By Javad Heirannia

Qatar’s rise has irritated Saudis: expert 

June 7, 2017

TEHRAN - A Middle East expert from South Alabama University says Saudi Arabia sees the rapid rise of Qatar as a threat to its hegemony in the Arab world.

“Saudi Arabia has long viewed Qatar's ascendancy as a threat to its hegemonic designs in the Arab world,” Nader Entessar tells the Tehran Times.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia broke diplomatic ties with Qatar and cut off air, sea and land routes to the country. Saudi Arabia cited Doha’s support for Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood as the reasons for its decision. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt also followed Saudi Arabia by cutting ties with Qatar.

However, Entessar says a “public acknowledgment” by Qatar that Iran is an “important regional Muslim player” has made the Saudi regime to make such a decision.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: What has prompted certain Arab states to cut ties with Qatar?

A: Saudi Arabia has long viewed Qatar's ascendancy as a threat to its hegemonic designs in the Arab World. Qatar and Oman are the two Arab states of the Persian Gulf that Saudi Arabia has not been able to completely dominate.  Oman has generally been cautious and even-handed in its regional foreign policy, but Qatar has tried to use its financial muscle to shape its own foreign policy course not only in the region but in the broader Middle East.  This has not always been palatable to the Saudi regime that demands obedience from the smaller regional states.  In other words, Saudi Arabia wants to have the final say in regional affairs, and Qatar's interests do not always mesh with those of the Saudi regime.  Saudi Arabia is a dangerous and destabilizing country with an extremist Wahhabi ideology which is intent on spreading its poisonous ideology and cannot accept others that may stand on its way. Probably the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back was Qatar's public acknowledgment that Iran is an important regional Muslim player, a fact that made the Saudi regime furious.

Q: Will this crisis persist? And will Qatar be ready to abandon its support for Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood?

A: This is not the first time that Saudi Arabia and its allies have shunned Qatar.  The last time it happened, the sides were able to gloss over their differences and re-establish normal relations.  This time, however, it appears that the chasm is much wider.  Even if Qatar is pressured to disavow Hamas or downgrade its relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Saudis may not relent until the Qataris capitulate completely and fall behind the Saudi agenda.  So, the main issue here is Qatar's capitulation to Saudi demands in the anti-Iran coalition.  The issues surrounding Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood are secondary.

Saudi Arabia sees Qatar's ascendancy a threat to its hegemony in the Arab world, South Alabama University professor says

Q: Following these unfolding developments some are talking about a coalition between Iran, Qatar and Oman. What is your analysis of such a view?

A: I think at this time the purported Iran-Qatar-Oman alliance is just hypothetical and will not materialize anytime soon, if ever.  Both Qatar and Oman currently have close ties with the United States.  Of course, if Saudi Arabia becomes an existential threat to either of these countries, then, various scenarios can be envisioned, but we are far from that stage.

Q: Will it be possible that Saudi Arabia seek a coup in Qatar if its demands are not met?

A: There are already indications that the Saudi regime has tried to encourage a coup against Qatar, but there are limitations on how far the Saudis can push this button.  Riyadh itself is sitting on a tinderbox, and attempts to support a coup in Qatar may boomerang against the Saudis themselves.

Q: What strategy should Iran adopt toward this crisis?

A: Iran needs to be cautious and not to get involved in this imbroglio.  So far, Iran's official reaction has been prudent.  Iran should just allow the Saudis to stew in their own juices and let them go from one crisis to the next and thus expose themselves further to the world for their dangerous adventurism and irresponsible foreign policy behavior.

JH/PA 

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