June 18, 2017

AUTOCRATS VS. DEMOCRATS:

Influence-rich Saudis blow through Sunni unity (Bruce Riedel, June 15, 2017, Al Monitor)

Qatar has long been an irritant and gadfly of the Saudi royal family and other leaders. While suppressing dissent at home, Qatar has encouraged it abroad. It shares an enormous natural gas deposit with Iran and together with Oman has been a voice in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for keeping ties open with Tehran. Saudi Arabia is apparently determined to put Qatar in its place.

Now the GCC is broken into three camps. There is the Saudi-Bahrain-UAE bloc, which has severed ties and closed borders to Doha. Then come outliers Kuwait and Oman, leaving Qatar alone. Although close to Riyadh, Kuwait is trying to mediate what has become the worst split in the history of the GCC.

Iran was quick to offer support for Qatar. Iranian officials are also blaming the Saudis for the Islamic State terrorist attack on Tehran. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has accused the Saudis of supporting Sunni dissidents in the Kurdish, Arab and Baluchi communities against the Iranian government. The Saudis broke off relations with Iran a year ago. Iran is stepping up its support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen, where the Saudis have been bogged down for more than two years. Iranian advisers are helping the Yemenis with their missile strikes. It's a cheap game for Tehran to exploit the Saudi vulnerabilities in Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere.

Turkey is taking the unprecedented step of deploying troops to the defense of Qatar. A century ago, the founder of the modern Saudi state, King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, helped engineer the withdrawal of the Ottoman Empire from the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf, with British assistance. Now his son has precipitated the return of the Turkish army to both, and it's unlikely to leave. [...]

Trump is profoundly unpopular with Muslims around the world. Even in the kingdom, only a handful of Saudi citizens when polled last fall wanted him to be elected. He is still trying to get his Muslim ban enacted in the United States. The Saudi royal family embraced Trump because he is not Barack Obama. He doesn't care about human rights or gender equality, he hates the free press and he loves strong men. His leadership means no more criticism of Saudi support for sectarian violence against Shiites.

Posted by at June 18, 2017 6:05 PM

  

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