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Is Saudi Arabia Preparing To Invade Qatar?

June 7, 2017

South Pars natural gas field, the large red item in the center of the Persian Gulf, between Qatar and Iran

Is this where all the pressure on Qatar is heading?

I don’t know…but it is very much within the realm of possibility and if I was a betting man, as the expression goes, (I am not) I’d put down a nice sum on the “they’ll go in” side of the equation.  Whatever, the Saudis, their Emirate allies, with the full support of the United States are essentially trying to overthrow the government of Qatar, a place where four years ago, they also forced the abdication of one emir and replaced him with another.

Regardless, the current Saudi threats against Qatar only deepens the divide between three U.S. allies (two decrepit monarchies fueling dogmatic militant groups in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere and an increasing authoritarian government in Turkey). The new explosive environment undermines a good deal of the fanfare of the Trump Saudi visit that there is something of an “Arab” or “Islamic” NATO in the making. As Saudi Arabia and its close buddies turn on Qatar, consider the Arab NATO as dead in the water…and it only took two weeks for it to collapse, record time actually. 

Will it lead to war? We can only hope not and urge restraint on all parties. But at the very least a very, very dangerous scenario is being played out with Saudi and the emirates threatening Qatar, Turkey about to send special forces to its Muslim Brotherhood ally, Qatar, and the Trump Administration seeming not to have a clue as to how to tone down the antagonisms, which if they get out of control, could very well plunge the region and beyond into a kind of war that will make the previous ones appear to be little more than child’s play. In any case more and more the growing tensions between key U.S. allies in the region is looking like a mini version of Sarajevo in 1914. No better indication of the degree to which the Trump visit to Saudi Arabia was not about peace-making but inflaming tensions in the region. Maybe sword dancing with Wahhabists in Riyahd pretty much negated any references that Trump might have made in his remarks there about “peace” – a concept with which the president does not appear familiar. It cannot be an accident that the Saudis have “found courage” to take more aggressive moves against their Arab adversaries and of course, Iran in the aftermath of the Trump visit. It is nothing short of pathetic that after having encouraged Saudi sectarianism that has grown into a full blown crisis, ie, that Trump is THE CAUSE of the increased tension, that now in a statement that can only be described as lame and insincere, that the Trump Administration has “offered to mediate” to cool down the flames they have previously set in motion. Another example of how the president and his entourage don’t have a clue as to how to deal with the region…even less so than Obama.

The threats to Qatar come only two months after Qatar announced that it was going to restart development of the South Pars natural gas field after a twelve-year delay. As Qatar Petroleum Chief Executive, Saad al-Kaabi, noted, “For oil there are people who see peak demand in 2030, others in 2042, but for gas demand is always growing.” While Qatar and Iran are developing the natural gas potential of this field separately, there is some modicum of cooperation involved in the project and it appears to be proceeding in a business-like manner, with an absence of tension which must deeply irritate the Saudis, representing as it does, the possible future cooperation on energy development on both sides of the Persian (or as the Arabs refer to it, the “Arab”) Gulf.

The first public hints that such scenario is being considered (that I have seen) comes from an on-line article in Sputnik International, a Russian website. Although, as with all news sources, it is wise to read it with a skeptical eye, it would be a mistake to reject its content out of hand because it is a Russian based source of information. The article claims that this possibility was discussed during Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and that he gave the green light to such an operation (probably as long as the major U.S. base on Qatar, the largest U.S. military installation in the Gulf region, Al Udeid Air Base, remains untouched). Let us be clear here: should such an attack take place, it could not take place with prior approval from Washington and any notion that Saudi Arabia is acting on its own (in Yemen, Syria or now perhaps Qatar) is, as the British would say “poppycock” – rubbish.

There are certain parallels with the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait  and a Saudi military offensive against Qatar:

  • a Washington green light for the operation (in the case of Kuwait, soon thereafter reversed), in Saudi’s case, as mentioned above, there can be no attack without permission from Washington
  • an expansionist ideology – in Iraq’s case for a greater Iraq by swallowing up Kuwait, in Saudi’s case it’s brittle Wahhabist ideology
  • an Arab county in deepening trouble financially (Iraq for its stupid, cruel and costly war against Iran, Saudi for its war against Yemen, a drop in the price of crude oil – which in its stupidity, it helped trigger by flooding oil markets),
  • a growing financial crisis, an attempt to corner the energy market (in Iraq’ case to add Kuwaiti oil to its own, in Saudi’s an effort to control Qatar’s natural gas with its shrinking oil reserves. Qatar has the world’s largest reserves of natural gas, the source of its wealth)
  • and last but not least, an effort to strengthen their positions visavis the growing Iranian influence in the region.

