News Analysis |
Bahrain has ordered Qatari troops serving with a coalition fighting the Islamic State group to leave its territory. It comes after Bahrain accused Qatar of interfering in its internal affairs, an allegation which Qatar vehemently denied.
The news comes as the Gulf faces the biggest diplomatic crisis in recent years, with regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia and some of its allies suspending ties with gas-rich Qatar over accusations the emirate bankrolled Islamist extremists and had ties to rival Iran.
According to reports, the troops, who are part of the United States Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), headquartered in Bahrain, were asked by Manama to leave their base.
The latest spate of violence started during the civil war in Syria which began in 2011. Since then, more than 3,00,000 people have been killed and millions more have been displaced.
“The Bahrainis told the US general in command of the base that Qatari soldiers must leave,” the report revealed. “They are still in the base but likely to leave within the next two days.”
NAVCENT is part of the US Central Command whose area of operation includes the Middle East and Asia.
The US has tried to end this diplomatic crisis but its offer of mediation have so far proved futile. President Trump seems to have sided with Saudi Arabia against Qatar.
Who will benefit from the latest diplomatic crisis in Qatar?
The Middle East, since the US invasion of Iraq, has been engulfed in insurgencies, civil wars, democratic revolutions, and terrorism. The rise of non-state actors like ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliated groups in the region have exacerbated the violence in the region.
The latest spate of violence started during the civil war in Syria which began in 2011. Since then, more than 3,00,000 people have been killed and millions more have been displaced. The civil war has failed to achieve its desired result of removing President Assad from power but it has led to divisions among the Middle Eastern countries along sectarian lines.
In the post-2011 Middle East, alliances have emerged on the basis of religious affiliations with Saudi Arabia leading the Sunni-Wahhabi States and Iran leading the Shiite alliance. These two blocks have shunned the hopes of peaceful and stable the Middle East since both of these blocks are now engaged in a brutal proxy war in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
Qatar, which tried to strike a balance between the two blocks has become the latest casualty in the Saudi-Iranian rivalry. Recently, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies accused Qatar of supporting groups in Syria which the former considered as terrorist. Qatar is also accused of supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen and cooperating with Iran.
Pakistan seems to have acted smartly in the Middle Eastern crisis. It refused to take sides in the latest crisis.
Diplomatic ties with Qatar have been cut and blockade of its air and sea routes has been imposed which is unique since it is the first such peacetime incident.
The latest Gulf crisis is benefiting no one. It has increased the differences between Iran and the GCC. The US, which struck a nuclear deal with Iran is threatening to isolate Iran under its new flamboyant Republican President Trump. This fiasco seems to have distracted all the major Middle Eastern players from the real issues in the Middle East which include finding an end to the violence in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen in addition to fighting the menace of terrorism in the region.
Pakistan: A smart player or a helpless one
Amazingly, Pakistan seems to have acted smartly in the Middle Eastern crisis. It refused to take sides in the latest crisis. The parliament of Pakistan decided not to contribute troops to the military alliance formed to fight terrorism in the region, although the alliance seems more as anti-Iran than anything else. Pakistan did send, Gen. Raheel Shareef as the head of the military alliance but this appointment is more symbolic in nature than having any real impact on the ground. Pakistan has also offered to play a role of mediator to end the latest Gulf crisis between Saudi Arabia-UAE and Qatar.
However, the neutral stance of Pakistan has also impacted its relations with GCC countries particularly with Saudi Arabia which expressed its distaste over Pakistani stance on the military alliance. Pakistan could not afford to hamper relations with Iran by siding with Saudi Arabia due to various geopolitical and economic factors. Pakistan is a home to millions of Shiite Muslims over whom Iran enjoys great ideological influence. Moreover, it could not infuriate Iran for fearing of it siding with India which could hamper the CPEC project.
Pakistan has many geostrategic, political, and economic restrictions which have forced it to take a rational stance of neutrality in the Middle Eastern crisis. It can be assumed that it has acted smartly in the Middle Eastern crisis rather than helplessly.