Can Qatar Situation Be Solved?

As the situation with Qatar and the Saudis continues there seems to be No break in the events that are spiraling….someone has got to step up and take a hold on this situation…it could become ugly at any moment…..

Is there a resolution or is there not?

On Monday 5 June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt cut ties with the Gulf state of Qatar, claiming Doha’s regional policies were fueling extremism and terrorism. Within days, other states severed or downgraded ties and the rift appeared to be widening.

A week earlier, Gulf media—including social media—had erupted amid reports that Qatari Emir, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, made critical remarks against America in a speech, as well as offered support for Iran and backing to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatari officials denied the reports and countered that state media had been hacked. As that crisis quickly turned into a rift with Qatar’s Gulf and Arab neighbors, the need for serious mediation to head off further trouble became obvious.

Source: GCC crisis: How to resolve the diplomatic rift | Brookings Institution

I think all avenues should be explored before this situation turns ugly.

I recently asked the question…..did this have anything to do with the Trump visit?  I think so…..especially the events in Saudi Arabia recently……

Quick, name a candidate favored by President Trump who scored a victory this week. Sure, Karen Handel in Georgia and Ralph Norman in South Carolina come to mind, but the New York Times points out another: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. It wasn’t an election, of course, but he was named the new successor to the throne in his country, and the Times explains how Mohammed has emerged as an important ally of the Trump administration. One sign: The 31-year-old dined at the home of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump on a visit to DC, then returned the favor by hosting them on their visit to Saudi Arabia. Among other things, he favors a hard line against Iran and is leading the Saudi move to punish Qatar for its purported support of terrorism. Other coverage of the prince:

  • Fast rise: Mohammed effectively assumed control of the nation’s economic and defense policies in 2015, the same year his father took the throne, reports MarketWatch. Given that his father is 81, his ascension to crown prince raises the prospect that Saudi Arabia might have a king in the not-too-distant future who would rule for decades.
  • Nickname: He goes by MBS (or MbS), notes the AP in a profile of the “bold and ambitious risk taker.” The Washington Post has different adjectives used by detractors: “reckless and impulsive.”
  • Changing country: The Wall Street Journal assesses, noting the shakeup comes at a crucial point in modern Saudi history. “Low oil prices and mounting demographic pressures are tearing at the kingdom’s fragile social contract, making change even more urgent and political unity at the top a greater priority.” The king’s decision to replace his 57-year-old nephew with his son as successor was seen by close observers as inevitable.
  • Risk for US: That he shares Trump’s hawkish views on Iran might carry a risk for the US, analysts tell Reuters. Expect the Iran-Saudi Arabia hostility to intensify, which could make it more likely for the US to be “dragged deeper into the Sunni-Shi’ite conflict playing out across the Middle East.”
  • Worried: There may be some “quiet muttering” in Saudi Arabia about the the move, but don’t expect a challenge because the king’s decision is absolute, writes the Brookings Institution’s Bruce Riedel at Al-Monitor’s Gulf Pulse. “The longer-term costs of upsetting the legitimacy of the line of succession in the midst of low oil prices and regional tensions are much more worrisome,” he adds. “The young prince is poised to inherit a kingdom under stress at home and abroad.”
  • Oil markets: Traders are taking a leery, wait-and-see approach in regard to the world’s biggest oil-producing nation, reports CNBC. Older generations of rulers have let “seasoned technocrats” run the nation’s oil industry, notes the New York Times, but Mohammed is expected to exert more control.
  • Unique system: Need a primer on Saudi Arabia’s monarchial system? Slate provided one in 2015 when current King Salman took over. Any king must be a male descendant of the first king, Abdulaziz, who died in 1953. That has made for a line of relatively old successors up until now.

Qatar is just an extension of the new US policy for the Middle East…..administered by the Saudis.

A recent article in a pro-Russian site throws water on this blockade….

