Qatar and Saudi Arabia: The Final Breakup or Will America Help?
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Vladimir Yevseyev

Head of the Eurasian Integration and Development Department of the SCO Institute of CIS countries

Valdai Discussion Club

On June 5, 2017, six Arab countries — Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia — announced the severance of diplomatic relations with Qatar. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates accused Qatar of supporting the ISIS terrorists (banned in Russia) and of destabilizing the situation inside the Arab states. The Maldives also supported the decision of the Arab states.

The volume of claims of Saudi Arabia against Qatar is much greater than it may seem at first glance. The hidden rivalry between Doha and Riyadh lasted throughout the years, in different countries of the region, Vladimir Yevseev, Head of the Eurasian Integration and Development Department of the SCO Institute of CIS countries, said in an interview with www.valdaiclub.com.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia

For the first time the rivalry between the Saudis and Qataris was most vividly manifested in Egypt, when, after the «Arab Spring», Islamist Mohamed Morsi, the representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, sponsored by Qatar, came to power. He was overthrown by general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who in turn was sponsored by Saudi Arabia. In other words, the expert noted, «Egypt in fact played a special role in the confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which resulted in the victory of Saudi Arabia.» And now Egypt also broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar.

Now the confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is observed in Libya, where ISIS is supported by Qatar. Saudi Arabia has its own clientele there. In Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra is supported by Saudi Arabia, while Qatar secretly supports ISIS there.

Such a hidden confrontation would sooner or later pour out. «I believe that the statement on the Qatari government website about the need to improve relations with Iran only disclosed this confrontation.» Everything just splashed out, because Qatar pursued its own policy, which, as a rule, was not coordinated with Saudi Arabia, the expert said. «This greatly irritated Saudi Arabia, which wanted to be the hegemonic Sunni power in the region.»

Speaking about the seriousness of the consequences of such a confrontation, Vladimir Yevseev noted, that for Saudi Arabia the split among the Persian Gulf states is undesirable. «By taking tough measures, Saudi Arabia is likely to be interested in finding a compromise — for example, that Qatar will take more into account the interests of Saudi Arabia,» the expert said.

The ruling dynasty in Riyadh is not interested in destroying Qatar or somehow isolating it. The Saudis want Qatar to recognize the primacy of Saudi Arabia’s role in the Sunni world. «If Qatar agrees (and it can do it) for reconciliation, it remains nevertheless relative, because Qatar, having huge financial resources and connections with the US, will try to continue its own policy, so, I believe, , further crisis is inevitable «, the expert noted.

On the other hand, Qatar does not have the potential to argue for leadership with Saudi Arabia. Qatar, in principle, can not be a real leader, it is too small for its resources, if not to take into account the financial wealth. «In this regard, I think that reconciliation will happen, but it will be inadequate, and after it the aggravation will begin.»

Qatar and the United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates also fought with Qatar for leadership, and this was partly manifested in Libya. «The UAE supports the Tobruk government, and Qatar supports Islamic radicals, in particular ISIS. «In other words, there was a rivalry between Qatar and the UAE before, but it was less acute than between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and the UAE supported the idea to break off of relations with Qatar, «the expert said.

Role of the USA

The United States is likely to reconcile Qatar with Saudi Arabia. «It is important for the United States that its partners do not quarrel with each other, especially when the common front against Iran is being built. Therefore, the United States can act as an intermediary for a relative settlement of this problem,» the expert concluded.

Valdai Discussion Club