The Qatar Dilemma

The Qataris thought they were being clever.  They decided some years ago that they could not depend only on their oil, so they diversified and began to develop their economy and modernize and westernize.  But, at the same time they were very conservative in terms of Islam, and wanted to maintain their religious culture.  But, if they modernized and westernized they realized they would become the target of the Islamic terrorists.  So what did they do, with their new-found wealth they bought them off.  This is not a new strategy in the Muslim world, the Saudis were doing this for many years with the PLO and others.  The idea is, we will fund you if you attack others and leave us alone.  It worked for the Saudis until Osama bin Laden came along and couldn’t be bought off.

Then the Saudis realized that they had to fight this kind of Islamic terrorism, that had its sights on taking the prized possessions of Islam, namely Mecca and Medina.  Those who control these two Islamic cities can claim to be the inheritors of Mohammed.  So the Saudis, living in a tenuous situation anyway, found themselves in the midst of a war that they really cannot win, that is without the help of the USA and perhaps also of Israel, threatened by the twin development of the Islamic State (IS) and Shia Iran.

Now the time has run out for the Qataris.  The rest of the Sunni Arab world has cut diplomatic and all other ties with them.  They have been supporting Hamas in Gaza and IS in Syria and Iraq and maintaining good ties with the Shia enemy Iran.  Now they are in real trouble, because although they are wealthy, they have no agriculture of their own and import all their food and much else.  By cutting off their imports and flights from other Sunni Arab States, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, the UAE and Kuwait, this leaves the Qataris totally isolated and in serious trouble.  No-one predicted this.  It stems from Pres. Trump’s challenge to the Arabs to stop supporting terrorism themselves if they want US help to fight terrorism.  At the same time the unexpected terrorist attacks on Iran, that killed 12 and were claimed by IS, has injected  new life into the Sunni-Shia schism. We will see how Qatar reacts and where it will leave the Sunni Arab world and Israel.  At the very least it might herald the end of Hamas dominance in Gaza.