The escalation in the Persian Gulf after the withdrawal of ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain from Doha, just like the ongoing crisis in the GCC, continues. This time around the internal conflict within the GCC ignited the tension among Baghdad Riyadh and Doha.
Iraq accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of numerous destabilization attempts that were aimed at derailing Iraq through the continual support of insurgents. This was the statement made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who also said that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have virtually declared war on Iraq. Nouri al-Maliki didn’t provide any evidence to back up his claims, however, it is a well known fact that armed clashes between Shiite and Sunni Muslims have become commonplace in Iraq today, due to the financial and military support Riyadh and Doha provided to the latter.
At first glance this situation looks rather odd, if one is to consider the fact that Saudi Arabia designated a number of Islamist groups “terrorist organizations”, including the “Muslim Brotherhood”, “Jabhat al-Nusra” and the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”. This basically means that Persian monarchies have decided to stop supporting radical and extremist groups fighting against the government of al-Maliki and al-Assad regime. As for Qatar, it’s seems that this country is going to keep assisting Iraqi armed opposition and Syrian extremists.
It’s a vivid example how a global operation carefully staged by the US in order to redraw the world itself and the regions adjacent to Russia, whether it’s Ukraine, Georgia, Afghanistan or the Middle East, provide completely unexpected results. Washington think tanks assumed that the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in 2011 will consequently lead to the consolidation of Iraqi society and the subsequent normalization of the political agenda. Little did they know.
Americans felt that they were leaving a country that is led by a completely loyal Nouri al-Maliki, but the latter quickly decided to make friends with Tehran. Moreover, according to many Iraqis the harsh regime of Saddam Hussein has been now replaced by a new dictatorial regime of Nouri al-Maliki, whose supporters are obsessed with power and personal enrichment .
The new government suppresses any Sunni protests rather brutally, paying no heed to who’s against them, should it be terrorist groups or resistance units consisting of former officers of Saddam’s army and the Baath . The excessive harshness of Maliki government exacerbates the split in Iraqi society along the ethnic and religious lines, for this reasons armed opposition attacks and terrorist activities are on the rise in Iraq today.
What deepens the crisis even further are the unprecedented corruption rates, while the better part of Iraqi people lives in dreadful social conditions. The money that comes from oil exports are usually stolen or allocated for large-scale arms purchases abroad. As a result, the authority of the central government crumbles, while the dissatisfaction with its actions is growing rapidly among the local population, which has won nothing from the recovery of the pre-war levels of oil extraction. As for Nouri al-Maliki and his followers, all they are after is preserving the occupied positions on the Parliamentary elections that are bound to be organized this spring. As a result, in January – February Baghdad and other Iraqi provinces with predominant Sunni population saw a rise of terrorist activities that were aimed at killing local authorities. The number of attacks increased threefold compared with the same period last year.
Not surprisingly, the protest movement of Iraqi Sunni Arabs was used to their advantage by the the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf, since they represent Salafi Sunni clans. Those monarchies try as hard as they can to prevent the establishment of an axis Baghdad – Tehran — Damascus and the creation of “Shiite arc” that would endanger the positions of the GCC in the region. So Saudi Arabia and Qatar took charge of providing financial and military assistance to various Iraqi armed opposition groups through special services and non-governmental Islamic charities. In fact these two countries managed to turn Iraq into an arena of armed clashes between Sunnis and Shiites within 2-3 months time.
It is clear that such brazen acts of aggression shown by the Arabian monarchies were inspired the United States, since the latter remain faithful to its strategy of establishing “controlled chaos” in the region. However the failure of the joint efforts of Washington, Riyadh, Doha and Ankara that were aimed at overthrowing Assad regime in Damascus and undermining the foundations of al-Maliki regime in Baghdad along with the total inability of the above mentioned states to counter Iran, against the backdrop of the present deep US involvement in Ukrainian affairs, have backfired in a curious way. Americans have simply lost all control over its allies in the region. So Saudi Arabia rulers have waken up to the fact that Islamist groups are threatening the very foundations of the Saudi kingdom. And Riyadh chose to act fast and pay no heed to the United States. First of all Saudis decided to talk some sense into the stubborn Qatar that houses the largest U.S. Air Force base in the Middle East.
The withdrawal of ambassadors from Doha was the first step, allegedly Saudi authorities are ready to announce the closure of the border with Qatar, which leaves the latter with sea and air ways of communicating with the outside world. If this does not help – we can expect a forced change of Qatari emir, that should be replaced by a figure loyal to Saudi Arabia. Clearly in this game Riyadh has two main objectives – to punish those “allies ” in the GCC who are trying to normalize relations with Iran – the main rival of the CSA in the Persian Gulf, and to destroy Islamist radicals who have endanger the safety of the Saudi kingdom. Young extremists are dissatisfied with the decrepit Al Saud dynasty that is holding power in Saudi Arabia. These extremists have learned the means of guerrilla warfare all right in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, now they want to put it to “good use” at home. Saudi intelligence services have finally realized that the next target of Islamist militants may be the Al Saud regime itself, especially when Qataris still support them with enormous financial injections. Washington has no time for Saudi Arabia, with the growing involvement in the Ukrainian crisis .
Today the White House has to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, prevent the collapse of Iraq, keep the tension in the civil war in Syria and apply pressure on Iran with its nuclear program. What that means is that the US means and forces are dived all across the world. Should the current crisis in the Persian Gulf transform into an open military confrontation, the US will find itself in a delicate position given the fact that Saudi Arabia — is the leading supplier of oil to the world market, and Qatar — is a major exporter of natural gas. Should the two let the guns speak, it may lead to a collapse of the entire world energy market. And if Iraq decides to put an end to the Saudi and Qatari interference in its internal affairs, it may be hell to pay for all parties. A statement made by Nuri al-Maliki shouldn’t treated lightly. And then Washington will have to forget about Ukraine and jump back to the region in a desperate attempt to safe its influence. .
That’s the price for the desire to retain the role of the world “policeman”, when the actual strength is gone but ambitions remain the same. There’s still hope that there can be a number of mentally sound analysts in Washington that they can remind President Obama that the days of the inevitable US participation in all the conflicts in the world are over, so it would be better off taking care of its own interests and domestic problems.
Petr Lvov, Doctor of Political Sciences, exclusively for online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.