Speaking to the media in his latest tour to the US, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister insisted that there was no blockade of Qatar, yet he insisted that the latter was not allowed to use their, as also of their allies’, air space and territorial waters. Standing next to the rather reticent US secretary of the state, Rex Tillerson, he said that “Qatar was free to go” and yet the Qatar airways was not allowed to use Saudi air space. Whereas the delicate difference the Saudis seem to be making between their policy and those of other countries, who the former would have wanted to impose identical restrictions on Qatar, is a reflection of Saudia’s limits, it also shows that the House of Saud has rather shot itself in the foot by opening a solo-front against Qatar, a country that nevertheless has a big American military base and has on its side a powerful Arab ally, Turkey. What the whole episode has brought unmistakably to the forefront is that there exist a number of countries within the “Sunni coalition” who do not see eye to eye with Saudi policies and are more comfortable in following rather independent course of action.

Just Who Is Dead?

Recently the Russians claimed to have killed the ISIS leader al-Baghdadi….I wrote about the news piece ……

Source: Death Of A Bad Man – In Saner Thought

I bring this up because the US has issued a report that says they have killed the “Grand Mufti” religious leader of ISIS…..

US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed today that the Islamic State’s Turki al-Bin’ali was killed in a May 31 airstrike in Mayadin, Syria.

Mayadin, which is in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, has become a hub for the so-called caliphate’s senior personnel. The US has targeted several high-profile figures in or near the city this year.

Source: CENTCOM Confirms Islamic State’s “Grand Mufti” Killed in Airstrike | RealClearDefense

Now this could be good news….but the US has killed “leaders” before…one guy in Afghanistan he was killed at least 3 separate times….

If true this could be good news…take out the radicalizing force of the group….but this does not eliminate the group….just one of the “soldiers”.

Since both were supposedly in Syria, around Raqqa, could one be mistaken for the other…..

Just who is dead at this point?

More news from the ISIS front…..

It seems that ISIS is admitting that they are doomed….one of their last acts of violence in the Iraqi city of Mosul was barbaric and unnecessary….

In what American commanders called a crime against the people of Iraq and the country’s prime minister called an admission of defeat, officials say ISIS fighters blew up Mosul’s most iconic mosque Wednesday night as government troops closed in. The Grand al-Nuri Mosque, more than 800 years old, was where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in 2014 during his only public appearance, the BBC reports. ISIS—whose fighters had been seen bringing explosives to the site, according to CNN—claimed the mosque in Mosul’s Old City had been destroyed by American aircraft, but US commanders swiftly denied the claim, saying there had been no strikes in the area.

Aerial photos showed little but rubble remaining at the mosque complex, where the black flag of ISIS had flown since 2014. The destruction of the mosque and its famous minaret “amounts to an official acknowledgement of defeat,” Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement. The Old City is the only part of Mosul still held by ISIS and commanders say the “final chapter” of the offensive to retake the city has begun. The Iraqi military says elite counterterrorism units had fought their way to within 170 feet of the mosque when it was destroyed, Reuters reports.

Why?  What purpose did this serve?

More thoughts on the destruction of this magnificent mosque…..

Source: In Apocalyptic Vandalism, ISIL blows up 800-year-old Nuri Mosque in Mosul | Informed Comment

Qatar Could Be The Trigger

Not many people here in the US care much what is happening in Qatar….right now they are worried about the special election in the 6th District of Georgia or some other major deal that the media is fixated on at this time…..

But if you are a military family you might want to keep an eye on the situation on the Persian Gulf region….what happens there could effect your family in a numerous of ways.

The Persian Gulf is a vital importance to the US and the West…..keeping the Persian Gulf a calm and safe waterway is essential.  But the situation between the Saudis and their allies and Qatar and their allies could change that dynamic at any time.

It began as a squabble between Arab allies, but the standoff between Qatar and its neighbours is threatening to engulf the Horn of Africa. When Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and the Maldives declared at the beginning of June that they were severing diplomatic relations with Qatar it appeared to be of interest mainly to the Arabian Peninsula – and the Gulf in particular.

The Saudis and their allies accused Qatar of backing international terrorism. The US, which has the Al Udeid air base in Qatar, looked askance, but did little more than use its good offices to try to ensure that the war of words did not flare into an open conflict.

