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Mounting tensions in the Gulf?

Akhbar al-Khaleej, UAE, May 29

Just a week after Gulf leaders convened in Riyadh for the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in an unprecedented display of unity and solidarity, a sudden change of heart took place this week, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt launch a barrage of media attacks on Qatar and its leader, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. This is curious timing. The four states, despite facing internal skirmishes, have been working hard to mend the relationships between them, particularly in light of US President Donald Trump’s recent visit to the region. What is even more curious is the fact that some of these states are known for their strict governmental control over the media, so the attacks have undoubtedly come at the orders of senior state officials, and perhaps even the state leaders themselves. What is driving this diplomatic escalation? My best guess is that this has to do with the summit recently held in Saudi Arabia. Just a week ago, President Trump stood at to podium in Riyadh and spoke against extremism in the region. The President explicitly mentioned three organizations: the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, and the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement, Hamas. This was not coincidental. It seems as if the Jewish lobby in the US is growing increasingly concerned with Qatar’s support of the latter movement, which Doha views as a legitimate anti-occupation organization. The Jewish lobby, however, disagrees with this ruling, and has been placing enormous pressure on the White House to reevaluate the United States’ alliance with Qatar. Part of the understandings that President Trump reached with his allies in the Gulf, I would assume, revolve around taming Qatar and pressuring it to cease its support for Hamas. This provides the White House with some breathing room, while assuaging the Israelis and their lobby in the US. It does not mean that the tensions we are witnessing are not real. It simply means that they are the dictate of foreign powers, and not necessarily a natural development in the region. – Khaled Mutaeri

 

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