Things to Consider in the Crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar
June 24, 2017
Led by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States –except Kuwait and Oman- and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar based on its support of terrorism. Qatar has become a safe haven for leading figures of the international Muslim Brotherhood organization that has been linked to terrorism in several occasions. Qatar also, and even before Facebook and Twitter, provided the needed media apparatus for terrorist organizations like Al-Qaida, Jundallah and Hamas responsible for killing civilians in the Fertile Crescent, Iran and around the world. What is mind boggling in all this is to see an anti-terrorism initiative taken by Saudi Arabia, the cradle of modern terrorism. This raises a legitimate question on whether Saudi Arabia has given up its terrorism politics.
It could be worth investigating if Saudi Arabia is shifting towards terror-free politics had it not previously engaged, or pretended to engage- in anti-terrorism efforts. There is a tradition of the Saudis being both the arsonists and the fire fighters when it comes to international terrorism. On the one hand, nowhere in the Arab World but Saudi Arabia can you find State appointed clerics offer prayers for ISIS' success in Iraq and Syria. On the other hand, you get media reports that Saudis raid or kill ISIS members in their country. There is one explanation to this seemingly contradictory Saudi policy. The Saudis truly fight against ISIS, but only when its members do not pay allegiance do the king or operate locally. Neither there are records of any Saudi attack on ISIS in Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Nigeria or Mali; nor is there any Wahhabi terrorist organization that discredits the religious authority of the Saudi grand Mufti (top cleric appointed by the King). Even when the Saudi grand Mufti was pushed to speak against terrorist leaders like Ossama Bin Laden. The records show how polite and considerate Bin Laden was addressing the Ibn Baz’s fatwa warning against him. A 2001 document shows that Bin Laden replied to the Ibn Baz who warned against Al-Qaida with an opening where he recognizes his authority and prays to god to protect the king appointed Saudi grand Mufti.
Although it seems complicated, the Saudi move against Qatar is simple to explain. The United States have had a new president who is a deal maker. Donald Trump promised during his presidential campaign to make the Saudis pay for American protection. At the same time, he promised to fight against Terrorism. Qatar was more open in supporting radical factions in Syria. Saudi Arabia’s support was discrete. This has prepared the perfect conditions for the Saudis to use Qatar as a scapegoat in the terrorism issue and sign billions of dollars in arms deal with Trump to secure American regime protection. Qatar in its turn, understanding the rules of the game, signed days after the Saudis a smaller but significant deal with the Americans to secure their own protection as well. After signing billions of dollars in arms contracts with both Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Mr. Trump has offered Mr. Tillerson as an intermediary.
The crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is a result of an American shakedown that caused Saudis and others to panic and act in a manner that shows they are willing to pay more and even go against each other to secure American protection. If the Americans are serious about eradicating terrorism, they have, especially now, an excellent opportunity to do so.