Qatar: The Trump factor

While trying to make sense of the Saudi-led onslaught against Qatar, it would be naïve to ignore the Trump factor. Whatever differences exist between the two neighbours, they have been there for a while and they didn’t stop the two countries from pursuing pragmatic relations. So what brought things to such a head? Is it the climax of an old tribal squabble or a consequence of Trump’s Riyadh visit?

As analysts configure the underlying reasons for the stand-off between the Saudi-camp and Qatar and its implications, one thing is certain: The so-called Saudi coalition is dead before it was even born. At a time when the world is hurtling along at dead-neck speed, our government is still waiting for the ToR’s of the fantasy-coalition to decide where it stands on the mayhem in the Middle East. Surely, we can do better than that.

To my mind, what we are seeing in the Middle East is the imperial formula of divide-and-rule taken to the next level. The mayhem is being deliberately propelled by Uncle Sam to retain its loosening grip on the region. For this task, the US has found an ideal partner in the Saudi royals who have the money to buy a lot of American weapons and at least some Muslim leaders. Just like Uncle Sam, the Saudi royals are arrogant and aggressive. They are also as desperate.

This desperation was palpable at the Riyadh Summit where Trump and Saudi royals bared all to rally the Muslim world against Iran and divide it along sectarian lines. This didn’t go down well with many participants and Qatar was one of them. What makes Qatar’s position even more problematic for the US-Saudi nexus is the fact that it is a member of GCC which was meant to serve as the core of this anti-Iran alliance. So naturally, something had to be done.

Qatar is being painted as the new black sheep by the Saudi royals and their underlings. Just like Iran, Qatar is sponsoring terrorism and destabilising countries in the region, they say. And Trump agrees in his tweets. Given the power dynamics between the US and Saudi royals, it should not take an Einstein to figure out who is following whose cue. Obviously, the Shia-Sunni divide being meticulously engineered by the US-Saudi nexus for decades is not going far enough to destroy us and it is time to add some more poison to the imperial brew.

You might object: What has the US to gain from creating hostility between two countries that are both its allies? Why would the US pit its biggest arms buyer against a neighbour that houses its biggest military base in the region with 10,000 US troops stationed there? Aren’t both Saudi Arabia and Qatar its partners in the business of proxy terrorists? While all that might be true, do you think that the Saudi royals could take such drastic measures without a nod from their patron?

Besides, what has the US to lose by pitting one ally against another? It’s not the first time the US has played such two-faced games. It will only add to its power over both of them, whether it steps in posing as a friendly mediator to bully Qatar or watch the neighbours destroy each other from a distance. Do you think that the Saudi royals and their underlings would go anywhere near the US military base in Qatar?

If anything, the Saudi camp would be facilitated by the US to teach Qatar a lesson for having its own ideas about the future of the region and warming up to multipolar ideas. There’d be more destruction and chaos, but that’s never a problem for the US. In fact, that’s the goal. The US thrives on war and chaos as it brings more relevance to its bulging military muscle. Peace among neighbours and regional inter-connectivity only diminishes its power. Trump has taken on from where Obama left and he is escalating conflicts around the globe. Why wouldn’t he exacerbate differences and create new ones?

In the midst of all this mayhem, the Nawaz government seems to be in a state of paralysis, trying to balance its loyalty for the Saudi royals and the financial rewards it gets in return for that loyalty on the one hand and maintaining a façade of neutrality on the other. Pandering to the sensitivities of the Saudi royals, it has either stayed mum or come up with wishy washy pronouncements that mean nothing. It has refused to take a position and play its role as an important member of the community of Muslim countries.

Turkish President Erdogan is being wiser about the whole thing. He called up Qatar and Saudi Arabia, as well as Kuwait which is trying to mediate between the two. But before that, he called up President Putin of Russia to exchange notes on the emerging situation. Surely, it would take more than just the Muslim ummah to sort out the mess in the Middle East. We must take more than just one leaf out of Erdogan’s book.

If not Russia, we must coordinate our position and strategy with China. As it is, the two multipolar leaders have agreed to act jointly on global issues. We must get involved; not as a member of a nefarious coalition being gathered by the Saudis at the behest of the US but as an important leader of the Muslim world, driven by a desire for peace and cooperation among countries that constitute it. We must team up our efforts with Turkey and so many other Muslim countries that view the US-fuelled Saudi aggressiveness with apprehension.

It would have been nice if the world had transitioned peacefully from a unipolar to multipolar order but recent developments suggest that something completely different is happening. We will have to fight the crumbling empire for our freedom and protect ourselves from its rubble flying in every direction. The US would like to fight a war to retain its blood-soaked hegemony and we must prepare ourselves to fight it.


The writer is a freelance columnist.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be contacted at

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