Small Wars Journal

The Qatar Crisis, its Regional Implications, and the US National Interest

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 4:05am

The Qatar Crisis, its Regional Implications, and the US National Interest\

Njdej Asisian

Sovereignty is a term of power, and he who treats it as a legal term will always arrive at unsustainable results.[1]

-- Ludwig von Rochau


The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which comprised of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. The GCC is an important organization within the Persian Gulf area which has undergone a very serious organizational crisis. A very stern rift has occurred within the GCC that has witnessed Saudi Arabia and her regional allies, flexing their muscles against Qatar (which is also a member of GCC) due to serious differences in their worldview and day-to-day regional politics. The Saudi ultimatum may be summarized from the original 13 points into the one paragraph below: Cease supporting Iran and Turkey as regional competitors, cease Qatar’s support for terrorist groups and anti GCC countries political activists; cease exercising soft power (media) that provoked unrest in Saudi Arabia and other GCC member states[2] and finally accept Saudi Arabia’s hegemonic influence.

There are many competing factors involved in this crisis which could create challenges to regional security should diplomatic tools fail to solve their differences.  Importantly, the GCC is an indispensable asset for Persian Gulf security until a better way is found to incorporate other littoral states into the Persian Gulf security structure.

Most importantly, the Saudi-Qatar rift is multilayered and has developed over the last few years wherein international prestige and power has increased among Saudis, Qatar and other GCC countries’ due to the drastic geopolitical and economic changes since 1979.  Geopolitically, since 1979, Iran and Iraq have continuously lost their influence due to revolution and wars which weakened their standing drastically and created a huge power vacuum. 

In the economic sphere, the abundance of natural resources has changed the overall economic status of the Southern part of the Persian Gulf Arab states (Arabian Peninsula) such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and others.  The increase of prestige and power of Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries have encouraged them to assume a bigger role in the regional politics; however, their power projection and capabilities were not checked and balanced within the GCC framework.

The Qatar crisis has shown a bitter reality: the GCC countries are following separate socio-political and economic paths and that their work isn’t coordinated in any shape or form.  They are contradicting each other’s national interests, and there exists no neutral body capable of solving their conflicting interstate interests. The lack of mediation and the atmosphere of mutual suspicion and distrust of other member states have created this great dilemma in the Southern Persian Gulf area.   In other words, the GCC’s lack of a unified approach toward internal and regional issues have created chaos and distrust in all levels of GCC governing body. The current crisis exemplifies how the absence of cohesive policy-making could bring a regional or international organization to its knees.

One may analyze the Saudi-Qatar crisis from two different perspectives. The first approach would be a public policy analysis where the current crisis analyzed through the lens of organizational problems.  However, this approach would be both extensive and extreme, and far beyond the limited scope of this paper. For this forum, the chosen political analysis will cover the theoretical and real-world issues answering the question as to why the Saudi-Arabia and Qatar have ended up in such a dark place in their relations. The current paper will provide readers with a political analysis of this crisis and what it means for regional countries and consequently, for the US as a major player in the region.

To understand the political aspect of this conflict, this paper divided into three distinct sections. The first section will cover the theoretical problems that brought Saudi Arabia and Qatar to this point.  The second part will discuss the Saudi 13-point ultimatum and analyze it point by point to understand the overall Saudi strategic intention.  The third section will discuss US regional interests vis-a-vis GCC organization and the Persian Gulf in general.

Comparatively speaking, the Qatar crisis is a small affair in the world of contemporary politics where crises arise every day with greater magnitude.  Qatar could alter the geopolitical balance of power in the Persian Gulf and could create a serious conflict among littoral states while drastically influencing the United States regional interests and the free flow of oil to the international market. 

This crisis may best be understood from the practical Realpolitik[3] and political realist perspectives.   A realist believes that the international political system is chaotic; it is a system of self-help, based on self-interest and an endless struggle for power.  Keohane argued that political realism is based on three principles. These principles are that the “state (or city-states) are the key units of action, they seek power, either as an end in itself or as a means to other ends and finally, they behave in ways that are, by and large, rational, and therefore comprehensible to outsiders in rational terms.”[4]

I will be interpreting the actual geopolitical facts on the ground, the realpolitik if you will, as they are, and propose suggestions on how to act upon that analysis.  The framework aims to describe, explain and, eventually, predict events in the domain of the international relations. Perhaps some of the suggestions may not be suitable for the time being. However, we have to understand the dynamics of the regional structure in the Persian Gulf and act upon it.

Small/Micro Qatar vs. Big Saudi Arabia

Thucydides reminds modern-day realists that “remembering that identity of interest both among cities [states] and among individuals is the surest of all guarantees.”[5]  Mearsheimer took this concept a few steps further and discussed the question of power and states from the Offensive Structural Realist (neorealist) point where “in international politics, God helps those who help themselves; states operating in a self-help would almost always act according to their own self-interest and do not subordinate their interests to the interest of other states, or to the interests of the so-called international community; [finally], states pay close attention to how power is distributed among them, and they make a special effort to maximize their share of world power.  Specially, they look for opportunities to alter the balance of power by acquiring additional increments of the power At the expense of potential rivals.   States employ a variety of means—economic, diplomatic, and military—to shift the balance of power in their favor, even doing so makes other states suspicious or even hostile.”[6]

After 3000 years of history in international relations, Thucydides and Mearsheimer came to the same conclusion that imbalance and fear on one hand (one big vs. another big power conflict) and on the other hand the question of big state vs. small state lead to confrontation and war (extending of hegemonic power by incorporating small states into the hegemonic political-economic system which may cause conflict and instability).  

The theoretical dimension of this conflict is based on the Small vs. Big States and the focus how small states manages their limited power in the regional and global levels.  The theoretical analysis of this conflict may shed light on a variety of different aspects of power and conflict within GCC. 

