By Giancarlo Elia Valori*
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain – a small Shiite-majority State governed by the Sunnis – Eastern Libya of Haftar and the “Council” of Cyrenaica, the Maldives, Yemen and the Mauritius have all broken off any political, diplomatic and economic relations with the Qatar Emirate, governed by Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani.
It is not the first time that Saudi Arabia interferes heavily in the internal affairs of the Emirate. In fact, on June 26, 2013, the very strong Saudi pressures forced the then Prime Minister Hamad bin Yassim Al Thani to resign.
The airlines of the aforementioned Sunni nations have also announced they will no longer operate flights to Doha, Qatar’s capital. The ships of the aforementioned countries do no longer dock in the Emirate’s ports and, above all, the small State’s food supplies, 50% of which are shipped by land by Saudi Arabia, are no longer delivered to Doha.
Seven-eight hundred articulated lorries that do not supply food to Qatar from its only land border and remain blocked in Saudi Arabia.
Hence the Emirate cannot hold out for long, and not even Iran, which is very cautious and does not want to create a casus belli right now, has so far shown any interest in replacing Saudi Arabia in preserving Qatar’s food supplies and commercial communications.
If Iran did so, it would automatically agree with Saudi Arabia and other countries that follow the block of Qatar ordered by Saudi Arabia.
It is worth recalling that so far Doha has not been economically affected by the many Middle East tensions. It hosts the Al Jazeera satellite network, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Sheikh al-Qaradawi, who resides in the Emirate after being expelled from Egypt.
Qatar is the largest exporter of natural gas in the world and one of the top ones for oil, which tempts many people and, above all, could become the point of reference for some smaller Sunni producers and for a new economic and extraction negotiation between Sunnis and Shiites.
It should be noted that Al Jazeera was born from the ashes of the BBC Arab section.
In fact, al-Thani studied in Great Britain, as all the Jordanian royal family and it is by no mere coincidence that the Hashemite Kingdom of Joardan has not followed – at least for the time being – the hard line of Saudi Arabia and its allies.
Jordan is aware that it would only stand to lose in a Middle-East bellum omnium contra omnes. Moreover, in the division of the work underlying the new Saudi-US alliance, Jordan focuses on the Iraqi-Syrian axis, while the Sunni central bloc is moving rapidly against Iran.
Furthermore, in one single hour of trading, the Emirate stock market has dropped by 7.6% and Qatar’s Central Bank share prices have fallen by 5.7%.
The Emirate has also raised foreign and domestic loans for a total of 200 billion Us dollars to fund the new infrastructure network that shall be ready within 2022, the year of the Doha World Cup.
There will not even be the Gulf Council Football Cup scheduled for this year.
The Egyptian banks do no longer deal with Qatar’s and the Emirate’s currency is no longer accepted, traded and exchanged in the Sunni countries. The Egyptian entrepreneurs are rapidly disinvesting in Qatar.
As is always the case, the economic war begins before the military war.
In all likelihood, it is the beginning of a real war that will hit Qatar indirectly and the Islamic Republic of Iran directly.
After Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia on May 20, the first US foreign visit of the new US President and the beginning of a historic alliance – much stronger and sounder than the one that has already characterized Saudi and US bilateral relations since the First Gulf War – this act against Qatar is the first action of the “Sunni NATO” proposed by Trump.
The political and propaganda foundation is trite and largely counterfactual: Iran “favours terrorism”.
The pot calling the kettle black. In fact the main States that have been supporting the “sword jihad”, at least since 1996, are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
According to some US sources, Saudi Arabia has spent at least 100 billion US dollars to spread Wahhabism, the Sunni tradition characterizing the Saudi Kingdom.
Just think that – in its 70 years of life – the USSR spent only 7 billion US dollars to spread Soviet Communism abroad.
2,500 Saudis are supposed to be still in Daesh-Isis ranks,
According to Iranian sources, the Iranians who joined Daesh-Isis are only 23 and are only Sunni Kurds.
As clearly shown by the Wikileaks of Hillary Clinton’s private e-mails, everybody knows that Saudi Arabia is a careful and generous funder of the Syrian-Iraqi Caliphate and it is strange that today Iran is blamed instead of Saudi Arabia.
Conversely, it is much more likely that Saudi Arabia, which now experiences a well known depletion of its largest and “oldest” oil wells, wants to immediately settle its accounts with the Iranian competitor.
According to data of March 2017, Iran currently exports as many as 3,37 million barrels a day as against 10,000 barrels per day before the P5 + 1 agreement.
The occasion making the riots between Saudi Arabia and Qatar occur was a note written last May by Emir al-Thani praising Israel and Iran – a note that Qatar’s news agency had defined fake news, as is today customary practice.
Nevertheless, later the Emir of Qatar congratulated Hassan Rouhani, the re-elected Iranian president, in an official phone call.
It was really too much for Saudi Arabia which, however, should know that Qatar and Iran have long been managing – on an equal footing – the largest natural gas field in the world, namely the South Pars-North Dome, even though the Iranian media criticize Qatar for the excessive gas extraction. It should also know that the Iranian Pasdaran leaders have long been collaborating with the Emirate’s intelligence services and that Qatar did not criticized Iran’s interferences during the Shiite uprising in Bahrain in January 2011. Finally, it should also know that the two States have had normal diplomatic relations since the demarcation agreement signed with Shah Pahlavi in 1969.
Therefore it is obvious that all the Gulf countries, including Qatar, are deeply concerned about Iran’s nuclear-conventional rearmament. In fact, all the Gulf Sunni powers, including Qatar, have already invested a total amount of 122 billion US dollars for rearming the region.
