American Herald Tribune | Danny Haiphong: On June 9th, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson commented on the recent conflict between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two of the staunchest allies the US possesses in the region. His comments reflected both the ignorance and irrationality of a US imperial policy driven by the lust for profit and hegemony. Since Tillerson’s comments, Saudi Arabia has moved to establish a blockade against Qatar that has been internationally condemned. The Trump Administration has sided with Saudi Arabia in the conflict. It has hypocritically condemned Qatar for supporting terrorism while attempting to ease tensions between the two countries.
Tillerson has found himself caught in a hard place. The US is unprepared to resolve the dispute. In his address, Tillerson referred to the region as the “Arabian Gulf,” an obvious indication that he knows little about the geography of the region let alone the players involved. Furthermore, the US has economic and military partnerships with both countries, each of which is non-negotiable from the standpoint of the ruling elite. In a gamble, the current Administration has decided to lean on Saudi Arabia to ease its hostility in hopes that the Qatari monarchy will soften in the process.
The rivalry between Qatar and Saudi Arabia is rooted in complex yet interrelated social relations. Both countries possess autocratic superstructures controlled by hereditary monarchs who claim the faith of Islam as their guiding principle. Qatar and Turkey have become close allies through their support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia and much of the Persian Gulf region is dominated by an extreme loyalty to Wahhabism. This fundamentalist ideology is less indigenous to the region than the Muslim Brotherhood but has received equal support from imperial powers seeking to divide and conquer the region in their interests.
In recent years, the struggle between these two countries has been painted as purely philosophical when in fact it is much more significant. Saudi Arabia has long sought to diminish the power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Qatar to dominate the region more effectively. However, access to an abundance of natural gas allows Qatar to assert independent political positions when necessary. Qatar shares a large gas field with Saudi Arabia’s number one enemy: Iran. The off shore North Field supplies Qatar with its natural gas, giving ample room for Doha to navigate the international arena independently of Saudi interference.
Tillerson didn’t mention any of these overarching factors currently shaping tensions between Qatar and the Saudi-led Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC). His statement on June 9th painted Qatar as the sole supplier of terrorism in the region. Tillerson attempted to balance his critique by urging Saudi Arabia to ease its blockade. But US imperialism cannot stop the motive force of history driving the conflict. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia are strategic partners that the US can ill afford to lose.
The similarities between Qatar and Saudi Arabia should not be lost in the conflict. Qatar hosts the US Central Command and recently signed a military agreement with the US worth 12 billion USD. Saudi Arabia receives ample support from the US military and its weapons contractors worth hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia finance jihadist proxies to achieve their own imperial ambitions in partnership with the US and the West. Saudi Arabia and Qatar played an instrumental role in the overthrow of the socialist Libyan government in 2011 and the protracted war in Syria that intensified shortly thereafter.
Yet diligent service to US imperialism is no longer enough to maintain unity among the Persian Gulf puppet states. Qatar understands that stronger ties with Iran can insulate it from the volatile character of the oil capitalist market. Iran’s wealth also allows Qatar to diversify the monarchy’s source of profit. Russia has also strengthened ties with Qatar in recent years as it attempts to curry favor with Muslim Brotherhood-aligned countries and persuade such forces to cease its war on Syria. The same scenario played out with Turkey, whose support for the overthrow of the Syrian state is well-documented. Turkey has grown closer to Russia as the war on Syria winds down. This complex set of relations is lost on the current US Administration.
The Trump Administration’s handling of the inter-imperialist conflict between Qatar and Saudi Arabia is indicative of a larger crisis. US imperialism is rapidly losing control of its political and economic hegemony. Russia, China, Iran and their allies represent an emerging axis of influence that cannot be arrested short of a nuclear war. This axis offers far more desirable outcomes in a period of instability. All advocate for peace and respect for international law. And all want a more stable international order that is friendlier to independent economic development.
The Qatar and Saudi conflict is just another instance where the stupidity and irrationality of US imperial policy is on full display. Syria and Iran are leading the way toward a more independent Middle East despite being the target of endless war. Sanctions and the threat of nuclear war have not deterred other countries from building stronger partnerships with Russia and China. It is the US imperialist system that is decaying to the point of irrelevancy. The future points to a new world order based on the needs of humanity, a development that will surely bring more conflicts like the one afflicting Saudi Arabia and Qatar to the fore.