I’m in the midst of a lengthy post – a project really – but the news out of the Middle East is worth taking a pause.
Under the heading of “I didn’t see that coming”, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, the Maldives, Yemen and Libya have all announced they are cutting ties with Qatar. The countries have ordered their citizens out of Qatar and have given Qatari citizens residing in their countries fourteen days to return to Qatar. Qatari diplomats are being ejected immediately – within 48 hours. Air travel is restricted immediately and land routes are being blocked.
In a closely coordinated move, Bahrain was the first to break ties with Qatar, followed quickly by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and the Maldives.
At this point, Kuwait and Oman are the only members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that have retained ties with Qatar (also a GCC member). Don’t be surprised if these countries join as well.
At the risk of understatement, this is significant news – and represents an unprecedented level of coordination between the Arab nations.
Here are some statements from the various nations severing Qatar ties:
Based on the insistence of the State of Qatar to continue to undermine the security and stability of the Kingdom of Bahrain and to interfere in its domestic affairs, as well as on the escalation and incitement of its media and its support to acts of terror and to financing armed groups associated with Iran to carry out subversive attacks and spread chaos in the Kingdom in flagrant violation of all agreements, covenants and principles of international law without any regard to values, law, morals or consideration of the principles of good neighbourliness or pledge to the premises of Gulf relations, and the denial of previous commitments, the Kingdom of Bahrain announces the severing of its diplomatic relations with the State of Qatar in order to preserve its national security.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken this decisive decision as a result of grave violations being committed by the authorities in Doha over the past years in secret and public aiming at dividing internal Saudi ranks, instigating against the State, infringing on its sovereignty, adopting various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilising the region including the Muslim Brotherhood Group, Daesh (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda, promoting the ethics and plans of these groups through its media permanently, supporting the activities of Iranian-backed terrorist groups in the governorate of Qatif of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom of Bahrain, financing, adopting and sheltering extremists who seek to undermine the stability and unity of the homeland at home and abroad, and using the media that seek to fuel the strife internally; and it was clear to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the support and backing from the authorities in Doha for coup Al-Houthi militias even after the announcement of the Coalition to Support the Legitimacy in Yemen.
The UAE affirms its complete commitment and support to the Gulf Cooperation Council and to the security and stability of the GCC States. Within this framework, and based on the insistence of the State of Qatar to continue to undermine the security and stability of the region and its failure to honour international commitments and agreements, it has been decided to take the following measures that are necessary for safeguarding the interests of the GCC States in general and those of the brotherly Qatari people in particular: 1-In support of the statements issued by the sisterly Kingdom of Bahrain and sisterly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates severs all relations with the State of Qatar, including breaking off diplomatic relations, and gives Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave the UAE.
The UAE is taking these decisive measures as a result of the Qatari authorities’ failure to abide by the Riyadh Agreement on returning GCC diplomats to Doha and its Complementary Arrangement in 2014, and Qatar’s continued support, funding and hosting of terror groups, primarily Islamic Brotherhood, and its sustained endeavours to promote the ideologies of Daesh and Al Qaeda across its direct and indirect media in addition to Qatar’s violation of the statement issued at the US-Islamic Summit in Riyadh on May 21st, 2017 on countering terrorism in the region and considering Iran a state sponsor of terrorism. The UAE measures are taken as well based on Qatari authorities’ hosting of terrorist elements and meddling in the affairs of other countries as well as their support of terror groups – policies which are likely to push the region into a stage of unpredictable consequences.
Qatar has promoted Al-Qaeda’s ideology, and given support to ISIS and terrorist operations in the Sinai. Qatar has insisted on interfering in the internal affairs of Egypt and the countries of the region in a manner that threatens Arab national security and promotes the seeds of sedition and division within the Arab societies.
The Maldives has always pursued a policy of promoting peace and stability in the Middle East. The Maldives reiterates its commitment to work with countries that promote peace, stability, and show solidarity in the fight against terrorism.
The decision of severing diplomatic ties with Qatar took place as a result of Qatar’s clear actions and its links with the groups behind the Shiite Houthi coup.
This is unprecedented.
President Trump recently returned from a highly successful trip to the Middle East. While there he delivered a powerful speech that differed from past presidents. And contained distinct segments:
The opening was one of courtesy, gratitude and friendship:
I stand before you as a representative of the American People, to deliver a message of friendship and hope. That is why I chose to make my first foreign visit a trip to the heart of the Muslim world, to the nation that serves as custodian of the two holiest sites in the Islamic Faith.