Perhaps the best example of the big vs. small state problem described by Thucydides. The most dramatic part of Thucydides’ work was the Melian Dialogue.  Melia was a small state and had a neutral stand in the conflict. The Athenians demanded Melian to subjugate themselves and accept the role Athens prescribed for them. Athenians argued that “we recommend that you should try to get what it is possible for you to get, taking into consideration what we both really do think; since you know as well as we do that, when practical people discuss these matters, the standard of justice depends on the equality of power to compel and that in fact the strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept.”[7]

There is something crystal clear about big power’s demands and what they want and what they are good at it.  Kenneth Waltz, one of the most prominent theorists of International relations, has described the big versus small state very eloquently and called it bullying. He mentioned that “what you would expect dominant powers to do. One does not like it; I do not like it, and I am sure the countries that experience the bullying do not like it, but it expected behavior. That is the way countries behave when they have dominant power—globally or within their region.”[8]  But the ball is in the small state’s court; they are the one who should be able to turn challenges into opportunities to survive and keep bullies out of their turf.  

There are a variety of different theoretical analyses of Small State vs. Big State within the academic community.  They see the size, economic power, demographics, and military capabilities of the state as a major determinant of the state power within the international political system.  However, despite the fact that such size matters, the small states are capable of affecting the international system, and they play an important role in both regional and global levels as well. Unlike big states, the small or Micro state's requirements are different.  

Rothstein described small state in relations to power and mentioned “a Small Power is a state which recognizes that it cannot obtain security primarily by use of its own capabilities, and that it must rely fundamentally on the aid of other states, institutions, processes, or developments to do so; the Small Power's belief in its inability to rely on its own means must also be recognized by the other states involved in international politics.”[9]

The small or micro state's posture is defensive, their scope of operation is very limited, they must be careful how they conduct their foreign policy, and they have to balance their relations with their neighbors in a manner to produce opportunities rather than challenges. In other words, “they must be able to reach “modus vivendi”[10] with their neighbors, they require a powerful protector against larger neighbors, and they should exploit a unique niche whereby the small state provides a service or commodity that benefits neighbors, the region, or the broader world.”[11]

Many scholars analyzed the question of small states through the lens of system-level analysis which “includes attributes of the international system and supranational actors.”[12]  The influence of supranational entities and the chaotic nature of the international system have direct effects on the behavior of the small or Microstates and their surrounding nature, and therefore, the “[small or Micro] states were, in fact, more likely than large states to engage in risky behavior. Because [small or Micro] states had fewer diplomatic and information-gathering resources, they were more likely to become involved in international affairs when the states were already high, and high-risk action had become necessary.”[13] Further, “states are said to have two options for maintaining their security and survival: strengthening their internal military power and concluding alliances with more powerful states as part of a balancing or bandwagon strategy. The logic of this position necessitates that the weaker the state, absent allies, the more its survival are at risk. Micro-states constitute least-likely cases for survival within the international system.”[14]

It is worth mentioning that the “system-level analysis” is not the only way to analyze the small states’ behavior while other elements are playing a crucial role in their decision-making processes such as State level, Organizational level, and Individual level analysis.  All these levels of analysis are complementing each other and providing the full picture of a state and her place in the international political system.  

The factors such as religion, the level of economic progress, cultural affinities or differences, geographical location, the neighborhood and their relations with each other, etc., have a significant influence on the small state behavior. Consequently, the factors mentioned above forced small states to analyze their capabilities at all levels to make the best decision on to how to survive and how to thrive in a specific time and space. 

The big power politics is more or less designed to expand the state influence whenever is possible and consequently, they affect the status of the small state as well.  It is an obvious fact that the small states do not have the luxury of all types of hard or soft power elements to fight or compete against the bigger power politics and therefore, whatever they are doing has certain elements of risk one way or another.  

The small states’ lack of power has influenced their decision-making process. Therefore, they tried to avoid the threat through bandwagoning and following the old Middle Eastern adage that “if you cannot cut the bully’s hand kiss the hand and put on your head,” passing the buck, create regional coalitions based on the shared interests, etc.   The small state vs. big state theories apply to the Qatar vs. Saudi Arabia relations when on the one hand, we have a small state that is trying to survive, and on the other hand, there is a big state that wants to expand her hegemonic power.

Qatar like other Southern Persian Gulf micro-states has used all power at their disposal to survive and thrive. They started by depending on the British influence in the region; they got along with Iranians in the 70s when Iran was master of the region.  They financed Iraq’s war machine to fight against the Iranian revolutionary zealots that were threatening their sovereignty.

They create the GCC under the leadership of Saudi Arabia to form a collective security environment, and finally, they provided a place for the U.S. presence in the region to craft an effective balance of power to contain both Iran and Iraq simultaneously.

Qatar as a sovereign subject of the international political system despite her size and limited capabilities as a small state, was able to manage a significant role in the regional politics, economic and geopolitics as well.  The reason behind Qatar’s success in playing such a magnificent role is the fact that she found her unique niche to relate to outside world. 

These niches are as follows:  the flexibility of the political elite, the significant natural resources (oil and gas) that are very important for the well-being of the global economy, her geographical location and unhindered access to the sea which attarcts the United States to station US forces,  her cultural affinity with neighboring countries and more importantly, the approximate similar socio-political structure with neighboring countries in the Arabian Peninsula.   Perhaps, the best part of the Qatar story is that, with the exception of Saudi Arabia, the rest of her neighbors are more or less the same size as Qatar.  

The combination of geopolitics and economic prosperity made Qatar a special case in the region. The unique niches of Qatar have forced regional countries, and even the big powers to consider Qatar as a useful country; therefore, they are willing to put up with Qatar and her policies to a certain extent.  Despite all political and economic success, the Qatari political elite forgot that Qatar is a small country and cannot afford to be in the middle of big regional and global crises all the time.

Regarding foreign policy, it is incorrect to claim that Qatari foreign policy has no direction.  The country is focused on a well-considered short and long-term vision. The Qatar’s foreign policy is based on the balance of power and her willingness to swim in the Shark Tank with lots of sharks while she maintains the biggest shark on her side. 

