loanee” to help address this situation. Brotherhood scholars going into exile in Saudi Arabia or other countries in the region had to negotiate a space among long-established institutions and local scholarly elites. Qatar, by contrast, represented a blank slate upon which Qaradawi could design institutions and curriculums almost as he saw fit. Shortly after he arrived, Qaradawi assumed the Directorship of the Qatar Education Ministry’s first Institute of Islamic instruction (ma?hadd?n?). The Institute had been founded only one year previously and was encountering a number of difficulties. To the young Qaradawi, the dearth of religious-educational institutions in Qatar represented a unique opportunity to implement the educational reforms that he and others had been encouraging back in Egypt. In his memoirs, Qaradawi relates how he redesigned the Institute’s curriculum, steering it away from its sole focus on Islamic law and the Islamic sciences of rhetoric, grammar and morphology to instead include an emphasis on foreign languages, science, and mathematics. In his recollections Qaradawi makes much of the local resistance he faced from his students when he tried to implement these reforms, but he says he pressed on, arguing that such changes were necessary to render a would-be Islamic scholar better equipped to engage with the challenges of the modern day. Qaradawi felt that studying these subjects would give his students “a deep and true understanding of the social reality,” which they would have to deal with as scholars, imams, and leaders in Qatari public life. The changes that Qaradawi was implementing brought him to the attention of the then Emir of Qatar, Ahmad b. ?Ali Al Thani (d.1977, the current Emir’s great-grandfather). Qaradawi developed a close relationship with the Emir, and became his personal religious teacher during the month of Ramadan. The Emir granted Qaradawi Qatari citizenship in 1969. The Qatari royal family became a key supporter of Qaradawi, and funded his trips across the world as he visited grassroots Brotherhood-affiliated organizations in Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Europe, North America, and even as far afield as Japan and South Korea.In 1977 Qaradawi founded another Islamic institution, the Sharia Faculty of Qatar University, where he became the Dean. Alongside the Institute, these two centers produced a significant portion of all the religiously-educated figures in Qatari society today, and they were staffed by teachers sympathetic to Qaradawi’s project. The impact and influence of some of these graduates has been substantial.
Qatar’s soft power
Qatar filled with rich oil and gas reserves wanted to be a soft power itself. It was the will of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani to make Qatar a soft power so that it can be a regional player without offending its powerful neighbors like KSA. Recognizing the possibilities of Qatar’s vast natural gas resources, the emir embarked on reforms, investments and moves to empower a peninsula whose only land border is with Saudi Arabia.The Qataris “don’t have the land mass, they don’t have the military, they’re geographically located in this extremely contentious neighborhood, so they have to balance between the greater powers around them,” said Emily Hawthorne, Middle East and North Africa analyst at Texas-based advisory firm ‘Stratfor’.Income from the giant gas field shared with Iran allowed Qatar to invest in companies like Barclays Plc and Volkswagen AG and buy iconic buildings in London. It paid for developing the capital Doha into a modern metropolis and establishes campuses of elite U.S. universities. It also opened Al Jazeera, a pan-Arab television station that has enraged Arab and Gulf leaders.
By the time Sheikh Tamim took over, Qatar’s per-capita income had swelled toward $130,000 almost twice that of Saudi Arabia, and it had been awarded the right to host the 2022 soccer World Cup.Politically, Sheikh Hamad established relations with everyone, including Saudi foe Iran and the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, and Sunni Islamists such as Hamas. Israel even opened a trade office in the mid-1990s in a two-story villa in a quiet street in Doha, but was later forced to close it in 2000 under pressure from Iran and Saudi Arabia.One episode, in June 2008, summed up how the Qataris worked. U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson visited the country to drum up investment as the financial crisis took hold. On the same day, the Gulf nation decided to allow an Iranian bank to expand. The problem was that the Americans had wanted to shut the bank altogether and suspected the Iranians were keen to get more than just a second branch and establish another financial institution in Qatar.It showed how “in classic Qatari fashion” Hamad tried to balance competing interests and “such behavior does not satisfy either the U.S. or Iran,” Joseph LeBaron, the American ambassador at the time, wrote the following year in a cable released by Wikileaks.