In my inaugural address to the American People, I pledged to strengthen America’s oldest friendships, and to build new partnerships in pursuit of peace. I also promised that America will not seek to impose our way of life on others, but to outstretch our hands in the spirit of cooperation and trust.
Our vision is one of peace, security, and prosperity—in this region, and in the world.
The second portion comprised an offer:
I have had the pleasure of welcoming several of the leaders present today to the White House, and I look forward to working with all of you.
America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens. We are not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership — based on shared interests and values — to pursue a better future for us all.
Here at this summit we will discuss many interests we share together. But above all we must be united in pursuing the one goal that transcends every other consideration. That goal is to meet history’s great test—to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism.
The third part highlighted the Middle East’s strength and future promise:
The Middle East is rich with natural beauty, vibrant cultures, and massive amounts of historic treasures. It should increasingly become one of the great global centers of commerce and opportunity.
This region should not be a place from which refugees flee, but to which newcomers flock.
Saudi Arabia is home to the holiest sites in one of the world’s great faiths. Each year millions of Muslims come from around the world to Saudi Arabia to take part in the Hajj. In addition to ancient wonders, this country is also home to modern ones—including soaring achievements in architecture.
Egypt was a thriving center of learning and achievement thousands of years before other parts of the world. The wonders of Giza, Luxor and Alexandria are proud monuments to that ancient heritage.
All over the world, people dream of walking through the ruins of Petra in Jordan. Iraq was the cradle of civilization and is a land of natural beauty. And the United Arab Emirates has reached incredible heights with glass and steel, and turned earth and water into spectacular works of art.
The entire region is at the center of the key shipping lanes of the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the Straits of Hormuz. The potential of this region has never been greater. 65 percent of its population is under the age of 30. Like all young men and women, they seek great futures to build, great national projects to join, and a place for their families to call home.
Then the problem is bluntly stated:
But this untapped potential, this tremendous cause for optimism, is held at bay by bloodshed and terror. There can be no coexistence with this violence. There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it, and no ignoring it.
Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith.
Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death.
If we do not act against this organized terror, then we know what will happen. Terrorism’s devastation of life will continue to spread. Peaceful societies will become engulfed by violence. And the futures of many generations will be sadly squandered.
If we do not stand in uniform condemnation of this killing—then not only will we be judged by our people, not only will we be judged by history, but we will be judged by God.
This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations.
This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.
This is a battle between Good and Evil.
And then the solution:
But we can only overcome this evil if the forces of good are united and strong — and if everyone in this room does their fair share and fulfills their part of the burden.
Terrorism has spread across the world. But the path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land.
America is prepared to stand with you — in pursuit of shared interests and common security.
But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.
It is a choice between two futures — and it is a choice America CANNOT make for you.
A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out.
DRIVE THEM OUT of your places of worship.
DRIVE THEM OUT of your communities.
DRIVE THEM OUT of your holy land, and
DRIVE THEM OUT OF THIS EARTH.
Followed by a promise:
For our part, America is committed to adjusting our strategies to meet evolving threats and new facts. We will discard those strategies that have not worked—and will apply new approaches informed by experience and judgment. We are adopting a Principled Realism, rooted in common values and shared interests.
Our friends will never question our support, and our enemies will never doubt our determination. Our partnerships will advance security through stability, not through radical disruption. We will make decisions based on real-world outcomes — not inflexible ideology. We will be guided by the lessons of experience, not the confines of rigid thinking. And, wherever possible, we will seek gradual reforms — not sudden intervention.
We must seek partners, not perfection—and to make allies of all who share our goals.
Above all, America seeks peace — not war.
Then the challenge:
Starving terrorists of their territory, their funding, and the false allure of their craven ideology, will be the basis for defeating them.
But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran.
From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.
It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.
Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.
The decisions we make will affect countless lives.
Will we be indifferent in the presence of evil? Will we protect our citizens from its violent ideology? Will we let its venom spread through our societies? Will we let it destroy the most holy sites on earth? If we do not confront this deadly terror, we know what the future will bring—more suffering and despair.
And the payoff:
But if we act—if we leave this magnificent room unified and determined to do what it takes to destroy the terror that threatens the world—then there is no limit to the great future our citizens will have.
The birthplace of civilization is waiting to begin a new renaissance. Just imagine what tomorrow could bring.