Despite their well-disciplined foreign policy operation, the Qatar’s political elite has an exaggerated idea of self-importance and hubris dealing with other states and social groups. Qatar’s activities are not based on their inherent strength, they are based on the inherent weaknesses of her position within the regional balance of power.  The nature of the problem has not changed which is - Qatar is a weak state with limited power.

The curse of being a small state has finally caught up with Qatar.  Qatar’s hubris and foreign policy forced big sharks to re-evaluate their relations with Qatar.  Qatar alliance within GCC is in disarray while the Qatari political elite wonderfully understands that there is no shark left to swim with and feel safe. 

The Qatar Crisis & Its Importance

Qatar is an important part of the regional security system and regional balance of power and is equally important for the United States as Washington depends heavily on Qatar for operational purposes in the region.  The United States has two strategically important bases in Qatar. 

The Al-Udeid Airbase and Camp as Sayliyah; “Al-Udeid is the largest overseas air base used by the United States and has two active runways capable of handling every aircraft in the US inventory, together with robust fueling and ammunition storage facilities. Also, the base houses the forward headquarters of U.S. Special Operations Central Command (SOCCENT) and U.S. Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) with their advanced command and control infrastructures. This complex has been built up considerably over 14 years, with much of the funding provided by Qatar.”[15]

Further, “[the] second military facility, not discussed, is also present in Qatar – Camp Al Sayliyah. [The camp] is a forward positioning logistics facility. It has the equipment for an entire U.S. Army armored brigade and some warehouses. It was essential to American operations in Iraq in 2003. This is not a capacity that can be quickly replicated or moved.”[16]

These two bases have a significant role in the ongoing US operations in the Middle East, and they will play important roles in foreseeable future. Therefore, understanding the situation and making right policy choices is crucial at this juncture of our Middle East commitments and our future role in the region.

The Qatar crisis has created an urgent quest for determining the future shape of the Persian Gulf security system. Any alteration of the GCC structure may result in the total relocation of power in the region, which power shift consequently influences the United States regional interests and her position.

Therefore, as a major player, the U.S. must remain capable of generating power in the region, providing regional security, while attempting to reduce the crisis within GCC and maintaining the regional balance of power among littoral states. 

Saudi Arabia vs. Qatar - What Went Wrong?

The continuous reduction of Iran and Iraq’s threat to Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries has created a new geopolitical situation in the region.  The growth of the Saudi influence becomes another threat for smaller Arab countries in the region.

The ‘Kingdom,’ has significant power: “Saudi Arabia is an outlier in the GCC based on the size of its territory, population, military might, and economy, as well as the soft power it derives from its role as the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam.”[17]

Further, we witnessed a balancing act against Saudi Arabia when the smaller “GCC states pressed for increased U.S. military presence on their soil. For the GCC rulers, an American presence had two advantages; it deterred the potential reemergence of the traditional security threats posed by Iran and Iraq, and gave the smaller GCC states a kind of hedge against Saudi hegemony via their separate security ties with the United States.”[18]

Regarding Saudi Arabia and her behavior, we have what may be called an “Unbalanced Multipolarity System.”[19] In other words, “when potential hegemons come on the scene. Their considerable military might notwithstanding that is not likely to be satisfied with the balance of power. Instead, they will aim to acquire more power and eventually gain regional hegemony because hegemony is the ultimate form of security.  Fear is endemic to states in the international system, and it drives them to compete for power so that they can increase their prospects for survival in a dangerous world.”[20]

The emergence of a potential hegemon, however, makes the other great powers especially fearful, and they will search hard for ways to correct the imbalance of power and will be inclined to pursue riskier policies toward the end.  The reasons are simple:  “when one state is threatening to dominate the rest, the long-term value of remaining at peace declines and threatened state will be more willing to take chances to improve their security.”[21]  

The relentless Saudi quest for hegemonic power has created a serious “Unbalanced Multi polarity System” disorder in the region.  Iran has been contained from involvement in the Persian Gulf affairs by the United States, Iraq is in total ruin, and the United States is not willing to pick up the buck again while pivoting to Asia and therefore, we witnessed a serious imbalance within the Persian Gulf security system. 

At the same time, due to its special relations with Saudi Arabia, the United States hesitates to take any serious politically-motivated balancing act that would undermine the dominant Saudi position in GCC.  

The lack of a regional balance of power has created a dilemma since some of the GCC countries have decided to reevaluate their policies toward the Saudi Arabia and maybe the rest of the Middle East. 

At least, for now, there is only one country, Qatar that has declared its independent foreign policy from Saudi Arabia.  The other GCC countries are accusing Qatar, e.g., (in) “nearly every crisis in the six members of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) over past quarter –century has, in some way, involved Qatar.”[22]

However, it is fair to say that Qatar was not always the instigator of a conflict with her neighbors, while Saudi Arabia was involved with “two coup attempts against the previous Amir of Qatar and destabilizing efforts against the current Emir as well.”[23]  It is an obvious fact that Qatar and Saudi Arabia have had uneasy relations with each other, but they get along out of a circumstantial necessity which is generally out of their hands.

Reduction of Foreign Threat & Rise of Internal Competition

In the past, the Soviet, Iran and Iraq influence brought South Persian Gulf states together to defend themselves against bigger and more powerful countries as such.  However, they do not need each other anymore, as each considers the other as a threat rather than a friend.  The current state of affairs is the natural evolution of the status of nation-states as sovereign subjects of the international political system.  

The old threats are diminishing, the new threats and new challenges are rising, and each state has a responsibility to review its policy and make relevant decisions based on their national interests and national power.  In here, what we witnessed is not an abnormal set of problems. 

These two states, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were bound together by common enemies and therefore, their alliance was a historical necessity; however, due to their growth of power, the growth of their prestige and alliances made, the process pulled them away from their original alliance and their national interests took different directions.

The separate growth of their socio-political, economic and geopolitical interests over time forced them to take different approaches to the problems that they face. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have fundamental differences in their foreign policy toward the Middle East and North Africa.  