The approach then broadened. While Dubai was emerging as a financial and commercial hub, Qatar wanted to distinguish itself as a diplomatic hub, “a clearing house of the world that can solve problems,” said Paul Salem, vice president of the Middle East Institute in Washington.
There were some successes. The Doha agreement reached by rival Lebanese factions in 2008 marked the end of an 18-month crisis in Lebanon. The 2011 Darfur agreement over Sudan was finalized in Doha. Qatar later helped secure the release of Greek Orthodox nuns held by an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria in 2014. It has also hosted talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.“They established good relations, exceptionally, with everyone — Iran, Israel, Taliban, America, Russia — that was part of their old brand,” said Salem. “Then it turned from a global brand that’s friends with everybody to a much more partisan position.”
What they demanded?
1. Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with US and international sanctions will be permitted.
2. Sever all ties to “terrorist organizations”, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, al-Qaida and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.
3. Shut down Al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.
4. Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.
5. Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside Qatar.
6. Stop all means of funding for individuals, groups or organizations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, the US and other countries.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. Agree to all the demands within 10 days of it being submitted to Qatar, or the list becomes invalid.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani handed over a letter from Qatar’s emir in response to the demands to Kuwait, which is mediating in the dispute, according to state-run Kuwait News Agency.”Minister Adel al-Jubeir received from the Kuwaiti state minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al Sabah the official Qatari response regarding the demands of the boycotting countries,” Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said on Twitter early on Wednesday.
“Qatar will receive a reply in due time,” said a statement, according to the Saudi News Agency.On Tuesday, Qatar’s foreign minister said the list of conditions for restoring relations “is unrealistic and is not actionable”. “It’s not about terrorism, it’s talking about shutting down the freedom of speech,” he said at a joint press conference after talks with his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel.Qatar’s foreign minister refused to give any details regarding the content of the reply but said Doha was looking for a solution to the month-long crisis based on dialogue.”The state of Qatar has adopted a very constructive attitude since the beginning of the crisis. We are trying to act mature and discuss the matter,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Saad al-Saeedi, reporting from Kuwait City, said there was “a sense of relief, tinged with caution” in Kuwait.”Qatar’s response to the demands was handed to the emir, followed by an extensive meeting between the Qatari foreign minister and his Kuwaiti counterpart for more than one and half hours,” he said.”The meetings reflect Kuwait’s intense activity at the highest levels, from the emir down. Some sources suggest that the Kuwaiti foreign minister will join the four countries meeting in Cairo on Wednesday. It is clear that a breakthrough is being achieved; that some of the demands could be addressed.”
Iran Turkey’s coalition
Two countries have shown their support to Qatar amidst this diplomatic chaos. They are Iran & Turkey. Saudi led four GCC countries have claimed that top Iranian Revolutionary Guard officials are operating in Qatar. Iran claimed that this blockade is illogical because there is no Iranian Revolutionary Guard officials are operating in Qatar. Iran is also helping the blockaded gulf nation by flying food and daily necessary goods for its citizens. This was done after four GCC countries launched an embargo on Qatar and the effect was quite bad as 40% of Qatar’s food comes from its only land border with Saudi Arabia. Turkey has gone one step ahead and opened up a military base in Qatar after the crisis. It is a huge step as for the first time after the fall of the Ottoman Empire any Turkish military base is opened in the Arabian Peninsula. The opening of a Turkish military base antagonized the four GCC countries and one of the thirteen demands was to remove the base. Turkey is also eager to mediate the crisis and sent its diplomats to the countries.
The way how this crisis would be resolved could be the negotiation among involved countries peacefully. This would be possible as soon as all states will realize the bad impact of strife among Muslim states.