Glorious wonders of science, art, medicine and commerce to inspire humankind. Great cities built on the ruins of shattered towns. New jobs and industries that will lift up millions of people. Parents who no longer worry for their children, families who no longer mourn for their loved ones, and the faithful who finally worship without fear.
These are the blessings of prosperity and peace. These are the desires that burn with a righteous flame in every human heart. And these are the just demands of our beloved peoples.
I ask you to join me, to join together, to work together, and to FIGHT together— BECAUSE UNITED, WE WILL NOT FAIL.
And the Arab Nations cheered.
President Trump did not impose America. He offered America. He offered a solution and a partnership. It was a fantastic speech.
And it laid the groundwork for what transpired yesterday.
The Middle East has become divided over those regimes who support extremism and those who oppose it. Qatar has quietly, yet consistently, chosen to align itself with terrorists – especially the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar supported the extremist factions in Syria throughout the civil war. And Qatar has subtly aligned itself with Iran – in direct opposition to the Saudi/Egypt led efforts to align Arab nations against the Iranian regime.
President Trump has recognized the new alignment of the Middle East. Those nations who have had enough and are opposed to extremism and those who are not. It’s why he prefaced his Middle East visit with so many meetings between Middle East leaders.
Egypt’s El-Sisi has taken a courageous leadership role. In 2013, he dissolved the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and ultimately pushed them out of the country. The Muslim Brotherhood fled to Qatar. He then placed pressure on Qatar – politically and through sanctions – in concert with other Arab nations, that forced Qatar into a reluctant 2014 agreement to deny overt refuge to the Muslim Brotherhood – which ultimately found sanctuary in Turkey. El-Sisi has kept the pressure up to contain the Muslim Brotherhood.
But Egypt has paid a price for this leadership. It has suffered a series of terrorist attacks – most recently on Christians in April and May. And Qatar has not stopped its support of the Muslim Brotherhood – or Hamas.
It is also of note that Al Jazeera is effectively owned by Qatar. Egypt has long been critical of the often extremism-inciting coverage provided by the network.
As noted by Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi in Qatar’s Gulf Allies Have Had Enough of Doha’s Broken Promises:
“Ultimately the three Gulf States do not feel that Qatar has lived up to its side of the agreement: that rather than ceasing the critical media coverage and the support of Islamist groups it has found other means to do so.”
Al-Qassemi cites several likely demands to be made of Qatar:
“It is likely that this time the Gulf States will demand the complete shuttering of the Al Jazeera TV Network before any mediation can take place. Additionally, the plug will have to be pulled on networks funded by Qatar such as Al Araby Al Jadeed (The New Arab), originally set up to compete with Al Jazeera and headed by former Arab Israeli politician Azmi Bishara.
The Gulf States and their Egyptian ally will also demand the expulsion of all Muslim Brotherhood leaders and their Hamas affiliate figures from Qatar, along with Azmi Bishara and Islamist writer Yasser Al-Za’atra. Other demands will include the sacking of Al Arab newspaper editor Abdullah Al Athba who despite his unceasing and vapid criticism of the UAE has remained on top of the country’s most important newspaper for years.
Other non-negotiable demands by the Gulf States that I have been informed of include the reigning in of the misuse of Qatari-linked charitable organisations that have also been criticised by the US State Department, as well as the cessation of incitement against the Egyptian state in Qatari-linked media that has continued since the removal of President Morsi in 2013.
Finally, the three Gulf States are concerned that Qatar’s ties with their adversary Iran go far beyond economic interest (both states share a common gas field) at a time when a unified front should be maintained.”
Ultimately, the allied GCC Arab nations want an end to Qatari interference in domestic politics, an end to support for extremism – and a strong unified stance against Iran.
The pressure is perhaps the greatest ever placed on Qatar – certainly much greater than 2014, when Qatar was forced to stop its explicit support and harboring of the Muslim Brotherhood. With the closure of the Qatari-Saudi border, the Gulf Cooperation Council is showing its seriousness. This represents Qatar’s only land-based border – a factor all the more crucial as Qatar imports virtually all of its food.
The action against Qatar is about presenting a unified front against the Iranian regime. The other Gulf Cooperation Council members – led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt – have told Qatar that enough is enough.
It’s time to get in line.
President Trump gave a fantastic speech. And a great promise.
The Gulf Cooperation Council has accepted his challenge.
I have said it before and I will state it again. I have never been this optimistic regarding the future of the Middle East.
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