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GULF STATES: The Resurgence of the Saudi Arabia, Qatar Cold War

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Andrew Korybko
21st Century Wire

The Gulf Cooperation Community was shocked shortly after Trump’s trip to Riyadh to read reports in Qatar media that Emir al-Thani supposedly spoke very favorably about Iran’s regional role and against the US’ anti-Iranian policies during his time in Saudi Arabia. It turns out, if the Qatari authorities are to be believed, that their leader didn’t actually say these things and that the media website was hacked by unknown perpetrators, though it looks like Saudi Arabia isn’t buying it because there’s a chance that he did in fact say what was reported but everyone thought that it wouldn’t be made public.

Therefore, the Kingdom’s media still promoted the story even after Doha said that it was debunked, and the influential descendants of al-Wahhab, whom the ultra-conservative strand of Wahhabi Islam is named after, called on Qatar to rename a mosque which was dedicated to its religious leader.

In case some observers thought of writing this all off as a series of harmless coincidences, UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash chimed in by saying:

“The Gulf Cooperation Council countries are passing through a new sharp crisis that carries within it a great danger. Fending off sedition lies in changing behavior, building trust and regaining credibility”

So, apparently hinting at the reemerging rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The two sides were engaged in a tense Cold War of sorts in 2014 over Doha’s patronage of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Saudi Arabia, Syria, and even Russia as a terrorist organization, though they were eventually able to bury the hatchet after Qatar promised not to let the Brotherhood operate in the country.

We don’t know for certain exactly what’s going on right now because these countries are very opaque and it’s difficult to get a clear understanding of things, but if the Qatari-Saudi rift widens, then it’s expected to have several interrelated consequences. The first is that the falling out between both sides might be most visible in Syria, where they might order their respective proxies to fight one another or cut deals with Damascus to their rival’s disadvantage.

Another thing is that Qatar, by virtue of its geography and shared offshore gas resources with Iran, might actually side more closely with Tehran than Riyadh in general, which could instantly spark an intra-GCC security dilemma that might cause the Saudis to militarily overreact.

And finally, the last forecasted consequence of any prolonged distrust between Qatar and Saudi Arabia is that Doha might team up with Tehran and Moscow to form an OPEC-like gas cartel in bringing together three of the top four countries with the largest reserves in the world.

Qatar has thus far shirked this idea but might be compelled to reconsider it as a way to institutionalize any forthcoming pivot away from the GCC and closer to Iran. In any case, this wouldn’t happen overnight, but if it did eventually transpire, then it would pair nicely with Russia’s OPEC partnership in giving Moscow leverage over both global energy markets and the potential to position itself as a neutral mediator between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, thereby promoting its vision in becoming the supreme balancing force in Eurasia.

Andrew Korybko for Sputnik speaking about the Saudi-Qatari rift. Listen ~ 

 The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution. 


READ MORE MIDDLE EAST NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Middle East Files





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