The U.S. and its allies are learning the hard way that independent countries cannot be bullied into submission. Late last week, Qatar restored full diplomatic relations with Iran in the face of mounting isolation from the majority of its Gulf state neighbors.
In the latest move, Qatar’s foreign ministry announced it was sending its ambassador back to Tehran for the first time in 20 months following a deterioration in relations in January of last year.
From the New York Times:
“The Qataris gave no explanation for the sudden move. But the timing suggested a purposeful snub of Saudi Arabia, which along with three other countries began a punitive boycott of Qatar in June, accusing it of supporting terrorism and having a too-cozy relationship with Iran. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut their air and sea routes to Qatar, and closed its only land border, with Saudi Arabia.”
Qatar has reportedly been funding rebel groups with ties to terrorist organizations, particularly in Syria and Libya. Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails even revealed that Qatar was suspected of providing financial support to ISIS. The problem, of course, is that Saudi Arabia is doing the same thing — and Saudi Arabia’s exportation of its radical ideology and support for terror groups across the board arguably exceeds that of Qatar’s. Yet Saudi Arabia is leading the current diplomatic rift with Qatar, accusing the small nation of doing exactly what Saudi Arabia has been doing for years.
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Clearly, the major issue is Qatar’s relationship with Iran. Though this strategy is attempting to forcefully push Qatar into cutting all its ties with Tehran, in reality, it has only pushed Qatar into the open arms of the Islamic Republic, which has supported Qatar from the outset.
Sheik Saif bin Ahmed al Thani, director of the government communications office in Qatar, confirmed that Saudi Arabia’s menacing approach to foreign policy won’t bring Qatar to its knees. The director stated:
“What it’s going to take [to resolve this crisis] is first to remove the blockade. This is not a way of bullying a country into taking a certain position. And secondly we’re willing to sit and negotiate and sit in a dialogue environment and discuss all these things. Of course anything that will affect our sovereignty and independence, we will not consider, even slightly. We will not sit at the table unless we have a sort of level playing field. But we’re willing to discuss. At the end of the day most of these things are differences of opinion and we can discuss them.” [emphasis added]
As noted by the New York Times, recent developments — including a minor Qatari royal’s visit to the Saudi ruler’s holiday villa in Morocco — have suggested to the Qatari ruling class that Saudi Arabia’s ultimate aim is to achieve regime change. This seems likely considering the list of demands Saudi Arabia and its allies gave to Qatar were almost impossible to meet (with perhaps some undisclosed exceptions), which suggests they were intentionally designed to fail.
The allegiances on the current global chessboard appear to be shifting, and not in Washington’s favor. The U.S. hosts a large base in Qatar that currently houses to at least 10,000 U.S. troops.
If Qatar and Iran are to enjoy closer relations as Iran and Russia heavily back the Syrian government – all while the latter two parties are work with NATO member Turkey to enforce a de-escalation process in Syria, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia may have just lost yet another crucial ally.