Arab Spring and Interventionist Policies of GCC Countries

The Arab Spring was a natural outcry of Arab masses to have a better government and eventually more modern and up to date socio-political and economic systems.  However, the Arab Spring was highjacked by radicals and created more problems than solving them for the Arab masses. 

The Arab Spring democratic movement was not the only movement that was highjacked by radicals in the Islamic world.  The Iranian democratic movement in 1977-78 is another example that how radicals highjacked the people’s movement.  In the Iranian case, the radical Shia aristocracy was able to take over and more or less govern the country, but in contrast, the Arab Spring turned to a very bad winter and caused damages beyond anyone’s belief.

With the Radical’s intervention in the Arab Spring on the one hand, and the regional intrusion of outsiders, on the other, matters swiftly went from bad to worse.  Saudi Arabia and Qatar were in the forefront of intrusive countries with big petrodollars in their hands but without a clue about their political objectives and agendas.

The first sign of the problem began in their different approaches toward Egypt; both found themselves at loggerheads over the governance of Egypt. Qatar provided political and financial support to the Egyptian Akhavan al Muslmin - Islamic Brotherhood and Morsi for president, whereas Saudi Arabia is seen falling-in behind the Egyptian Army finally ending, with much bloodshed, the first democratically elected the President of Egypt. The Al Sissi coup finalized the Islamic Brotherhood government in Egypt.

The second part of this drama took place in Syria where Saudi Arabia was supporting the Al Nusra group, and Qatar was supporting everyone else, none of whom were good options. The Saudi and Qatar support for Syrian rebels had their own geopolitical and geostrategic reasons.   Both sides see the great power politics in the region and therefore are trying to have a part in the overall formation of the future Middle East. 

Iran & The Post Assad Political Arrangement

All Persian Gulf Arab states wholeheartedly accept the idea of Iranian isolation and possible regime change; however, they are looking to bring changes in the region that also favor themselves. 

In other words, the anti-Iranian nature of the Syrian conflict is accepted by all Western competing parties in Syria, but who should run the post-Assad Syria is a question that prolongs the war and creates such a mess on the ground. 

The post-Assad arrangement is an important factor in the strategic evaluation of both Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other involved countries.  The reduction of the Iranian influence in the Levant and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea is the geopolitical side of the coin.  The other side of the coin is no less interesting: the Saudi and Qatari struggle to take control of Syria has a geoeconomic dimension as well. 

The Syrian ports and their proximity to the European markets have strategic value for exporting oil and gas products and importing goods and services to the area via the same ports. In other words controlling the Syrian routes has become of strategic value. 

It is important to highlight that the dominant power of Saudi Arabia or any other state in the Levant area, will not serve US interests and it will create new challenges and problems in the long run. 

Saudi’s 13-Points Ultimatum & Its Effects

The Saudi Ultimatum is reminiscent of the story “from second-century BCE Vietnam when a local king got it into his head to proclaim himself emperor in his land.  The response of the Han Dynasty emperor Wen-Di was swift and unequivocal. When two emperors appear simultaneously, one must be destroyed…..struggling and not yielding is not the way of a person endowed with humanity.”[24]

The above-mentioned short story truly repeats, in many ways, the current situation in the Persian Gulf. On the one hand, Saudi Arabia is looking for ways and means to assert her hegemonic power in the region, and Qatar is challenging Saudi power for several different reasons.

The 13-point ultimatum that Saudi Arabia and her allies are forcing upon Qatar is a document of capitulation. In other words, if Qatar adheres to this document’s demands, Qatar’s influence will be drastically diminished in all regional and global levels passed a point of no return.  If we consider the importance of the issues based on their numbering convention, we’ll have a better understanding of the intention behind this document. 

Iranian Problem is Revisiting

The anti-Iranian sentiments of Saudi Arabia are not new, and in all fairness, the radical elements of the Iranian elite must bear responsibility for such a hostile attitude toward them.  The anti-Iranian element in the Saudi ultimatum and is far beyond the daily anti-Shia and anti-Iranian rhetoric of Saudi Arabia and is based on hardcore traditional power politics.   

The Saudis believe that Qatar is trying to put a delicate balance of power on the ground by allowing Iran to generate power in Qatar through economic, military and security measures.  The interesting part of this game is that most of the operation is unofficial, without any hard evidence that Qatar is doing anything extraordinary with Iran against Saudi Arabia; however,  the Iranian presence in Qatar makes Saudi rulers nervous about the level of the Iranian influence right on their doorstep. 

Saudi Arabia’s demands are multi-layered, and each of them serves a specific goal. They demanded to “curb diplomatic ties with Iran and closed its diplomatic missions there.  Expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with US and international sanctions will be permitted.”[25] The severing of diplomatic ties with Iran serves the Saudi goal to further isolate Iran from the rest of the region.

On the one hand, they’re deporting unofficial military representatives of the IRGC, and on the other hand, they are prohibiting Qatar to have any military or security link with Iran.  Here the Saudis are trying to kill two birds with one stone. 

First, reducing the Iranian foothold in Qatar may reduce the significant security pressure that the Saudis feel in the eastern part of the country, which, because the Shia majority, may be prone to the Iranian propaganda. 

Second, dismantling of Qatar’s security relations with Iran will reduce the possibility of Qataris getting any intelligence from Iran which may damage Saudi operations in the area.    Lastly, the limitations on Qatar only allowing commercial relations with Iran based on US and international sanctions, has no serious effect because the Qatari government would have accepted and implemented those provisions anyway.

Turkey - Jumping Into Unknown Waters

Turkey and Qatar “have the same position about Egypt; they condemned military coup against the Mohammad Morsi’s government, and they do not consider Muslim Brotherhood organization as a terrorist group. Both countries are backing rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The Amir of Qatar condemned the coup attempt against the Erdogan government and finally, both Qatar and Turkey have a different approach toward Iran than Saudi Arabia.”[26]

Unlike the unofficial Iranian presence which is part of the Qatar’s complex regional security policy, the Turkish presence in Qatar is unequivocally official.  The Turkish military presence equally infuriates the Saudi rulers because Turkey, a predominantly Sunni country, has a countervailing military presence in the region generating serious containing effects on the Saudi power generation efforts, which may cause serious clashes between two countries in the long run.

