Shortly after imposing a naval blockade in the immediate aftermath of the Qatar diplomatic crisis, one which left the small Gulf nation not only politically isolated and with severed ties to its neighbors but potentially locked out of maritime trade and crippling its oil and LNG exports, on Tuesday SkyNews Arabia reported that Saudi Arabia has given Qatar a 24 hours ultimatum, starting tonight, to fulfill 10 conditions that have been conveyed to Kuwait, which is currently involved in the role of a mediator between Saudi and Qatar.
Three potential motives behind the tension between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours
Note from the author: Events have happened faster than I imagined when I wrote this last week. Six Arab states have now cut diplomatic relations with Qatar. Its land borders with Saudi Arabia are closed and 85 percent of its imports are cut. A full siege is in place. This is no longer a “spat”. It is looking as if the object of this pre-planned campaign is regime change in Qatar.
What specifically then stirred this hornet’s nest?
Motive one: Finish the job
Motive two: Buying insurance
The second motive is a personal one. By launching an attack on Qatar, they aim not only to silence external opposition, but internal forces as well. In Bin Salman’s case, silencing opposition within the royal household is a crucial step he has to make, before he can displace his elder cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, as crown prince.
By hitching themselves so firmly to Trump’s wagon, Bin Salman and Bin Zayed think they have bought themselves an insurance policy.
Turkey, too, is still around as a rival regional power centre although for a few hours on 15 last year, it looked as if it was not. The same Saudi and Emirati-controlled media outlets which targeted Qatar this year crowed with delight when it looked as if Erdogan had been deposed by a military coup.
So it would be logical to assume this is their motivation now for wanting to see the emir of Qatar toppled: he is the man who funded the popular revolutions that Saudis and the Emiratis are still fighting.
Motive three: Disappearing act
The third motive for attacking Qatar goes further than that. They could actually want to see Qatar itself disappear as an independent state. This sounds, and is, deranged in the century we are living in. For one thing, Qatar houses the forward command base of US Central Command. That may explain why the UAE is campaigning hard in Washington to move the US base out of Qatar.
Bin Salman and Bin Zayed are stuck firmly in the colonial era. They are tribal rulers, paying for protection, and draining the region of resources. They can plot, and they can topple, but they cannot govern and they cannot stabilise. They do not have a vision for the region. They have eyes only for themselves. That is why I remain optimistic that out of the havoc they are wreaking, a new, autonomous and modern Arabia will, eventually, emerge.