Inter Arab rivalry remains the source of geopolitical friction between Qatar and the House of Saudi on the peninsula. What makes it deadly is the fiscal and strategic security environment in which its occurring. Given how weak Riyadh remains after failing to control sliding oil prices, it no longer has patience with smaller Arab nations in its periphery. However, by any historical measure this rift had to be exposed if only to reveal the sustained perfidy Qatar has enjoyed for decades. Just ask the Muslim Brotherhood, or better yet, al-Sisi who continues to straddle a domestic insurgency funded by Qatari’s while accepting Gulf aid.
CENTCOM’s major base is housed in Qatar and for good reason. It enables the American’s an unrivaled ability to monitor traffic between Doha and Tehran. It also permits us access to the ever shifting components of Arab rivalry. The Shia of Bahrain are currently besieged by Riyadh while the Saudi’s wage a brutal, ruthless war in Yemen. But Cairo and Abu Dubai continue to assist both Israeli, Saudi and American regional policy aims. The significance of the rift has yet to play out, but the Saudi’s are deadly serious and aren’t accepting anything short of compliance. Expect Tehran to widen this rift, if only to aggravate Riyadh.
As it stands now, al-Jazeera is reforming itself amid falling oil prices, but it still hosts Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a high profile Islamist providing cover for regimes that seek to overthrow Sunni regional power relations.
Unless the Saudi’s are capable of weaning Qatar off its Iranian natural gas dependency, this is a long fight. The Iranians don’t have refining technology for either crude or liquified natural gas. We should expect Tehran to fight this one out on the plains of Syria and Yemen. As such, they’ve managed to tie down Saudi commitments throughout the region at great cost. No one knows how long Saudi finances can sustain a military commitment in an environment of low oil prices and a non-existent military industrial base.
Team Trump should provide Saudi cover for diplomatic initiatives seeking regional Arab unity, if only to forge a common front against the Shia in Tehran. As of this writing, the Saudi’s are seeking to isolate Qatar, but Iran is redoubling efforts to open new avenues into Doha; the exact opposite Riyadh needs.
If anything, the American’s need to flank Iran upon the plains of Syria and deep into Mesopotamia.
By any standard, we need to escalate.