Source: Africa: Qatar’s Conflict With Its Neighbours Can Easily Set the Horn of Africa Alight – allAfrica.com

The Middle East is not a stable region no matter what the press wants you to believe….okay it has seldom been very stable but that is neither here nor there….the crisis with the Saudis and Qatar could prove to be a destabilizing force for the region…..

The Qatar-Gulf rift isn’t about fabricated statements or a hacked website, but a battle to control regional order after the Arab uprisings. But will the Gulf destroy itself in the process?

A heavy tension has prevailed over the Gulf since 23 May.

It all appeared to start with the publication of statements attributed to Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, which were quickly proven to be fabricated. The Qatari News Agency website, it turned out, had been hacked.

Although hacking any country’s official news agency is clearly problematic, the bigger issue is the way in which two Arab Gulf states handled the fabricated statements.

Source: The Qatari crisis may destroy what little order remains in the Middle East | Middle East Eye

Like I said…..the admin in power needs to keep this in their sights and work for a calm and equitable termination of the “hostilities”……

Military families should be the first and the loudest to demand such.

After this draft was written more news came to light……seems the State Department is NOT on board with this Qatar bashing anymore…..

The US stance on Saudi Arabia and its allies’ hostility toward Qatar, including an outright blockade, has not been particularly consistent in the last couple of weeks. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert took a more direct position against the blockade today, but that is just raising more questions.

Nauert very directly faulted the Saudis for their move against Qatar, noting neither they nor other nations involved have offered any details to back up their allegations, and suggesting that the blockade was not about Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism, but long-standing grievances among GCC countries.

This is largely in keeping with what you’d figure would be the US position on Qatar, a long-time ally, but runs contrary to President Trump, who personally took credit for the Saudi-led move and has repeatedly parroted Saudi allegations against the Qatari government since then.

(antiwar.com)

Why has this region gotten more unstable since the Trump visit?

Just asking.

No one seems to have a handle on why the Saudis pulled this end run…..in other words…what is the real cause of the situation….

Officially, the narrative on the split among Gulf Arab nations, between Saudi Arabia and the tiny nation of Qatar, has centered around support for terrorism. The reality of the situation is far more nuanced, but that hasn’t stopped President Trump from immediately embracing the Saudi position, attacking the Qatari government for supporting “extremism” in the region.

Yet when we dig deeper into the details underpinning the split between the Saudis and Qatar, we find that the actual rift stems heavily from the Arab Spring, and the Qatari government’s support, both official and unofficial, for groups advocating democratic reform in the Middle East. While the Saudis and the other nations involved in directly in this split are more than comfortable to be overtly hostile to democracy in the Middle East, it is wildly dangerous for the United States to position itself in such a manner.

Source: The Real Reason behind Qatar’s Gulf State Freeze Out | The American Conservative

This situation is fascinating……all the intrigue of a “Game of Thrones”…..how will it end?

Will Iraq Have A Silver Lining?

Many seem to think that the defeat of ISIS in Iraq will bring to an end to this barbaric chapter of the country. (I am not one of them)……

So the question is….with the defeat of ISIS will there be a silver lining?  Will Trump beat his chest with the defeat of ISIS?  What will be the outcome of said defeat?  Who will win and who will lose?

Below is a commentary I read in Reuters…..

Will the defeat of Islamic State in Iraq be a foreign policy victory for Donald Trump? With the fall of Mosul imminent, what happens next?

There will be winners, like the Kurds. There will be losers, like Iraq’s Sunni minority. There will be gains for Iran, which backs the Shi’ite militias drafted to fight Sunni-dominated IS. And there may be a silver lining for the Trump administration – specifically in the form of Kurdish independence and permanent American bases in a Shi’ite-ruled Iraq. But any declaration of “victory” on the part of the United States depends on how the measure of those results is taken.

Start with the Kurds. Their military forces currently control a swath of northern territory, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk. The area has been a functional confederacy since soon after the American invasion of 2003 and in spite of likely opposition from Baghdad, a fully-realized nation-state of Kurdistan seems inevitable. The Kurds certainly think so; they’ll hold an independence referendum on September 25.

Source: Commentary: Trump’s silver lining in Iraq | Reuters

Are We Inching Toward All Out War?