For sometime now Saudi Arabia and Qatar – both whose activities have fueled ISIS-al Qaeda like movements in the region have been at odds. The biggest “sin” that the Qataris have committed is to try to be a voice independent of the Saudis, something that they could do given their great wealth from natural gas reserves. There are certain Islamic doctrinaire conflicts, with the Saudis as usual, spreading their brittle Wahhabist message far and wide while the Qataris align more closely with a competing Islamic fundamentalist sect, the Moslem Brotherhoods. For those unfamiliar with this ideological tension, I simply remark that it is a part of the toxic mix between the two countries and should not be underestimated. It is an integral part of the competition for regional influence. At times even the United States has had to step in, mostly in favor of their Saudi Wahhabist ally, to dampen Qatari aspirations.

For the Trump Administration the logic for supporting such a dumb and dangerous move has several sources, the main one being that a Saudi take-over of Qatar, should it succeed and it probably would, would strengthen the Saudi position to put pressure on Iran. It also serves as a warning to nearby Kuwait to limit if not break its commercial ties with Iran. While a Saudi absorption of Qatar would strengthen the Saudi position visavis Qatar it will only create greater tensions among American allies, which the Trump Administration is trying to slam together into some kind anti-Iranian alliance. It will pit Turkey, which has promised to come to the aid of Qatar in case of military action, against Saudi Arabia, two of Washington’s most important and strongest regional allies. Rather than strengthening the anti-Iranian alliance, such a move would probably lead to the alliance’s formal collapse. It is already reeling from Pakistan’s refusal to participate.

One should also add, given Saudi military wastefulness, ineffectiveness and utter brutality (think Yemen) that a Saudi invasion and annexation of Qatar will result in a need for the Saudis to, yet again, replenish its weapons supplies, by purchasing yet more military hardware from U.S. arms industries.

Both Kuwait and Qatar, while not particularly friendly with Iran, have tried to maintain cordial, business-like relations with Teheran. Qatar and Iran have been cooperating in developing what is referred to as South Pars natural gas field, some of which lies beneath the surface of the waters adjoining both countries. A successful Saudi invasion of Qatar would end that cooperation and hurt Iran economically. Qatar is the second largest producer of natural gas in the world after Russia, Iran the third. In the case of Kuwait, the relations have been somewhat strained with Iran, but still there has been a modicum of economic cooperation and trade, with once more, natural gas being a factor. For a number of reasons, Kuwait has not been able to develop its natural gas potential. Buying it from neighbor Iran would make the most sense but regional tensions and pressure from both Saudi Arabia and the United States have discouraged these relations from developing beyond a certain point. Still, it is clear that Kuwait has tried not to antagonize Iran to the degree that the Saudis do.

 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. kerim permalink
    June 7, 2017 1:40 pm

    Today, turkish Parliament is preparing to pass a Legislation, expected to be approved by Erdogan, as early as tomorrow morning, to dispatch a turkish Elite-Force to Qatar, in a bid to protect this tiny Gulf State from any possible invasion by its neighbors . Great gesture, although not without risk but, Erdogan is smartly calling the Saudi BLUFF . In fact the Saudi’s may think twice, before undertaking any foolish action .
    But tomorrow, the focus will be on the Comey hearing . It could be the beginning of the end, for Donald Trump, if Comey brings with him enough proof of “Obstruction of Justice” with regard to the russia mingling in U.S elections . That’s the core of the matter .
    Also tomorrow, the UK elections are taking place . Chances are that Prime Minister May ends up on the sideline . Her opponent Corbyn is closing in fast, according to recent polls . So tomorrow we’ll be witnessing crucial developments, which might be very decisive indeed . Just wait and see .

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  1. Saudi Intimidation of Qatar – The Syrian Connection | View from the Left Bank: Rob Prince's Blog

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