June 17, 2017

Tiny Qatar, the mouse that roared, has now managed to enrage the larger part of the Arab world and defy the newly-minted Mideast expert, Donald Trump.

This month, an angry alliance of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, with some background support from the puppet regimes of war-torn Libya and Yemen, declared an embargo of Qatar for ‘supporting terrorism.’ They immediately cut off food and goods deliveries to the sandy peninsula on which Qatar sits, boycotted its oil and gas exports, and denied their airspace to Qatar’s airline. There is talk of a US and Arab coup aimed at ‘regime change’ in Qatar.

Veteran Mideast-watchers are used to endless spats between the region’s Arab rulers, but this one was a big deal. It seems that Trump, who recently visited Saudi Arabia, had orchestrated the boycott and isolation of Qatar to show its upstart rulers who was boss. Moreover, his pro-Israeli advisors devised the plan and Trump backed it publicly.

Here was another example of a US leader, with only comic book knowledge of the region, mucking things up royally. The ‘terrorists’ Qatar is accused of supporting were the Muslim Brotherhood, a venerable, moderate movement dedicated to welfare and education. After the Muslim Brotherhood won a democratic election in Egypt, the Saudis and Israel colluded to overthrow it. The result was the US-backed ruthless military dictatorship of ‘Field Marshall’ al-Sisi, which has killed, jailed, and tortured thousands of opponents.

Trump apparently green-lighted the siege of Qatar because it owns the outspoken al-Jazeera TV network, the only really outspoken media group outside of Israel, which the prickly Egyptians and Saudis hate with a burning passion. Qatar’s ruler, Sheik Hamid al-Thani, has been the principal supporter of the besieged Palestinians in Gaza and their political arm, Hamas, which is branded “terrorists’ by the US and Israel.

Qatar has long been friendly with the Afghan resistance movement Taliban, which is also branded ‘terrorists’ by its foes. By contrast, Qatar has been an important backer of Syria’s anti-Assad rebels – who are also supported by the US, Britain, France and Turkey.

While Trump of Arabia was blasting the Qataris as ‘terrorists,’ a word of no meaning whatsoever but beloved of propagandists, the Pentagon’s top brass were tearing their hair out. Qatar just put in a $12 billion order for US F-15 jets, keeping its production lines, that were slated to be scrapped, open and running, creating 60,000 American jobs.

Qatar is home to one of the largest and most important US military bases in the Mideast, al-Udaid, where 10,000 US servicemen are stationed. US warplanes from Udaid fly missions against ISIS insurgents, into Afghanistan, and to Libya. Only the US base at Incerlik, Turkey, rivals al-Udaid. Udaid played a key role in the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. France also runs air operations out of al-Udaid and a base in Abu Dhabi.

Qatar has only 313,000 native-born citizens. Expats comprise 2.3 million. Residents of Qatar joke that it’s the best-run Indian city in Asia.

Indeed, Indians keep the city operating and provide much of its technical cadres. As in all the Gulf States, known to their former British rulers as ‘Trucial States,’ armies of pitifully-paid coolies from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh do the grunt work and are treated as virtual slaves.

Still, Qatar enjoys the world’s highest per capita income. It’s a worthy example of how to put oil money to work properly. When I was a columnist for its leading newspaper, I always marveled at the order and discipline of the kingdom as compared to its neighbors.

Here in a nutshell is what’s happening. Qatar has been the most progressive, modern-thinking Gulf state. Its rulers, the al-Thani family, have tried to support moderate, progressive movements in the Arab world and Afghanistan with money and media support.

Qatar’s efforts at modernizing are being met with furious opposition by the leaders of Mideast reaction – feudal kingdom Saudi Arabia, military dictatorship Egypt and their feudal satraps in the UAE and Bahrain. Trump’s green-lighting this foolish venture shows how poorly informed and dunderheaded he is. The other Gulf States should grow up and stop acting like feuding Bedouins.

Interestingly, Turkey, an old friend of Qatar, just announced more of its troops will go to the sheikdom, where Ankara has a small base. The other war-like actors in this tempest in a teapot will think twice before defying the Turks who have NATO’s second biggest army.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2017

This post is in: Mideast, Qatar, USA

7 Responses to “TRUMP’S QATAR CRISIS”

  1. The truth comes out, albeit a bit, from the CBC, “Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that cut ties to Qatar have issued a steep list of demands to end the crisis, insisting that their Persian Gulf neighbour shutter Al-Jazeera, cut back diplomatic ties to Iran and close down a Turkish military base in Qatar”.

