July 5, 2017

The Gulf Cooperation Council is a US military alliance that has hopes of becoming a Middle Eastern NATO, but more recently, it has the appearance of a fraternity ridding themselves of a repetitiously misbehaving member. Ever since President Trump left Riyadh with an intense message of solidarity and a full measure of support from countries of Sunni Muslim leadership, there has been an implosion of the U.S. regional defense strategy core alliance. The Gulf Cooperation Council is shambled into dismay, with three of the six members cutting ties with Qatar. In response, Saudi Arabia sealed the vitally important land border to Qatar.

Qatar has known to be the outsider within the alliance of the Gulf Cooperation Council and its’ neighbors have been suspicious of them for quite some time. Both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have territorial claims in Qatar, and Qatar conceded to  Saudi Arabia, relinquishing some of its’ policies to the country back in the 1970s- that was until Qatar started asserting itself. Currently, Iran leans more towards what Saudi Arabia is comfortable with, with both Iran and Qatar sharing a huge natural gas field. It has built a stronger bond with the brotherhood of Muslims than the Emirates of the United Arab desire to see. Accusations of al-Queda affiliate support in Syria have been claimed against Qatar. Al Jazeera is an extremely influential televisions station, has been branded by several Gulf leaders to be an active national security threat, and by those remaining as a relentless, plaguing controvert.

Qatar’s Neighbors Respond

Neighbors of Qatar respond by taking steps to reign in the initiation. In the past 20 years, there have been two occasions, the most recent in 2014, where ambassadors have had their relations suspended after a recall. However, this instance might have its own differentiations. It seems as if there was a purposeful and thoroughly planned attempt to get Qatar on track, an effort that required significant strategy and camouflage.

Qatar’s Attack

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracy hosted a conference on May 23, in Washington, concerning Qatar’s connections with the Muslim Brotherhood.  Attendees included highly influential officers such as former Assistant Secretary of Defense Mary Beth Long and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Performing as a panelist, they detailed a significant account of grievances against Qatar, which include their support for Islamic fighters in Syria known as Hamas, along with the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as its cooperation with providing Taliban members with refuge. What could be considered the most theatrical moment of the conference was the assertion from Gates, suggesting that the United States should think about relocating the base in Qatar to another location.

The Underlying Threats

Exposed emails from the Emirati ambassador to Washington unveiled that the United Arab Emirates were actively attempting to persuade Gates, and had the pleasure of reading over his comments prior to the conducting of the conference. The intricate involvement of the Emirati was not clearly visible to the majority in attendance of the conference. There is a strong possibility that the Emirati ambassador, an efficient and charming politician in his country, may have exceeded his expected level of cleverness. He might have crossed the line from harmless persuader to puppet master, similar to that of much like former Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar, along with merely every other American ambassador to Pakistan.

Later on that day, the Qatar News Agency reported that during a speech addressing military graduates, the Emir of Qatar called for rapprochement with Israel and Iran, while criticizing its neighbors. Immediately, Qatar asserted that its news websites were hacked. In-person observers of the ceremony confirmed that the emir did not make any comments during the graduation. Confirmation was later delivered, confirming that hackers traced back to Russia had indeed posted the fraudulent speech on the Qatari sovereign media portal.

Independent of the facts, the message aligned with the long-standing complaints from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Qatar. Qatar’s reaction to the false address was rapid and almost immediate, blocking their media outlets. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates all ejected their ambassadors from Doha. Adding more fuel to the fire, they also shut down some of the air travel in the region. Then, to make matters worse, the closure of the land border shared between Qatar and Saudi leaders announced Saudi Arabia, eliminating a significant source of food supply for Qatar. This is a highly notable exchange of actions within an area of free trade.

What It Is That Qatar’s Neighbors Are Interested In?

While all the facts are not yet clear, it appears as if the purpose of the attack has dual sides. On one hand, Qatar’s Gulf Arab neighbors desire to terminate their independent foreign policy. They are in hopes that Qatar ends up like Bahrain- in a lock step with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. On the other hand, the Emirates are attempting to persuade the United States to relocate their base in Qatar, moving it into Emirati territory. All are sure that this move would constitute a valuable addition to the security crown of Abu Dhabi’s

The United States Is Important To Qatar

Those who favor Qatar have consistently noted the US military’s massive headquarters, along with other infrastructure within the borders of the country. At the time that Saudi Arabia initiated their persuasive attempts to remove the U.S. Central Command forward headquarters and Air Operations Command Center from the region of the Prince Sultan Air Base in 2003, Qatar opened its doors to the headquarters for the use of the Al-Udeid Airbase.

Al-Udeid is the biggest United States airbase overseas, equipped with two active runways with the capabilities of handling every type of aircraft that is owned by the United States. Additionally, the base is where the headquarters of U.S. Special Operations Central Command (SOCCENT) and U.S. Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) are located.  The advanced command and control infrastructure complexes were largely funded by Qatar when constructed more than 14 years ago.

Base Relocation

Relocating the complex to an entirely new country is not cost effective, even though money is not the only object of concern.

A portion of the infrastructure must be built by Americans and using American currency. A significant concern, more than the construction of the facilities, is the fact that the political license to send off forces is not only in the interest of protecting the hosting country. They are also employed to empower a number of United States missions. American bases situated in Germany are utilized to cover deployments to Africa that have nothing to do with NATO’s agenda. American operations in Afghanistan and battles against ISIL depend heavily on the use of the bases in the Gulf, not to mention the numerous missions conducted in the Indian Ocean.

Progressing America’s Goals

There are a collection of differences in policy between America and Qatar, but punishing Qatar would actually hinder Washington’s capabilities to influence and mold Qatar’s behavior.  Ad long as the United States maintains its’ base active in Qatar, they are able to effectively communicate politically with Qatar by increasing or decreasing their presence. Simultaneously, the United States gains beneficial tactical and operational power by utilizing the base, and while competition is welcomed, it is vital that all understand the cost and inefficiency implications.

 

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