06/14/2017, 12.06
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Europe’s absence and America’s interests in crisis between Riyadh and Doha

by Luca Galantini

The stand-off between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is generating a wave of tension in the Middle East. And among Sunnis and Shiites for primacy in Islam. Riyadh’s aggressive policy supported by Trump for economic reasons. Brussels incapable of favoring the recognition of political, social and religious pluralism.

Milan (AsiaNews) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lashed out against the isolation imposed by a group of Arab nations on Qatar. It is the latest show of strength by the Kingdom in the context of the ongoing dispute between Riyadh and Doha over the latter’s (supposed) support of terrorist movements and ties with Iran. Ankara's leader spoke of "inhumane and against Islamic values".

Last week, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, following Saudi Arabia’s lead, cut off all ties, trade and diplomatic, with Qatar. For Erdogan this decision is equivalent to a "death sentence".

Hence Ankara's decision, along with Oman and Morocco, to send foodstuffs to Qatar, as has been done in recent days by Iran, in addition to the opening of the Islamic Republic airspace to the emirate aircraft. In sending aid, however, Morocco has clarified that it intends to remain "neutral" in the context of the dispute. Qatar's foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, has also spoken of an "unjust" and "illegal" decision by Riyadh and his allies.

But this Middle East crisis would not be so dramatic if Europe and the United States played a more precise role in dialogue and in the pursuit of respect for human rights. The analysis of Prof. Luca Galantini.

The fierce political-diplomatic clash that has taken place in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and its allies - the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and Maldives - and Qatar is a litmus test of the dangerous climate that is being generated, internationally, in the Sunni world and between the Sunni and Shi'ite world, by the battle for supremacy in the region, and in relations within Islam.

The great fragility of international relations in this area of ​​the world, which is crucial to the peace and security of the planet, reflects the logic of "machtpolitik" [privileging a policy of strength and military power, ndr] which is marking the strategies of the governments of the Sunni powers of the region, Saudi Arabia in the lead.

The decision to isolate Qatar at a diplomatic level with the indefensible charge of supporting, financing and embracing Islamic terrorism; The Pharaonic ten-year economic agreement worth nearly $ 400 billion recently signed between US President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman, aimed at purchasing US military supplies of high technological potential; The demonization of Shi'ite Iran - without concrete evidence - the only arbiter and scapegoat for terrorism of an Islamist matrix in the Middle East and the West. All these elements show the pervasive will of the Saudis to unilaterally take over the political, economic and military leadership of the Middle East, marginalizing Qatar and those Sunni nations who do not share this strategy and seek to establish networks of cooperation among the various factions, as well as the Shiite peoples living in the Sunni countries, who see the ayatollah in Iran as a religious identity and central political guardian.

The terrorist attack on Tehran, claimed by the Sunni Islamic State, is a reasonable test.

The risk is of serious global repercussions because of the creation of a true "international geography of conflict" in the Middle East, where an infinity of political, economic, ideological, religious and ethnic interests converge: Russia, Shi'a Iran, Qatar, even Turkey itself close to the Muslim Brotherhood. These realities are very much afraid of the aggressive action of Saudi Arabia, which has found an easy bed-fellow in the Trump administration for mere economic and national reasons. The same anti-Iran front supported by the joint action of Trump-Saudi Arabia does not promote mutual dialogue and cooperation among the countries of the Middle East.

The main charges laid against the Emir of Qatar Tamim al-Thani - support for fundamentalist and radical political movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, including through the powerful al-Jazeera television network - cannot forget the dangerous connivance that directly or indirectly, the Wahhabi religious ideology of Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies maintain with IS and Al Qaeda Islamist terrorist movements. And of this, the international chancellors, and especially the westerners, are well aware.

The controversial political ambitions of the wealthy local Arab monarchies are likely to destabilize the Arabian Peninsula and the entire Gulf region, pushing the already fragile equilibrium of the Middle East  over the edge. This permanent destabilization in turn is likely to increase - and not diminish - the tension around the Islamic State, the occupied territories in Syria and Iraq, and also [by reflex] to increase terrorist episodes in Europe.