The reason behind this evaluation is very simple, the Qatari strategic calculation is based on two levels of Turkish forces’ engagement in the region.  The first level is purely directed against the Saudi hegemony or any other power that one way or another will try to challenge Qatar.  The second part of this strategy lays on the Turkish membership in the NATO alliance in producing extra security leverage for Qatar. In other words, any hostile behavior against Turkey (part of article 5) may bring the United States and other NATO members, retaliation against the hostile country.

The Turkish presence in Qatar has significant geopolitical importance from the Turkish perspective, and it prepares the road for a much larger Turkish role in the regional issues.   Besides introducing a serious problem for the Saudis, the Turkish presence also introduces a serious threat for the Iranians as well.   In the long run, the Saudis and Iranians will have a serious problem with a Turkish presence, and it may cause the significant readjustment of the regional alliance. 

Besides the future regional alliances against the Turkish factor, one should not forget that Saudi Arabia and Iran are masters of using covert operations to improve their regional posture, and the author would not be surprised if they take their operations into the Turkish territory and make Turkish presence in Qatar unbearably costly.

Qatar Capital & the Turkish State

Other competitive players in the region should also pay attention to other parts of the Qatari-Turkish relations, specifically the economic importance of Turkish presence in the Persian Gulf.  Besides the attraction of Persian Gulf politics for the Turks, the other reason Qatar is so attractive for Turkish policymakers is its economic power and natural resources.   

According to some accounts “205 Turkish companies in Qatar out of which 186 are joint ventures between Turkish and Qatari businessmen, further, Turkish companies are handling projects worth about $11.6bn in Qatar, most of which is put into Fifa World Cup 2022 projects. Qatar’s investment in Turkey is over $20bn, the second highest value of investments by any country in Turkey,”[27]


Besides Qatar’s foreign military and intelligence presence, the second important part of the Ultimatum was the Qatari relations with designated terrorist groups such the Islamic Brotherhood Saudi affiliate SAHVA[28], Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah. The Muslim Brotherhood-SAHVA became the target of Saudi officials based on the allegation that they instigated unrest in the Kingdom.  

The second target is Al Qaeda (accusing anyone having relations with such an organization looks like death warrant anyway). The third and fourth targets were Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine’s Hamas.  Saudi has serious ideological differences with Hezbollah, and, like Hamas, receives its financial support and training from Iran which is enough to be in the Saudi blacklist. At the same time, the significant improvement of the Saudi relations with Israel is another reason that bitter enemies of Israel - Hezbollah and Hamas, are in a disadvantaged position via Saudi Arabia.

Newsweek describes this new relation as follows: “Improving relations between Israel and Sunni Gulf states in the past few years, driven by shared concerns of Iran has brought the sides closer together. These relations, short of an explicit alliance, are an expression of realpolitik rather than shared values or deep intimacy. However, Israelis, Saudis, and Emiratis, underpinned by shared perceptions of threats to be countered and interests to be realized, have been cooperating covertly on security and intelligence matters for some time. A senior Arab official taking part in the discussions quoted as saying, we no longer see Israel as an enemy, but a potential opportunity.”[29]

Qatar’s Media as a Soft Power but Trouble Maker

The third most important factor in the Saudi ultimatum is Qatar’s soft power and its capability to generate power through the media.   These news outlets have become a serious problem not just for Saudis, but for the rest of the GCC countries who consider Qatar’s funded media are flexing soft power by instigating unrest and complications throughout of the region. 

The biggest Saudi target is Al Jazeera Satellite Television which “began transmitting in November 1996 with financial help from the Qatari government, drawing many of its journalists from the disbanded BBC Arabic Service television channel.  It has acquired a large Arab audience because it has aired opposing views and news and its program have criticized most Arab governments. For this reason, it has been banned from time to time by nearly all of Qatar’s immediate neighbors.”[30]

For instance, the UAE’s Ambassador to Russia Mr. Ghobash in response to a question “closure of Al-Jazeera was a reasonable demand, he said: we do not claim to have press freedom. We do not promote the idea of press freedom. What we talk about is responsibility in speech.  Freedom of speech has different constraints in different places.  Speech in our part of the world has a particular context, and the context can go from peaceful to violent in no time simply because of words that spoken.”[31]

Mr. Ghobash’s comments are self-evident and typify how the other GCC member countries’ political elite are also seeing Al Jazeera and other Qatari news outlets work in the region.  In their opinion, Qatar through her media outlets is following long-term strategy of destabilizing the regional countries while extending her power at the expense of Saudi Arabia and others.  

As a journalist and staff writer recently opined: “Al Jazeera, a lively media operation which is frequently critical of Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states. And much to the chagrin of Saudi Arabia and the current Egyptian government, it supported the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Arab Spring. Back in 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain temporarily pulled their ambassadors out of Qatar because of its support for the group.”[32]

The question of the Qatar funded media and the political decline and unrest in the neighboring countries are closely connected.  We witnessed how those countries are eagerly trying to shut down those news outlets to restore some political stability within their own countries. 

Anti-Government Political Movements & State Behavior

The story of media and political activities doesn’t end there, the GCC member countries’ are demanding the extradition of political activists, and have asked Qatar to severe her ties with the political opposition in the GCC countries, and not to interfere in their internal affairs.

The nature of these demands is defensive while the GCC countries are prone themselves, to frequent political unrest.  The GCC States including Qatar, did not open-up political dialogue which may have reduced the tension one way or another. Therefore, accusing Qatar of misusing power is easier than trying to improve basic human rights such as a free media and freedom of speech which would defuse the public outcry for those human rights.

