US support lets Qatar off the hook

Dr. Norman Bailey

In a humiliating climb-down, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt's 13 "non-negotiable" demands have shrunk to five principles.

When Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt broke diplomatic relations with Qatar and imposed various sanctions on that minuscule but incredibly wealthy emirate, they presented the Qatari government with thirteen "non-negotiable" demands.

The demands were rejected by Qatar, which looked to its various allies for support. Turkey sent assistance and 5000 soldiers to its already existing military base in Qatar. It was not clear if the Turks would fight if the Saudis and Emiratis invaded, but the possibility could not be overlooked. Closing the base was one of the 13 demands.

Iran, which shares the deposits of natural gas which is the basis for Qatar's immense wealth, denounced the coalition's actions and sent assistance, but Iranian military intervention in any military confrontation was rendered unlikely due to the dismal performance of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force in Syria.

By far the most important ally of the Qatari regime, however, is the US Department of Defense, backed up by the State Department, which together worked ceaselessly to pressure the coalition partners to modify their demands. This despite the long-standing Qatari support for and financing of terrorist organizations in the Middle East, and its friendly relations with Iran. The reason for this attitude, in contradiction to President Trump's support for the coalition action, is the US air base in Qatar, which the Department of Defense considers strategically vital for its operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

And it worked. The coalition partners just cancelled the thirteen demands and replaced them with six "principles". All mention of Iran, the Turkish base and al-Jazeera was eliminated. The principles all refer to ceasing Qatari support for terrorist groups. It should be noted that Qatar previously agreed to do that when under Saudi and Emirati pressure the then emir abdicated and was replaced by his son. Those promises were soon proven to be worthless, as Qatari support for terrorism continued, leading up to the current crisis.

This is a major and humiliating climb-down for the four regional powers. The so-called "principles" are not even declared to be non-negotiable. There can be little doubt that it is due primarily to US pressure, coupled with the possibility of Turkish military support for the Qatari regime. It is also a major defeat for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, whose idea the confrontation was and whose prestige is on the line.

Military intervention in Qatar was never more than an empty threat, not only because of the Turks and Americans, but also because the Saudi armed forces are bogged down in Yemen, with no resolution in sight. Stay tuned for major convulsions as a result of this hasty, ill-conceived and worse-executed measure.

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Professor of Economics and National Security, The National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa, and Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft, The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC. He was formerly with the US National Security Council and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The views he expresses are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of "Globes."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 20, 2017

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2017

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