Jul 16,2017 – JORDAN TIMES – Amer Sabaileh
A few months ago when Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries took a stand against Qatar, it was clear that the crisis is not a short-term one. The countries involved have a long history of conflict with Qatar, including recent attempts to influence their policies.
While it is unlikely to be a short-term crisis, there is little suggestion of the potential for military escalation. Rather, it is more likely the next steps will be an escalation of economic and jurisdictional measures against Qatar.
In recent weeks, the Qatari foreign minister visited major capital cities to speak with his counterparts who could influence international decision-making on the issue.
The strategy is to demonstrate the Qatari willingness to negotiate on the key issues and to defend Doha against accusations of sponsoring and supporting terrorism.
Likely to have been under discussion as well is the potential deepening of Qatari relations with Iran, which goes against the demands of the Gulf states.
It is distinctly possible that this is already moving as indicated by events in Syria. Some believe that the recent progress of the Syrian Army and its allies on the ground are a result of the new Qatari position on Iran.
While relations with Iran are a useful political leverage point for Doha, it could easily backfire.
Qatar’s strategy is heavily reliant on the US to step in to defend it; deeper relations with Iran are unlikely to lead down a path where the US protects Doha.
Qatar has signed a memorandum of understanding with the US to support the fight against terrorism; the current US administration may well interpret that to include Iran.
The US appears to be eager to contain the Gulf crisis, despite the fact that the Trump administration’s containment plan for Iran is based on increasing pressure and isolation.
As such, it will be interesting to watch how Doha pivots back to the US and distances itself from Iran in order to resolve the Gulf crisis.
Qatar’s other ally, Turkey, is also struggling both in Syria and within its own borders.
The US-Kurdish alliance is causing issues enough for the Turkish president to publicly criticise its establishment quite bluntly, but to no avail.
Internal Turkish politics is heating up, with increased support for opposition parties, internal fragmentation and mounting security concerns.
What we are seeing is that Qatar’s two strongest supporters in the Gulf crisis in Iran and Turkey are unlikely to be able to maintain their positions in the longer term.
Qatar’s best option is to align itself with the US as an impartial broker; however, that will likely require Doha to accept a large part of the demands from its Gulf neighbours.