GCC

Qatar: How the Tables Are Turning in The Gulf

William Franke

Rabat - Amidst harsh sanctions and a long list of demands from its neighbors, Qatar’s ability to thrive under pressure may prove to be problematic for Saudi Arabia.

As Saudi Arabia and its coalition attempt to wait out Qatar, the recent spat in the Gulf continues to become more and more global, and severely against Saudi Arabia's favor.  In the past week alone, two other powers in the region – Iran and Turkey – have made moves to bolster Qatar's defense in the midst of their diplomatic crisis.

Unsurprisingly, Iran has been doing everything in its ability to prevent Qatar from caving in and giving into their neighbors' demands (which ultimately include ending their cordial relationship with Iran altogether). Tehran has kept its pledge to continuously provide food to the Gulf nation, and according to Iranian State Media, has been making regular shipments of 90 to 100 tons of food to counter the effects of a potential food shortage.  In regards to Tehran's aid pledges, Iran Air spokesman Shahrokh Noushabadi has stated, "We will continue deliveries as long as there is demand."

Turkey, on the other hand, has decided to take an even more bold approach to the situation.  In addition to similar food pledges made by Iran, Turkish parliament approved legislation last Wednesday which would substantially increase their military presence in Qatar.

Arrangements for a Turkish military presence in the Gulf have been in the works since 2014 when Ankara set up its military base in Qatar. While the base is currently rather small and has never housed more than 150 military personnel, steps were put in place at the time of the base's conception to eventually escalate the troop count to a much more potent 5,000.

Now with Qatar facing much more hostility than ever, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking the opportunity to flex Ankara's muscles and build up the Turkish military’s capabilities in the region to its intended capacity.

Despite the several Arab states which have severed ties with Qatar, several more have expressed their solidarity with the latter, including Morocco. While Morocco has remained neutral in this dispute, they have been providing aid in order to help relieve pressure off of Qatar.  Furthermore, Morocco has made multiple statements expressing interest in mediating this dispute, and this served as a main talking point during French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Rabat earlier this week.

Additionally, in a move which will no doubt frustrate Riyadh, the United States signed a deal with Qatar which will provide the latter with dozens of F-15 fighter jets – a deal worth nearly 12 billion USD. It is unclear exactly why Washington would make a move that is so openly supportive of Qatar, especially after agreeing to sell over 100 billion USD worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, and in light of President Trump's tweets praising the decisive actions against Doha.

Although, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that Washington is attempting to secure their fruitful partnership with the Gulf nation. After all, Qatar is hosting the largest American military presence in the Middle East at The Al Udeid Air Base, which houses over 10,000 personnel.

And yes, while President Trump did make several tweets praising Saudi Arabia and accusing Qatar of funding terrorism at a “very high level”, The United States has officially taken a position of indifference and is encouraging both parties to settle their feud through dialogue, and for good reason. Washington has large stakes on both sides, and it would be wise for the Americans to try to act as a mediator in this conflict, rather than show favoritism toward one side and risk provoking the other.

While the situation was rather dire for Doha in the beginning, it certainly seems that it is up to Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC to make the next move. Several countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, France, and Russia are pleading the GCC to end this dispute as peacefully as possible, but Saudi Arabia and its allies in this matter have shown no signs of backing down.

However, in vain of the harsh actions we've seen, Qatar has been able to survive without much of a problem. Qatar produces more than enough oil and gas to keep its economy running indefinitely, and with the defense from Turkey and a newly-found steady food supply, Doha has no reason at the present to bow to the whims of Riyadh.

As of now, it seems that the Arab states against Qatar have been left with very few good options. The most likely thing they will do is just to abandon their course of action and seek to mend their relationships with Doha. It may not be next week or next month, but eventually, the status quo will be restored without Qatar having to make any real changes.

The simple fact of the matter is that there is very little to gain for any Arab state by cutting off relationships with such a valuable partner like Qatar – especially if doing so is not having its intended effects. Time is money, and by attempting to wait out Qatar, and ultimately making conditions in the Gulf worse, the rest of the GCC is only making business with themselves and the rest of the world harder for themselves.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent any institution or entity. 

© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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