by Ghassan Kadi

The sudden, unprovoked and coordinated outrage of Middle East regional powers, as well as international powers, against Qatar is something akin to a story in “Fables de La Fontaine”. With a bit of a twist, it resembles the story of “The Animals Seized with the Plague”.

For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with this fable, the animals convened to find out why they were struck by the plague. One by one, the big predators made their confessions about their hunting, killing and ravaging adventures, but they were forgiven and vindicated. Then a donkey admitted that he once a mouthful of grass from someone’s pasture, and for this act, the donkey was named as THE culprit, killed and sacrificed to save the rest of the animals from the wrath of the gods.

Qatar is not as innocent as La Fontaine’s donkey, but who are those who are passing judgement?

The Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman (MBS) clearly has his eyes on the ailing Saudi economy and stature. An invasion and takeover of Qatar can put Saudi Arabia in the position of being on par with Russia in terms of having the world’s largest reserves of both petrol and gas combined, and not petrol alone. This is a badly needed stripe on the shoulder that MBS can use, and this on its own is a very lucrative prospect. But has Trump given him the go ahead to march his troops into Qatar? If the crisis keeps escalating at its current rate, we shall find out the answer to this question in the not too distant future.

Let us get this straight. The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is not ideological. Even though Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and helped former Egyptian MB President Mursi and continues to support and fund the now outlawed MB within Egypt (and Saudi Arabia), in principle, the ideology of the MB is not drastically different from the Saudi Wahhabi version.

And at the time that Qatar’s Al-Jazeera was allowing Muslim clerics like Egyptian-born Qardawi to call for Jihadi recruits to go and fight in Syria, Saudi Arabia was allowing Syrian-born Ar’our alongside many other Saudi clerics to use Saudi televised media to do just the same. As a matter of fact, many Saudi clerics have used Al-Jazeera to vent their hatred for Syria and for canvassing recruitments.

What is interesting in all of this is the following current amazing political mosaic:

  1. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are both pushing for different forms of Muslim fundamentalism, but they are emerging as mortal enemies.
  2. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have both supported and sponsored terrorism that became known as Islamic terrorism, despite the Saudi accusation that the sponsorship was only Qatar-based.
  3. Qatar is principally one of the nations that form the Saudi-led anti-Yemen coalition.
  4. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are just a tad away from engaging in a war, but they have united views about being enemies of Syria.
  5. Erdogan is a friend of Saudi Arabia, but a supporter of Qatar and of the Egyptian MB.
  6. Qatar is a dedicated enemy of Syria, but accused to be close to Iran, Syria’s friend.
  7. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are both allies of the USA and the USA has a base in Qatar that it used as a launch pad against Iraq.
  8. Trump, who has a base in Qatar, now says that Qatar has been sponsoring terrorism.
  9. Hamas supports the MB and remains close to Qatar, even though under MB President Mursi, the Egyptian siege of Gaza was intensified.

One could add more to that interesting mosaic, especially if other players are to be included in the equation. Such is the “logic” of the Middle East, but the West is not any better or more rational; allegedly fighting terrorism with one hand and feeding it with the other.

What is most ominous in the sudden and virtually global anti-Qatar stance is the stark similarity with previous situations. Gaddafi and Assad were never really regarded as friends of the West, but there was a time when Gaddafi was accepted and established good relationships with Britain, France and Italy before they suddenly joined the anti-Gaddafi tsunami and decided to join the plot. Likewise, Assad was accepted by the West, and has in fact partaken in international events like the funeral of the late Pope John Paul II. He was also on very good terms with Erdogan before Erdogan decided to stab him in the back. And how can we mention Assad and Gaddafi without remembering Saddam and Mubarak?

What is different in those scenarios was that the fate of Assad was sealed by his people, and the support he received from his people and friends of Syria, but what is the likelihood of the Qatari Royals receiving such a support from their popular base? In any event, the whole population of Qatar is in the vicinity of a quarter million, they never had any clout in the past, and they won’t have any in the future.

What is also of interest is that long before the discovery of oil and gas in the region, “states” like Qatar and Bahrain depended mainly on the pearl trade, and a quick search on any Internet search engine reveals a long history of tribal wars and rivalries between them as well as with Al Saud during the early days of the birth of Saudi Arabia.

Who is fighting who in the Middle East and for what reason exactly is not a question that many political leaders want to answer. The bottom line here is that as the world is getting more materialistic and audacious, principles and ideologies grow increasingly marginalized, and the struggle for power is becoming more transparent. Admittedly, this struggle is as ancient as ancient Rome and beyond, but today’s society is meant to be developed and civilised. Humanity has formed the United Nations with international law to supposedly be the watchdog for the activities of nations who breach its charter on human rights and world peace issues, but it has sadly become a ploy in the hands of big powers.

Ancient Romans did what was good for Rome, without having to apologize about it. Trump has gone the full circle in his “America first” doctrine, but he shamelessly declares war on terror from the financial capital of terror; Riyadh.

Qatar is definitely no angel. The small young state which is much closer to being a big corporation, an outpost more than being a nation, seems to have run its course towards self-destruction. It played big, and with fire, and the fire it lit is now turning back to burn it.

But neither the whole of Saudi Arabia nor the young ambitious prince MBS seem to be learning. With all the upheaval around them, the rise and fall of Arab leaders, the conspiracies they have played with their American partners against other Arab and Muslim leaders, the Saudis are totally oblivious to the scenario of an impending premonition that they themselves could be next when their chips are down. If anything, it is a question of time.

Fact remains that Qatar and its former allies and growing number of enemies are like Sinbad’s infamous forty thieves; they are all partners in crime. And just like the former “Anti-Syrian Cocktail” was predicted to crumble and crash, and it did, so will the forty thieves. Even FIFA seems now to be reconsidering its decision for Qatar to host the World Cup in 2020! Since when, we must ask, did FIFA respond in such manner to political squabbles and Saudi statements and accusations of other states? And if FIFA’s concern is principled, then why didn’t FIFA act responsibly when rumours of corruption were raised regarding the manner in which Qatar won the World Cup bid?

But unlike the few green bottles standing on the wall that fall one after another, the forty thieves can sometimes rebirth themselves and wear a different hat, or in this case a different Koufia and headband, but just like La Fontaine’s donkey, there is nothing that Qatar can do to get off the hook. A decision seems to have already been made that the royal Qatari headband will soon bite the dust, but not many tears will be shed.

The Essential Saker: from the trenches of the emerging multipolar world