Dr Muhammad Khan
As revealed by Muslim history, the role of Thomas Edward (T.E.) Lawrence, popularly known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ was pivotal in causing a divide between ruling Turks (Ottoman Empire) and the Arabs prior and during World War-I. The analysts however view it differently and consider lack of farsightedness among the Arab world as the real cause of disintegration of Ottoman Empire and downfall of Muslim world. Nevertheless, role of an incompetent Turkish leaders, headed this Muslim Empire in succession was also questionable, hence cannot be ignored. In the post WW-I scenario, the Turks were able to reminisce, regroup and reconstitute their state in the form of modern Turkey, however, the divide in the post-colonial Arab world continued with on minor and ignorable issues with each passing day.
This practice of intra and inter-state divide among Arab world is continuing even today with new vitality and appetite, taking into considerations the desires of its architects. The most recent example is the Qatar-GCC Crisis, with blockade of this tiny Arab monarch by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. As claimed by some western media, the immediate cause of severing diplomatic, political and economic relationship between these states and Qatar was hacking of a Qatari Government’s News and social media site by some GCC state. As a result of this hacking, Emir-e Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, was shown ‘celebrating Iran as an “Islamic power” and praising Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.’
The Washington Post in its July 18, 2017 reports claimed that, unnamed US intelligence officials have claimed that, “UAE was behind a controversial late-May hack of Qatari government news and social media sites that helped trigger the crisis. The hack attributed false quotes”. The Qatari Government denied any such statement from the Emir of Qatar, though Qatar always tried to keep a peaceful neighbourhood and good relationship with Iran, owing to economic reasons. Apart from the Washington Post’s story, there are many other facts, the international analysts highlighted. According to some scholars of international relations, the Saudi-Qatar crisis is not new, but decades old and Qatar’s independent policies and unprecedented natural gas economy has been a factor in this fractured relationship.
In 2014, the Saudi Kingdom, UAE and Bahrain temporarily called back their diplomats from Doha, however, later there was reconciliation and things got normalised. This reconciliation took place at a time, once US was in the process of changing the goal post in the region. The regional power balance was rapidly shifting in the favour of Iran, as a result of Iran-US (P5+1) Nuclear Deal. With a planned change of US interests in Middle East, GCC countries, especially Saudi Arabia felt threatened, thus a unified GCC, ignoring each other’s irrationalities considered the need of hour.
With the change of guards in White House, after January 20, 2017, the traditional, Post 1979 regional order of power balance in Middle East was re-energised. A personality oriented impulsive, pro-Israel and anti-Iran US President, Donald Trump overturned, what all President Obama was in the process of implementation in the Middle East. According US media, though President Trump was critical towards Qatar during his visit of Saudi Arabia, as he tweeted too, but, the factual position is different. As per confidential reports, “The night before Trump’s visit, the former US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, offered a scathing assault on Qatar, criticised its support for ‘Islamists’”.
Robert Gates clearly said in a speech in Washington during a high level conference, that, “Tell Qatar to choose sides or we will change the nature of the relationship, to include downscaling the base”. It is worth mentioned that, all US military operation in Middle East are being operated, controlled and monitored through its Military Base in Doha, Qatar.
The thirteen Saudi demands gyrate around one point, the terrorism and its funding by Qatar. With 11000 US forces in Qatar; US Centcom HQ, the question arises, is really, this country doing all that has been stated in Saudi demands; Sever all ties to “terrorist organisations”, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, al-Qaida and Lebanon’s Hezbollah and also sever ties with Iran besides Shutting down al-Jazeera. These demands stems from what Robert Gates said for Qatar in his speech, prior to Trump’s visit of Riyadh.
Whereas, Trump criticised the Qatar on account of terrorism in his tweet and speech, but tweeted again for reconciliation after Qatar agreed to purchase $12bn (£9.4bn)-worth of 36 F-15 combat fighter in next few days. Besides this deal, US already had over $400 billion deal with Saudi Arabia, which include $110 billion exclusively for the purchase of US arms and ammunition. Who is going to be the target of this dangerous war munitions, Arab world purchases from US, perhaps their brothers, as being practiced.
The Middle Eastern states must re-asses their current and former role. They should work for a harmonised Arab and Muslim world, free from foreign dictates and international agendas. Let there be a case study of foreign sponsored wars in; Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria and intra-state predicaments. In all these wars, Arab world was the biggest loser and illegal occupant, the tiny state of Israel is expanding with each passing day under international safeguards without no regional rival now. Should there exist a far-sightedness among Arab world in particular and Muslims in general?. Let us think over it.
— The writer, Professor of Politics and International Relations, is based in Islamabad.
Dr Muhammad Khan