In this complex and worrying game of Risk, the United Nations and the West, divided between the United States and Europe, are unfortunately the "pillars of stone", the largely absent.

Indeed, Trump's administration has clearly chosen the path of a pragmatic, cynical backing for the contender who on paper has the greatest chances of assuming the leadership role in the Middle East quadrant, Saudi Arabia. Availability of infinite financial resources that can foster advantageous contracts for US arms and petroleum companies, thus securing the White House investment and job creation in the United States.

At the same time, with this option, the United States has tabled all attention to the cooperation and development policies that are inspired by the UN principles of human rights, the development and promotion of the fundamental freedoms of the person, the promotion of democratic political systems and participation, civil responsibility for the common good. Exactly the opposite of what the despotic Arab monarchies and satrapies characterize today. In his address to King Salman in Riyadh Trump cynically praised Saudi Arabia as an example of tolerance and coexistence for neighboring countries.

However, the undoubted responsibilities of the United States cannot overshadow those, no less serious, of Europe. If Washington has shown a sensible and dangerous choice by privileging a long-running joint venture with the Saudi regime, Brussels unfortunately is revealing a total and complete lack of interest in the Middle East. All this, though paradoxically the first victim of Islamic terrorist acts, is the effect rather than the cause of the perverse blend of religion and politics in the Middle East.

The EU has always enjoyed its role as civil power, which excludes the option of war in international relations in favor of the primacy of human rights: however, the socio-political contexts of the Middle East, the failure of the ongoing expectations of the Arab Springs of 2010-2011 demonstrate Europe's lack of planning for strategic programs that can foster development, peace and security.

The so-called "Copenhagen Parameters", that is, the general legal principles of the agreements that bind European countries within the EU and with non-EU states, imply respect for democracy and the rule of law, promotion of the fundamental rights of the person human. Why, then, has the EU not been able to create a road map in foreign policy? Why has it been unable to take on and build upon the manifesto of the conference of al-Azhar University last February, when religious and political representatives, Islamic and Christian intellectuals of the Arab world, gathered to promote constitutional reform of the state in the Muslims countries in the name of the principles of citizenship, secularism and religious pluralism?

Indeed, all EU diplomatic effort is largely absent from the definition of multilateral security tools for regional security. The latest crises, from Libya to Syria, to Yemen, have shown that the consolidation of regional and local comparative logic has created a combination that is difficult to manage in which European countries prefer to pursue their own national interests because they are unable to think and act as Union.

We see how the EU states are divided into supporting one of the factions or groups in the fight: Libya, Syria, Iraq and Kurdistan France, Great Britain, Germany and Italy, real donors- EU lenders are always divided into the choice of factions to support.

In Syria, Germany and France have applauded US military air raids against Syrian forces, but at the same time operate against IS, which is the number one enemy of dictator Assad. So, as far as Iran is concerned, we see the EU divided between a filo-US fringe and one in favor of dialogue with Tehran's theocracy. In Britain, the Guardian revealed that the government blocked a ministerial inquiry that revealed the profound connivance of the Saudi government in funding  the Wahhabi movement and fundamentalist preachers spread in mosques across English territory

So if we are facing potentially explosive crisis situations in the Middle East, this is not only due to the North American unilateralism, as well as to the internal conflict within the Islamic world. The key word of action by European states should lie in a capacity to support the inclusion of crucial regional actors, promoting mutual recognition and a trust-building procedures among the countries in the region. In addition, Brussels should promote the recognition of political, social and religious pluralism as a shared premise, in order to avoid the formation of opposing "forts" in conflictual relations and permanent hostility. In the wake of a policy for the common good, which enhances what unites rather than what divides.

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See also
Riyadh opens the border with Qatar to let pilgrims in
17/08/2017 10:58
IMF: Doha stronger than the Saudi block, but risk remains
08/03/2018 08:33
Gulf Crisis: Riyadh says anti-terrorist agreement between the US and Qatar is "insufficient"
12/07/2017 09:39
Iran sends food and raw materials to Qatar to ease Gulf blocakde
12/06/2017 09:27
Gulf Crisis: The anti-Qatar front meets in Cairo. For Doha "impractical" requests
05/07/2017 09:49


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