    I wonder who put them up to this?

    • Should have included the balance of the information:

      In a 13-point list — presented to the Qataris by Kuwait, which is helping mediate the crisis — the countries also demand that Qatar sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and with other groups including Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

      According to the list, Qatar must refuse to naturalize citizens from the four countries and expel those currently in Qatar, in what the countries describe as an effort to keep Qatar from meddling in their internal affairs.
      They are also demanding that Qatar hand over all individuals who are wanted by those four countries for terrorism; stop funding any extremist entities that are designated as terrorist groups by the U.S.; and provide detailed information about opposition figures that Qatar has funded, ostensibly in Saudi Arabia and the other nations.
      Though Qatar’s neighbours have focused their grievances on alleged Qatari support for extremism, they have also voiced loud concerns about Qatar’s relationship with Iran, the Shia-led country that is a regional foe for Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-led nations.
      The Iran provisions in the document say Qatar must shut down diplomatic posts in Iran, kick out from Qatar any members of the Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, and only conduct trade and commerce with Iran that complies with U.S. sanctions. Under the 2015 nuclear deal, nuclear-related sanctions on Iran were eased but other sanctions remain in place.
      The demands regarding Al-Jazeera, the Doha-based satellite broadcaster, state that Qatar must also shut down all affiliates. That presumably would mean Qatar would have to close down Al-Jazeera’s English-language affiliate. Qatar’s neighbours accuse Al-Jazeera of fomenting unrest in the region and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

      The Associated Press obtained a copy of the list in Arabic from one of the countries involved in the dispute.

      For a link to the whole article:



  2. Zeeshan7 says:

    Spot on analysis – Qatar is a progressive, affluent country with an enlightened political leadership, unlike it’s neighbouring dictatorial states with oppressive, ineffective governments run by corrupt sheikhs too weighed down by their own excesses to ever be effective at anything. There is long-standing resentment in the ‘Arab street’ against these pot-bellied rulers that have usurped national resources for their own dynasties and cronies; Qatar being their latest folly. The Middle-east is in for an interesting, bumpy upheaval that will see many unexpected changes.

  3. KeninCanada says:

    Eric has it right again. As my political science professor at York U in Toronto always said: nothing important ever happens for just one reason.
    1. Israel weakens or even eliminates Hamas who is supported by Qatar;
    2. Al Jazeera is throttled, even killed off;
    3. As every dictator knows, it’s the moderate voices who must be silenced first, so their own extremest opinions cannot be challenged. Silencing Qatar is the first step towards war with Iran. This is the clearest evidence that it’s coming.

  4. Steve_M. says:

    Very interesting, informative, and entertaining, as usual. One could not find this degree of information about the situation in Qatar in any North American newspaper or on any television network. (Even the NY Times and CNN couldn’t get this right.) Trump is obviously too ill-informed and incompetent to be a real leader for the US. World leaders everywhere must be laughing at him; very few respect him, although they might fear him, because he is volatile. Incidentally, Eric, aren’t you sorry now that you backed Trump initially?

  5. Mike Smith says:

    Is Trump ” dunderheaded ” or just being advised badly by the pro israel factions within the deep state. I have recently wondered if anyone trapped inside the oval office being spoon fed selected cherry picked facts and intelligence designed for agendas belonging to others would fare better… and for that matter whether being steering into various blunders and arraigned crisis’s are not designed to avoid a massive housecleaning. Trump most recent and seemingly pointless flip in Cuban policy seems to point this way to me as well… unless there is some South Florida political angle I am missing? I have read that Lyndon Johnson watched Walter Cronkites Vietnam war coverage as a way to fill in the blanks the reports put in front of him didn’t cover. Since most of the media has only been running vapid hate Trump pieces since the election, is it no wonder he could be so out of touch?

    • KeninCanada says:

      I don’t think Trump is either a dunderhead, or incompetent as Steve above says. This episode has Trumps favourite negotiating strategy all over it – sow confusion by push/pull. Trump may be a narcissistic sociopath, but he’s still smart; they are not mutually exclusive.
      It is well known that the American right has embraced Machiavelli as their patron saint. Using two voices to achieve ends sounds exactly like the sort of thing Machiavelli would do. While the military voice reassures Qatar they will continue to receive support so as to protect the base the USA will need to invade Iran, the political voice directs actions to the three goals I outlined above. BTW, Steve Bannon is a fan of Machiavelli; this has his thumb print right beside the signature line.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.