When Russia sent in aircraft to help the Syrians fight against the rebels…..I wrote then that this was leading to a big mistake that could take the US and Russia into a confrontation……

Well the worse case scenario just happened…..

The US military shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter jet Sunday that bombed local forces aligned with the Americans in the fight against ISIS militants, an action that appeared to mark a new escalation of the conflict. The US had not shot down a Syrian regime aircraft before Sunday’s confrontation, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. While the US has said since it began recruiting, training, and advising what it calls moderate Syrian opposition forces to fight ISIS that it would protect them from potential Syrian government retribution, this was the first time it resorted to engaging in air-to-air combat to make good on that promise, the AP reports.

The US-led coalition headquarters in Iraq said in a statement that a US F-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government SU-22 after it dropped bombs near the US partner forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. The shootdown was near Tabqa, a Syrian town in an area that has been a weekslong focus of fighting against ISIS militants by the SDF as they surround the city of Raqqa and attempt to retake it from ISIS. The US military statement said it acted in “collective self-defense” of its partner forces and that the US did not seek a fight with the Syrian government or its Russian supporters. “The coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” the Pentagon said.

The Russians have a retort……

Russia’s defense ministry says it will treat US-led coalition planes in Syria that venture west of the Euphrates River as targets after the US military shot down a Syrian Air Force jet on Sunday, reports the AP. Moscow also suspended a military hotline the two nations have used to coordinate air missions over Syria, reports the New York Times. Russia condemned the US downing of the Syrian government fighter jet as a “military aggression” and demanded a fuller explanation. The US has said the Syrian jet dropped bombs near its partner forces, but Syria said its jet was attacking ISIS militants.

“All flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected west of the Euphrates, will be followed by Russian air defense systems as targets,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. The downing of the warplane—the first time in the conflict that the US has shot down a Syrian jet—came as Iran fired several ballistic missiles at ISIS positions in eastern Syria in retaliation for two attacks by the extremists in Tehran earlier this month that killed 17 people. Areas of northern Syria west of the Euphrates were controlled by ISIS before Syrian government forces captured most of them in recent months

Where will this end?

We know how Trump feels about using force……will that be the answer?

I mentioned the illegality of U.S. actions in Syria in an earlier post, but I wanted to say a bit more on that point. There has never been a Congressional vote authorizing U.S. military operations in Syria against anyone, and there has been scant debate over any of the goals that the U.S. claims to be pursuing there. The U.S. launches attacks inside Syria with no legal authority from the U.N. or Congress, and it strains credulity that any of these operations have anything to do with individual or collective self-defense. The U.S. wages war in Syria simply because it can.

Source: Syria and Our Illegal Acts of War | The American Conservative

Americans need to pay attention before it is too late.

Qatar: The Rest Of The Story

 By now if you are an IR geek then you are scratching your head about the situation in the Persian Gulf region……Qatar and Saudis are having a  moment of dispute…..Trump has weighed in on Saudis side and condemned the Qataris for their support of terrorism…..debate lines (for now) are being drawn…..

After his, Trump, scathing condemnation of Qatar abd then he authorizes a sell of weapons to the very same country……

Defense Secretary James Mattis and his Qatari counterpart, Defense Minister Khalid al-Attiyah have signed a $12 billion arms deal today in Washington, a move made particularly high-profile because of the ongoing blockade imposed on Qatar by its Gulf Arab neighbors.

The agreement is for the purchase of a number of F-15 fighter jets, a sale which the Pentagon says will ensure that Qatar has “state-of-the-art” defensive capabilities. Qatar is the richest nation on the planet in per-capital GDP, but a very small nation to be spending $12 billion on warplanes.

Over the past couple of decades, oil-rich Gulf Arab states have used some of their massive oil revenue to buy US warplanes as sort of prestige pieces to trot out during parades and the like. That tensions are rising between Qatar and the other nations, who have their own large fleets of US warplanes, but this purchase in a totally different context.

(antiwar.com)

So what is the rest of the story?

