M. K. Bhadrakumar |
The bloc of four Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia that imposed an embargo against Qatar on June 5 has finally presented their charter of demands. An AP dispatch, here, lists the 13 demands. The most striking demands include Doha reducing ties with Iran, severing relationships with Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, closing a Turkish military base in the country, and shuttering state broadcaster Al Jazeera and several news outlets.
For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.
Interestingly, Qatar is also expected to “consent to monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.” All this means that abject, unconditional capitulation by Qatar only will satisfy its ‘big brothers’ – nothing less. By the way, there is also a timeline to comply – within the next 10 days – or else the demands get ratcheted up.
To my mind, Qatar will have no difficulty to see this is nothing short of a thinly-veiled push for ‘regime change’. The regime’s response can only be that these Arab bigwigs can go and hang themselves.
What happens next? Simply put, the (Sunni) Muslim Middle East is about to split and the historic schism will have profound consequences for regional and international security.
Make no mistake, this latest development also signifies a slap on the face for the Trump administration. Only last Tuesday, US state department warned Saudi Arabia to resolve the standoff without any further delay lest direct US intervention became necessary, doubting the stance taken by Riyadh (which is widely regarded as carrying the imprimatur of the new Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman) and showing broad empathy with Qatar (where the US Central Command is headquartered.) Curiously, the US spokesperson also had alluded to Saudi Arabia’s past involvement in terrorism “whether it’s through terror financing or other means”.
Evidently, Saudi pride has been touched to the quick and Riyadh has taken exception to the US censoring. Without a doubt, these demands are a show of defiance at Washington, too. This is all now going to become a protracted crisis in all likelihood, which will seriously debilitate the US’ regional strategies – unless of course Qatar crawls on its knees — and weaken its war against the ISIS.
To be sure, Turkey will take great exception to the Saudi demand that its so-called military base in Doha should be shut down unceremoniously. President Recep Erdogan will see this demand as an intolerable affront to Ottoman legacy. The VOA reported on Thursday that Turkey has been moving food and troops to Qatar in a big way.
The virus of Arab Spring is hibernating in Qatar and it threatens to become an epidemic someday again, threatening the autocratic regimes in the Middle East.
Quite obviously, the crux of the matter is that the virus of Arab Spring is hibernating in Qatar and it threatens to become an epidemic someday again, threatening the autocratic regimes in the Middle East. Only Turkey, Iran and Israel are immune to the virus of democratic empowerment. Evidently, Al Jazeera and the Muslim Brotherhood are driving the Sheikhs crazy in Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain and threaten the military dictatorship in Egypt.
The credibility of the US on the ‘Arab Street’ is now irreparably damaged. For President Donald Trump all this becomes a big political embarrassment domestically. (Bloomberg) It remains to be seen how the US can afford to sustain its belligerent posturing in Syria and Iraq much longer without any regional allies from the Arab world.
The Trump administration’s containment strategy against Iran seems destined to collapse even before its launch and Trump’s pet project of the ‘Arab NATO’ looks a macabre joke. Can the US ever restore its hegemony over the Muslim Middle East? Doubtful. A big slice of modern history of the western hegemony over Arabs is breaking away and drifting toward the horizon. To be sure, Russians are coming!
M. K. Bhadrakumar has served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings as India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001). He writes extensively in Indian newspapers, Asia Times and the “Indian Punchline”. This piece was first published in Indian Punchline. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.