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29 June 2017
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OpinionQatar crisis: origins of instability in Persian Gulf

Qatar crisis has emerged because competition for regional leadership arose between this country and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, none of the regional powers are seeing this competition as something legitimate.

Qatar is a small nation that suddenly turned into a global hub and claims an exclusive position in international relations, also actively influencing the formation of political agenda and internal political processes in the Arab states, including through its powerful media asset Al Jazeera. Qatar has long abandoned its policy of agreeing its foreign and internal interests with those of Saudi Arabia and acts as an independent player.

However, it was only this week that the more or less sustainable order was breached, which had existed for quite a while despite accumulating controversies. To some extent, it was the 45th U.S. President, Donald Trump, who has to some extent triggered the Saudis’ active steps. Besides, there had been complaints about Qatar’s position on the part of other Arab states, primarily Egypt, which has long branded Qatar as a source of instability for the nation. In addition, Qatar is being criticized for its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and other organizations considered as a serious threat. Therefore, countries that are somehow tied to Saudi Arabia have quickly responded to Riyadh’s move to sever diplomatic relations with Doha.

The decision to break diplomatic relations is unprecedented in terms of the demands put out: in fact, Qatar is now being required not only to change its course but also the ruling family. The demands also include the shut-down of Al Jazeera

However, the official pretext for the snap and powerful hit at Qatar was a fake statement, which is absolutely weird in its nature (recently Qatar state news agency issued a statement allegedly made by the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who was falsely reported to have expressed support for the Muslim Brotherhood and offered to make peace with Iran). Qatar has immediately refuted the fake news piece, claiming that its state news agency had been hacked.

It seems that this pretext was just an excuse. I have a feeling that these events have been thoroughly coordinated and planned well in advance. They were obviously intended to ultimately undermine any ability for Qatar to resist. The decision to break diplomatic relations is unprecedented in terms of the demands put out: in fact, Qatar is now being required not only to change its course but also the ruling family. The demands also include the shut-down of Al Jazeera...

However, Qatar will retain contacts with most countries. After all, there is hardly any country who would want to block the supplies of liquefied natural gas, so most countries took a neutral position

At the initial stage, it was a shock for Doha, but today, Qatar has recovered a bit and stated that there were certain "red lines" it would let no one cross. This leads me to suggest that, most likely, Qatar would not go for a compromise. Saudi Arabia has refused U.S. offers to become a mediator in the conflict. Iran and Turkey have already expressed their readiness to support Qatar, while Ankara even decided to deploy troops there...

I think the charges of terrorism support seem ridiculous. For example, Moscow also maintains contacts with Hamas. Obviously, the topic of terrorism in the form in which it arises in the context of Qatar, is a big speculation.

In addition, Saudi Arabia must somehow explain why it is fails to gain any success in its operation in Yemen, so it tries to shift responsibility to Qatar, accusing it of collaboration with Iran. All this is happening within a broader debate about the place of Iran on the Middle East map and its participation in various processes, including those of destabilization, as there are different forces in Iran whose perception of Iran’s place in the world and in the Middle East, as well as the level of confrontation with Saudi Arabia.

However, Qatar will retain contacts with most countries. After all, there is hardly any country who would want to block the supplies of liquefied natural gas, so most countries took a neutral position. They try to show impartiality, knowing that in this situation taking either side will entail significant losses. Therefore, in my opinion, this conflict will simmer and it is unlikely to result in anything more than what we are seeing at the moment.

Ihor Semyvolos is a director at the Center fir Middle East Studies

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