M. K. Bhadrakumar |
Do not be surprised if Arab politics reminds you of Meryl Streep feuding with Dustin Hoffman in the 1979 American drama film Kramer vs. Kramer. The Sheikhs can tear each other apart with harsh words but eventually veer around to a patch-up – something like Joanna (Streep) turning at the elevator and asking her former husband ‘How do I look’ – and Ted (Hoffman) answering ‘You look terrific.’
King Salman of Saudi Arabia is about to step into the elevator. He has no option but to backtrack unobtrusively from the eye-ball-to-eyeball with Qatar. The confrontation has no future, with Qatar signing a $12 billion arms deal with the US on June 14 and the US and Qatari navies promptly beginning exercises in the Persian Gulf the very next day. The naval maneuvers make a mockery of the “blockade” of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain.
If the allegation has any basis, the UAE apparently spent a whopping $3 billion to finance an attempt to overthrow Erdogan and, from all indications, physically eliminate him.
“The $12bn sale will give Qatar a state-of-the-art capability and increase security cooperation and interoperability between the United States and Qatar,” Pentagon said with a straight face. Bloomberg reported that it could involve as many as 36 warplanes. On June 13, at the US Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the 2018 Defence Budget, Defence Secretary James Mattis was asked about the contradictory posturings by the Trump administration. President Donald Trump had nailed Qatar as a state sponsoring terrorism, while state secretary Rex Tillerson called for restraint and easing of sanctions against Qatar. Mattis (who negotiated the arms deal) calmly replied that both points of view are valid.
Indeed, if the Americans manage to string the Gulf Arab Sheikhs with such delectable ease, who is responsible for it? Surely, the latter. Thus, Turkey, which offers protection to the regime in Doha, disclosed on Monday certain stunning details regarding the failed coup CIA-sponsored attempt against President Recep Erdogan last July. The pro-government Sabah newspaper published from Istanbul quoted Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as saying, “We know that a country provided $3 billion in financial support for the coup attempt in Turkey and exerted efforts to topple the government in illegal ways. On top of that, it is a Muslim country.” Foreign Ministry sources in Ankara separately named the UAE.
What motivates the UAE to seek the overthrow of established governments in Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar? The short answer is – Muslim Brotherhood.
If the allegation has any basis, the UAE apparently spent a whopping $3 billion to finance an attempt to overthrow Erdogan and, from all indications, physically eliminate him. Turkey’s motivation in declassifying the information is understandable because the UAE is back at the game again – in Qatar. The UAE (and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) had played a significant role in engineering the military coup against Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi in 2013. Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait had pledged at the table an aid package for the Egyptian military dictatorship, not less than $12 billion. The UAE’s own share was $3 billion. (Atlantic)
What motivates the UAE to seek the overthrow of established governments in Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar? The short answer is – Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood, while Erdogan and Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani are great patrons of the Brotherhood. While Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) draws inspiration from that movement, Doha extends refuge and hospitality to hounded Brothers. Naturally, Turkey and Qatar decided on entering into a military pact on mutual security.
The US is nervous that Qatar may shift closer to Turkey and Iran in a realignment that could phenomenally change the Middle East politics.
The existential fear that the UAE and Saudi Arabia harbor toward Muslim Brotherhood is that it is a neighborhood movement with grassroots support, which is willing to make a bid for power through ballot box on the basis of its mass appeal. Therefore, it is improbable that the two autocratic Gulf Arab oligarchies can ever give up the fight against the Brothers – no matter the costs – ‘on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields, in the streets, in the hills….’
Erdogan must be a worried man that the bell tolling for Qatar also tolls for him. Equally, Trumpspeak aside, US too is nervous that Qatar may shift closer to Turkey and Iran (which is supportive of the ‘Arab Spring’, too) in a realignment that could phenomenally change the Middle East politics.
The contradiction is indeed of a fundamental character and cannot be reconciled in a near term. What the region needs is a “democratic 21st century Nasser” who is able to straddle the divide.
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.