Hence realizing only today that the Emirate was a voice from outside, not following the herd of Saudi Arabia’s Sunni-Wahhabi hegemony, is really specious.
Also the United States should be more careful to take action against Qatar.
Al-Thani’s Emirate hosts the US Central Command, which is responsible for all US military operations and part of the intelligence ones for Afghanistan and the whole Middle East.
The US Air Force Command operating against Daesh-Isis is just outside the Emirate’s air base at Al-Udeid.
The United States knows all too well that Qatar has funded some Islamist groups and, above all, the Muslim Brotherhood that, in relation to the current jihad, plays the same role as the role played by the Eastern Communist Parties with regard to the Red Brigades or the Rote Armee Fraktion.
The Emirate, however, was also a very useful channel for the talks between the United States and the Taliban or other Islamist groups, as was the case with the liberation by the “Afghan students”’ of sergeant Bergdahl, who had been captured by the Taliban in 2009 and subsequently released in 2014.
Instead of mediating between Sunnis and Shiites, especially after Iran’s nuclear agreement of July 2014, the United States – and we fear even some of the most servile European allies – is even mounting fully useless tensions with Qatar only to follow their Saudi masters.
Conversely, in their meeting of May 20, the United States and Saudi Arabia drafted a document stating that Iran is the first sponsor of terrorism, which Qatar refused to sign, thus marking its end.
And creating the final casus belli with Iran, if nothing new emerges over the next few days.
An attack on Iran might come from Saudi Arabia itself, backed by Jordan on the sidelines, or, from a nuclear strike from the distant but nuclearized Pakistan, although we cannot rule out a Saudi-American naval block of the Persian Gulf to close communications and, above all, oil exports – as is already the case with Qatar.
Incidentally, a rise in oil price would currently be in the Saudi and US interest, but it would also favour Iran, which could sell its oil barrels to China – as it is already doing – and be paid in yuan, with the same trade logic of the current relations between Russia and China.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has long been giving orders and the United States is obeying them.
The Saudi lobby in the US establishment is much stronger than the Israeli one, that is much less powerful than it is believed.
From Henry Ford I, who translated Hitler’s Mein Kampf, to the Protestant and Puritan merchant banks, which have never hesitated to put obstacles in the way of Jewish finance, rarely avowed anti-Semitism has always been spreading in North American elites.
Colin Powell, the Secretary of State under George W. Bush’s Administration, was familiar with the Saudi Ambassador to Washington – and certainly the two Gulf Wars were better suited to the Saudi that the US strategic goals.
It is worth recalling that the Gulf strategic redesign, after Saddam Hussein’s fall, has really helped only one country, namely Iran.
Hence the United States eliminated a fierce enemy of Iran, with which the Shiites were fighting for ten years, and compressed the Taliban Sunni jihad, another deadly threat to the Shiite Republic of Iran.
Therefore, from now on, for the United States, Islamic terrorism (to which we never refers with its real name, jihad, which is a complex warlike technique, very different from Western war rationale) will be that of Hamas, which is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and is anyway funded by Iran, but also by the Sunni powers, and the Lebanese Hezb’ollah, which is certainly backed by Iran, but also by other Islamic and Sunni countries.
Hence, if the issue is “support to terrorism,” the United States should blame also and above all their Sunni allies, much more than they currently do with Iran and Qatar.
Therefore what would happen to the US Joint Command in the Emirate?
Does the United States think of transferring it, or rather, holding it hostage of Saudi Arabia?
Furthermore, Turkey signed a military alliance treaty with Qatar and pledged support for the Emirate if it were attacked.
And the Fifth US Fleet is stationed in Bahrain, another possible blackmail to the US in case of a Shiite-Sunni clash.
Obviously, considering the situation, an incident may occur at any time, especially between the US fleet and the Pasdaran small boats. There maritime areas are very narrow and Iran closely monitors the region: its large fleet of drones scans and patrols the ground and the movements of the troops.
Do we possibly want Turkey, NATO’s second Armed Force, to declare war on Saudi Arabia, with currently unimaginable consequences for the Alliance and the European economy?
It is really a nightmare to think about what would happen if a new oil crisis broke out in Europe, while there still persists the financial crisis originated in the United States in 2008, which shows no signs of abating.
According to the Financial Times, currently in North America, the burden of private and public debt is at record levels, even higher than those which caused the great financial crisis of 2008.
Indeed, the crisis had started in 2006 with the collapse of Lehman Brothers JP Morgan. Puritans vs. Jews.
American citizens have debt with credit cards to the tune of one trillion US dollars, and an additional trillion debt for student loans and also for buying houses and cars.
As from 2010 to date, US companies have debt amounting to 7.8 trillion US dollars and the aggregate debt – which is the sum of public and private debt – is even equal to 350% of GDP.
Just as the United States came out of the 1929 crisis only with World War II war expenses – and certainly not with the small Keynesian initiatives such as the Tennessee Valley Authority – today it could get out of the debt spiral and regain global strategic prominence only by starting a new great war, having the Middle East at its core.
A region that serves to contain Russia and China, regulate and control their economies and regionalize Europe and its euro, which is bothering the United States, as well as check where all the regional seas of the earth come, apart from Southeast Asia.
Nevertheless, currently the distribution of potentials is no longer that of the 1930s and 1940s and the strategic calculations described above may not provide the solution the United States desire.
About the author:
*Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and member of the Ayan-Holding Board. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France.
This article was published by Modern Diplomacy