Mideast diplomatic row shows deep-rooted conflict

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/5 23:53:39

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen and the Maldives cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing the country of supporting terrorism and interfering in internal politics. Disturbances have emerged in the Arabian world once again. The latest incident stemmed from a report that Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani called for improved ties with Iran and criticized some gulf Arab countries. The Qataris denied the report, insisting the Qatar state news agency was hacked. But the explanation was rejected by Saudi Arabia.

As a country with a small population but rich natural gas and oil reserves, Qatar aspires to have a certain influence in the region. It hosts the well-known Al Jazeera TV station and will host the World Cup in 2022.

Qatar has long had a complicated relationship with Saudi Arabia, but kept close ties with Iran and is sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist organization listed by Egypt. Obviously Qatar is somewhat a non-conformist Arabic country.

The incident, all of a sudden, displays some deep-rooted disputes in the Middle East and Arabian world, for example, the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, disapproval toward the Muslim Brotherhood and whether the information and values carried by Al Jazeera are suitable.

The Middle East has repeatedly staged plots in which several countries break off ties with another country collectively. This is a relatively mild eruption of conflict in the region. In contrast, the Syrian civil war has intensified the already brutal sectarian conflicts, and has embroiled Syria  in big powers' contention, which is a much more violent and profound conflict.

Qatar also maintains close relations with the US, and hosts the largest US military base in the Middle East. Washington hopes the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) can stay in a state between unity and disorganization as Washington wants to use the GCC's joint influence to deal with Iran, but the GCC's internal conflicts to control the member states. Therefore, at present, the possibility and role of the US in the conflict are not clear.

From the perspective of culture, the Arabian and Islamic worlds seem homogeneous. However, in politics, they are seriously split. In the Arabian world, it is common to see one country curse another country. Anti-Americanism is widespread in Arabian society, however, most governments spare no effort to please Washington.

While it will be difficult for Qatar to endure against such a broad severing of diplomatic relations, the country is unlikely to completely swing to Iran, which can endanger its survival. This may be an unforgettable lesson for Qatar. Once it compromises, it may be allowed back into the original Middle Eastern geopolitical structure.

Iran is the real political center of the Middle East. Disputes over religious sects, culture, resources, and attitude toward outside powers are all reflected in the ties with Iran. The gap between Sunnis in Arabian society and Iran's Shias leaves room for external powers to become involved in the region. Qatar is only a mirror which reflects this.



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