Saudi Hegemonic Demand

Perhaps, the most important part of this ultimatum involves ‘alignment,’ where Qatar is asked to “align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as on economic matters, in line with an agreement reached with Saudi Arabia in 2014.”[33]

This clause is all-inclusive and a perfect way for Saudi officials to manipulate all the aspects of life in Qatar.  The Qatari Amir would be reduced to a puppet receiving orders from a foreign suzerain, to manage her domestic and foreign relations issues.  It is a demand for capitulation.

Despite all the ‘big talks’ and ‘big sticks,’ the Saudi hegemonic power still falls short in imposing her will.  Besides Qatar’s fiasco, which was a major blow in Saudi’s face, she also is not able to assert her power in hot spots such as Yemen, Syria or even in Egypt due to the furious competition that she faces by Qatari, Turkish and Iranian competitors.  One can analyze the Saudi’s nervous action against Qatar as an attempt to put her own house in order and display herself as a regional hegemon capable of controlling the situation on the ground and therefore worthy of being the major ally of the United States.  In such a volatile area as the Persian Gulf, the Saudi want to further send a message to big regional competitors that Saudi Arabia is minding her affairs and is ready to take any action to fight against their attempt to influence the region. 

Earlier, we mentioned a story about the ancient Vietnam king and emperor of China and how the emperor decided to react to the provocative action of the King of Vietnam.  Further, the King of Vietnam sent a reply to the emperor’s letter and said, “I hear that two heroes cannot appear together, that two sages cannot exist in the same generation. The Han emperor is the sagacious Son of Heaven. Henceforth, I shall suppress my own imperial edicts.”[34]

Here the Han Emperor is the King of Saudi Arabia with his ultimatum and his demands for full compliance, but still, we have not heard from Amir of Qatar. Is he to follow the Vietnam’s king’s example or defy the Imperial edict and face the Imperial wrath - that remains to be seen.

GCC Future Status and the United States National Interest

The major areas that involve US national interests are defined as “only a few areas of the globe are of strategic importance to the United States (i.e. worth fighting and dying for). These areas include those regions having major concentrations of power and wealth or critical natural resources: Europe, industrialized Asia, and the Persian Gulf.”[35]  Further, “one important component of a US balancing grand strategy is control of strategic waterways, including important trade routes and littoral as well as blue water capabilities for naval warfare deterrence.”[36]  

Based on this definition, the Persian Gulf is one of the most important areas in the United States’ geopolitical and geoeconomic calculations. It has oil as a strategic commodity for the international community; it has the Hurmuz Strait as a waterway and a choke point that theoretically any Persian Gulf state can block and send a seismic shockwave all over the world. Therefore, if the “United States denied access to the Persian Gulf, its ability to influence events in many other key regions of the world be greatly diminished.”[37]  

Perhaps the most important regional organization providing a serious foothold for the US military presence in the region is the GCC member states. The GCC has significant importance as a ‘platform’ for “the United States to project power in the region and for preventing any potentially hostile state from gaining control over the region and its resources and using such control to amass vast power or blackmail the world.”[38]   The current Qatar crisis is one of the most serious problems in the GCC’s history and may have significant implications for the Persian Gulf security arrangement.  Currently, the Persian Gulf security has been managed by the GCC and the “United States offshore balancing”[39] act, and the lack of either the US or the GCC will eventually negatively affect the other.

In order to protect the GCC and deny the rise of any hostile power, “today, it is the U.S. naval presence operating from Bahrain, land forces stationed primarily in Kuwait, access to key air bases in Qatar, Oman, and the UAE, and prepositioned equipment that enables the United States to ensure GCC security from external threats.”[40]  Consequently, any event that influences the GCC’s regional posture will quickly become a United States problem as well.  If we just take a glance at the history of the Persian Gulf security system, we quickly realize that inaction is not an option from the United States perspective.  The collapse of the previous Persian Gulf security system after the Iranian revolution (1979) caused a huge vacuum of power that even after four decades no other regional country can fill the gap single handily. Therefore, it becomes crucial before disagreements within the GCC pass the point of no return, that the United States Department of State in collaboration with the Department of Defense, actively try to defuse the situation and search for a lasting solution.

As discussed in the previous pages the rise of Saudi power has become a liability for this organization rather than the blessing.  Today Qatar dares to challenge Saudi Arabia’s hegemonic power and stands ready to bear all the consequences. 

The rift between Qatar and the GCC is a major setback for all parties regardless of their influence or regional posture.   The “extent of cooperation among the GCC states also directly impacts American national security given the U.S. interest in enhancing regional stability, protecting the free flow of energy, and confronting a variety of threats emanating from the Middle East.”[41] In reality, the situation on the ground is not promising, the latest revelation tells of “a leaked Qatari diplomatic communique has revealed that the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE supported two Yemeni backers of Al-Qaeda and Islamic State Group.”[42]  

This tit for tat policy of equivalent retaliation will be ongoing and eventually damage the GCC structure and beyond.  The United States attempts to provide venues for both sides of the conflict to save face and solve their problems, but it does not provide for an immediate solution. For instance, according to Radio Free Europe, Mr. Tillerson during his four days of shuttle diplomacy in the Gulf region, met with the Emir of Qatar and signed an agreement about Fighting Terrorism and Financing.  

This additional memorandum was intended to fulfill the Saudi Arabia’s demand without mentioning her name.  Qatar is signing the document with the US, not Saudis, but the result was the same - fulfilling one of the Saudi’s demands.