Ambassador from the United Arab Emirates suggested the US should move their base out of Qatar to “pressure” them. That, it seems, is not under serious consideration from the Pentagon.

So is it about the US base location?  Or about the support for terrorism?

Could it be more geopolitical than we are told?

The intra-Arab rift that has set Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt against Qatar is now in its second week. A feud that seemed to begin as a principled stand against Doha’s support for terrorism—one flash point was Qatar’s recent payment of nearly $1 billion to Iran and to Sunni extremists to liberate a hunting party held captive in Iraq— now appears to be something else.

The diplomatic crisis splitting the Gulf Cooperation Council isn’t really about Sunni extremism, or Qatar’s easy flirtation with Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Thus it has nothing to do with the larger issues shaping American foreign policy and the role of our GCC allies in implementing it. No, it’s just Abu Dhabi waging political warfare against Doha with a specific goal in mind—to get the United States to move its military base from Qatar to the UAE.

Source: The Real Story Behind the Diplomatic Crisis With Qatar | The Weekly Standard

As an IR geek this is just too damn interesting to pass up.

The question now is….will this situation have a possible diplomatic solution?

If it does then the US may well not have anything to do with the solution…..the top US diplomat in Qatar has resigned because of the wonky Trump foreign policy.

Confrontation appears to be in the wind…will calmer heads prevail?

Destabilization of the Persian Gulf

The situation between Qatar and the Saudis is starting to destabilize the Middle East….a region that does not any more help in doing so.

That “Arab NATO” didn’t last very long, did it? The break with Qatar by some of its Arab brethren, including its nearest neighbors, is impressively comprehensive, involving a breach of diplomatic relations and an economic and transportation embargo. It reflects sharp divisions not only within the Arab world but even among the half dozen monarchies that constitute the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The break is a resounding refutation of the notion, which was a leitmotif of President Trump’s recent trip to the region, that significant lines of conflict in the region can all be reduced to some simplistic grand division, such as of evil versus good, Shia versus Sunni, or Iran versus everyone else.

Source: Trump’s Destabilization of the Persian Gulf | The National Interest Blog

Nothing good can come from the Trump admin taking sides in this situation….

A lengthy New York Times article over the weekend touches on a contradiction in the U.S. strategy against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Even as the United States cooperates in a de facto tactical alliance with Iran against ISIS, we’re engaged in a longer-term strategy against Iranian influence in the Middle East. U.S. and Iranian-backed forces have even clashed in battlefield skirmishes in recent weeks.

Picking a fight with an implicit ally is problematic for many reasons. Perhaps most worryingly, such clashes risk sucking U.S. forces deeper into Syria’s civil war.

The article quotes Lebanese scholar Kamel Wazne’s argument that the Trump administration, with encouragement from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, is “turning up the heat against Iran,” and eager to prevent it from establishing “’Shiite crescent’ of influence from Iran to Lebanon” when the Islamic State is defeated. This stance, we’re told, “puts the United States at loggerheads with the pro-government alliance in Syria.”

Source: Placating the Gulf States Distorts Middle East Policy | Cato @ Liberty

The first causality of this incident is America’s top diplomat in Qatar…..

The U.S. ambassador to Qatar reportedly resigned on Tuesday over President Trump’s criticism of the Persian Gulf nation.

CNBC’s John Harwood reported that Ambassador Dana Shell Smith resigned over Trump’s attacks. Harwood cited Trump’s recent comments about Qatar, saying they undermined State Department efforts to ease tensions.

Source: US ambassador to Qatar resigns: report | TheHill

Some see a failure of this Saudi attempt…….

It has been apparent for some time that the war against the Islamic State (IS) group and its forebear al-Qaeda is by no means the only show in town in the Middle East. In fact, for most of the time, the war on terror has been a sideshow.

The attempt to bring Qatar to heel by closing its borders and effectively laying siege to it has shed light on the real forces competing for dominance of the region in the post-Western world in which we live today.

Three regional blocks are vying for control.

Source: Why the campaign against Qatar is doomed | Middle East Eye

This situation is fascinating to observe……just how it plays out is still up in the ether…..

I know it is giving me sleepless nights on the PC and the cel…but it is worth it!