23 March 2018

06/07/2017 QATAR – GULF – IRAN

From Iran to Israel, the crisis between Doha and Riyadh is turning into powder keg for the Middle East

US Trump President first praised the decision of six countries to break off relations with Qatar, then called for dialogue and unity. France and Kuwait are trying to mediate. Putin is also in favour of dialogue. For Erdogan, Qatar’s isolation cannot help solve regional problems. Tehran opens airspace to Qatar planes.

Doha (AsiaNews) – The United States through its president, Donald Trump, has praised the six countries that broke off relations with Qatar. Meanwhile, France and Kuwait have been trying to mediate, whilst Russia has called for dialogue and Israel has been closely monitoring a crisis that could prove promising in the medium term.

Regional and world powers have been closely following the unfolding diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with Iran as the odd man out in this new confrontation.

US President Donald Trump referred to the issue several times, noting that the Saudis' move to isolate Qatar could mark the "beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism".

Mr Trump had earlier claimed credit for the pressure placed on Qatar, saying his recent visit to Saudi Arabia was "already paying off". He later called the Saudi king to urge Gulf unity amid the escalating row. Separately, the Pentagon thanked Qatar for hosting the largest US air force base in the Middle East.

Qatar again rejected claims that it supports Islamist extremist movements, like Hamas in Gaza and the Muslim Brotherhoods in Egypt. Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said that “there is no, single evidence that the Qatar government is supporting radical Islamists.”

Doha called instead for regional co-operation in the Gulf. However, in the country itself the first effects of the crisis are starting to be felt, with rising fuel, air travel and sea transportation costs, and people stockpiling food bought in stores starting to run out.

With Qatari airline companies banned from Saudi and other neighbouring airspaces air travel has also been disrupted.

If the United States seems to back the iron fist against Qatar, France and Kuwait are trying to mediate to through diplomatic channels.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan noted that isolating Qatar would "not resolve any problems", calling instead for "mutual dialogue". "In this respect, we appreciate Qatar's constructive stance," he said. "Trying to isolate Qatar, which certainly carries out an efficient fight against terrorism, will not resolve any problems."

Russia too has called on the parties to engage in dialogue. In a phone call with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani, Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed Russia's support for “dialogue”.

International analysts and commentators agree that the new spat is in reality a show of force by Riyadh, with the support of the White House, to assert its leadership on the region’s Arab countries.

The goal is to create a common front for a final showdown with Iran, the true goal of this struggle for supremacy in the Arab and Muslim world and the Middle East.

"The Saudis seek to create a united front against Iran, and they need to eliminate any opposition within the (Gulf) coalition," said Farhad Rezaei, research fellow with the Centre for Iranian Studies in Turkey.

In this respect, Doha is being punished because it does not share Saudi Arabia’s "obsession" with Iran.

The latter is closely following developments in order to gain from the crisis between Qatar and its (former) Gulf allies. Tehran has in fact offered Doha its own air and sea space and intends to "increase" its relations with Qatar.

Since the beginning of the crisis, Iraq has kept a neutral attitude, avoiding getting involved in the spat. "We are not part of these differences, we are keeping good relations with all the countries," said Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

The Iraqi leader reiterated that his government wants to control the border area with Syria in coordination with the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Iran.

Lastly, for Israel, there are several "promising" elements in the crisis following Trump's visit to the region.

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to continue its rapprochement with Sunni Arab countries in the name of common interests. And the break between Qatar and other countries in the region could push Qatar to cut financial aid to Hamas.

However, this could increase instability in the Gaza Strip, already burdened by a severe economic crisis and lack of resources, which could trigger a new conflict with Israel with tragic consequences.

See also

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