Tillerson’s shuttle diplomacy did not yield any immediate positive outcome among the GCC countries and he “left the Persian Gulf region after four days of talks to help mediate a dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and [her] allies.   [Further] a day earlier, Tillerson held talks in Saudi Red Sea of Jeddah with ministers from the four Arab countries without a word of a breakthrough.”[43]  Also, besides the United States’ mediation efforts, the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, was also trying to convince conflicting sides to find a workable solution for their disagreement. The France Diplomatie blog has described Le Drian’s concerns and how this conflict can influence the fight against the Islamic terrorism when he stated “his interlocutors of the negative consequences of this crisis on the diplomatic, political, economic, and security levels. He will reaffirm France’s priority of strengthening the fight against terrorism and, in particular, improving ways to combat its financing and the propagation of terrorist ideas and projects. He will underscore how important it is for the Gulf Cooperation Council to take united action against this scourge and to constitute a force for stability in the region collectively.”[44]

All these efforts to solve the problem between Qatar and “representatives of the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ) in Jeddah”[45]  i.e.,  the other GCC countries including Egypt, are temporary, and the conflict of interest will not fade away very soon, and having productive cooperation becomes more and more difficult. 

One can claim that the GCC is in a deep structural crisis with little hope that the interested sides will find a workable solution for this multi-dimensional conflict which, moreover threatens the very existence of Qatar as a sovereign state.

In this environment, expecting Qatar to come to an open compromise is not doable, at least for the time being.   This process is pregnant with dangerous actions and reactions in the region, and blockading Qatar may have serious consequences such as bringing in new players like Turkey and Iran, who will further complicate rather than solve the problem.  Significantly, there is another crisis is on the horizon that may deepen the rift within the GCC structure.  The UAE is playing her games in Syria and Yemen which may introduce a new challenge for the Saudi regional policy. 

The question of Qatar and the future of the GCC is not just an internal affair of member countries; the current situation has a huge negative impact on the overall regional security system. The question is, what should be done?  In the first place, we have to recognize the fact that the GCC in its current format, is not a viable choice for the Persian Gulf security system anymore. In other words, the six GCC member states are not able to create a cohesive platform for their mutual collaboration, and therefore, we may see the total disintegration of the organization in the future due to internal competition, power grabs, and distrust. 

The fact is, something must change in the Persians Gulf security system, and this is the first step toward bringing a positive change in the overall picture. In the short term, the US and other Western countries should try to keep GCC together; reduce tension between member countries with proposing structural reform within the GCC framework. The structural reform is a short-term solution while it is not enough. The GCC cannot be an exclusive organization that just serves Saudi Arabia and some other small regional states.  We have to be clear that we want to see GCC become more inclusive and culturally diverse. 

We must remember that within the Persian Gulf states are other neighbors outside the GCC countries: Iran and Iraq are part of the same geographical area.   The lack of Iran and Iraq’s participation in the overall Persian Gulf security system has created a serious “Unbalanced Multipolarity System,” witnessing unending conflict from a triangular geopolitical competition in the region.  The triangle is the United States, Iran and the Saudi Arabia.   This strategic chaos in the region is not in the interest of the US or any other country.  We are capable of making brave choices to reduce strategic competition and, where possible, turn it into regional cooperation.

It is time to review our Persian Gulf policy and show flexibility to solve our national security problems and further stabilize the situation on the ground.  In other words, we have to integrate Iran and Iraq into the regional security structure with minimum damage to our national interest and our regional friend’s interests as well.

To understand what has changed in the last decade and so, the author refers the reader to Kenneth Pollack in his ‘securing the Gulf’ article which published on July of 2003.  He mentioned three important security challenges in the Persian Gulf area: “Iraq’s security dilemma, Iran’s nuclear weapons program and potential internal unrest in the GCC countries.”  

The current situation is very different, Iraq is in a very weak position, and it cannot create serious security concerns in the region. In the Iranian case there are many issues remained unresolved and the current administration has doubt about the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA)” by President Obama’s administration that signed with the Iranian government.  And the unrest in GCC countries are effectivley contained for the time being.

In the current situation the environment is much better than it was a decade ago and perhaps, we will have a chance to put together a system that can last longer and create fewer problems in the regional or global level.  It is an obvious fact that a delicate balance of power exists between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and any attempt to change this balance in favor of one against the other will have serious consequences that might force the United States and other big powers to intervene to stabilize the situation.   

The restructuring of the Persian Gulf security system needs a two-step approach.  The first approach is what President Obama calls the “Cold Peace,” which he further described as “the competition between the Saudis and the Iranians—which has helped to feed proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen—requires us to say to our friends as well as to the Iranians that they need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some cold peace.”[46]

President Obama brought a very compelling argument why the  Cold Peace approach would help reduce the tension in the region,  and “an approach that said to our friends you are right, Iran is the source of all problems, and we will support you in dealing with Iran’ would essentially mean that as these sectarian conflicts continue to rage and our Gulf partners, our traditional friends, do not have the ability to put out the flames on their own or decisively win on their own, and would mean that we have to start coming in and using our military power to settle scores. And that would be in the interest neither of the United States nor the Middle East.”[47]

The second step would be a “Security Condominium[48].”  Polack described the Persian Gulf security condominium as "establishing a regional security forum at which relevant issues could be debated and discussed, information exchanged, and agreements framed. The members could then move on to confidence-building measures, such as notification of exercises, exchanges of observers, and information swaps. Ultimately, the intention would be to proceed to eventual arms control agreements that might include demilitarized zones, bans on destabilizing weapons systems, and balanced force reductions for all parties. In particular, the group might aim for a ban on all WMD, complete with penalties for violators and a multilateral (or international) inspection program to enforce compliance.”[49]

The “Security Condominium” is the best approach. However, it cannot happen overnight. We must set the conditions and prepare the situation step by step.  Perhaps the first step in that direction is integrating Iraq into the overall Persian Gulf structure in conjunction with the GCC. 

The integration of Iraq will provide notable benefits at the regional level and would be in the US national interest as well. It is understandable that the Iraqi presence with a Shia leadership among Sunni Persian Gulf states may create problems; however, the Saudis and others should understand that working with Iraqis regardless of their religious affiliation will enhance their national security on the one hand, while it improves the overall regional security, on the other. Further, Iraqi integration would help to bring a logical and peaceful end to the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border feuds and other problems that caused so much destruction and misery in the past.  Further, Iran will lose her influence in Iraq and will effectively lose its land connection to Syria and the Rest of Eastern Mediterranean region, encircled from both her south and western borders. The GCC also can help Iraq to gain the previous capabilities and effectively balanced the Iranian power in the region.

The limitation of Iranian power on her west and southern borders will dramatically reduce their power generating capabilities in the Levant and Eastern Mediterranean Sea areas and in conjunction with economic pressures and diplomatic activities force Iran to change her behavior toward the US and her regional allies.  These gradual enforcement may genuinely change the Iranian state behavior or will serve overall collapse of the Iranian theocratic government.  In both cases may provide a better environment to include Iran within the Persian Gulf Security system.  


Qatar is in a better position in comparison to Melia, it has more diplomatic and economic tools to withstand Saudi bullying, and it has taken drastic measures to survive the pressure.

Based on the current state of affairs between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the crisis will not be resolved immediately. Many problems must be addressed by all interested sides to have a full comprehensive agreement about the intergovernmental relations between GCC member states i.e., how these states should formulate their foreign relations under the GCC umbrella.

It is an obvious fact that the Saudi hegemonic claims do not create a favorable environment among the GCC countries.  Perhaps the best course of action is to create ways and means to counter the Saudi power within the GCC infrastructure and allow breathing space for smaller members of the club. 

As discussed in the body of this paper, the integration of Iran and Iraq should take place gradually based on their behavior toward GCC states and the United States.  In the first step, the regional competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran must be addressed not just by GCC members, the United States as a guarantor of the regional security must have a place in this debate as well. 

In the current situation, perhaps the best course of action is the “Obama Doctrine” where he proposed to have a cold peace between Saudi Arabia and Iran, “share the neighborhood,” and cease spawning proxy wars among lesser states. However, the “Obama Doctrine” cannot last long in such a dynamic region. Any plan moving forward must address reducing regional tensions and have a formative vision on how to balance the regional players that deny having regional hegemonic power.  The future coexistence of all regional powers must allow enough space for all countries to cooperate and collaborate with each other.

To reduce tension and rebuild the regional security structure, we may go back to the author’s proposal about the “Security Condominium.” Security Condominium may allow GCC members, the United States, Iran and Iraq to come to a constructive resolution for regional stability and cooperation. It is crucial to understand that without Iran and Iraq, the Persian Gulf security system will not work properly and will always be in chaos and turmoil. 

I am especially indebted to Walter Schrepel and Stephen Spencer for their comments and support.

End Notes

[1] Ludwig von Rochau, Grundndsätze der Realpolitik, Angewendet auf die Staatlichen Zustände Deutschlands [Foundation of Realpolitik, applied to the current state of Germany], vol.1 (Stuttgart: Karl Göpel, 1859), p.23.  See also John Bow, Realpolitik: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 31.

[2] Patrick Wintour, “Qatar given 10 days to meet 13 sweeping demands by Saudi Arabia: Gulf dispute deepens as allies issue ultimatum for ending blockade that includes closing al-Jazeera and cutting back ties with Iran,” The Guardian, Friday 23 June 2017, accessed 25 June, 2017,

[3] Realpolitik held that it was the first act of statecraft to identify the contending socio, economic, and ideological forces struggling for supremacy within the state.  The second act of statecraft was to attempt to achieve some equilibrium and balance among these forces so that they would not hinder the development of nation-state. To be successful, the statesman had to understand both the historical circumstances in which he operated and the conditions of modernity in an era of rapid economic, political, and intellectual development.  Lesson learned in domestic statecraft had relevance to the international theater too…….. it was an approach to foreign policy that Realpolitik spread to other nations, first in Europe, and eventually to the United States. Underlying this was a deeper philosophical dilemma that remain central to today’s debates about foreign policy; how to achieve liberal enlightened goals—which included balance and equilibrium—in a world that did not follow liberal enlightened rules.  Source: John Bow, Realpolitik: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 2-3.

[4] Robert O. Keohane, 1986. “Realism, Neo-Realism and the Study of World Politics,” in Robert O. Keohane (ed.) Neorealism and its Critics, Columbia University Press, P. 7.

[5] Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, trans., Rex Warner (London: Penguin Books, 1972, 107.

[6] John Mearsheimer, “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics” (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014), 33-34.

[7] Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, trans., Rex Warner (London: Penguin Books, 1972), 401-02.

[8] Schouten, P. (2011) ‘Theory Talk #40: Kenneth Waltz – The Physiocrat of International Politics’, Theory Talks, (04-06-2011)

[9]Robert Rothstein, Alliances and Small Powers, Columbia University Press, 1969, p. 29.  See also:  Robert O. Keohane, “Lilliputians' Dilemmas: Small States in International Politics,” International Organization, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Spring, 1969), 293.

[10] An arrangement or agreement allowing conflicting parties to coexist peacefully, either indefinitely or until a final settlement is reached.

[11] J.E.Peterson, “Qatar and the World: Branding for a Micro-State,” Middle East Journal, Vol.60, No.4 (autumn, 2006), 741.

[12] Levels of Analysis and the Euro Crisis, World Politics News Review, November 11, 2011, accessed July 18, 2017,

[13] James A. K. Hey, “Introducing Small State Foreign Policy,” in Small States in World Politics: Explaining Foreign Policy Behavior (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003), 4.

[14] JC Sharman, “Sovereignty at the Extremes: Micro-States in World Politics,” Political Studies, First Published (14 Nov 2016): 6.

[15] David Des Roches, “A Base is More than Buildings: The Military Implications of the Qatar Crisis,” accessed July 7, 2017, .

[16] David Des Roches, “A Base is More than Buildings: The Military Implications of the Qatar Crisis.”

[17] Jeffrey Martini, Becca Wasser, Dalia Dassa Kaye, Daniel Egel,& Cordaye Ogletree, Arab Outlook for Arab Gulf Cooperation (Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation, 2016), 10.

[18] Ibid. 11.

[19] John Mearsheimer, 344.

[20] Ibid. 344-5.

[21] John Mearsheimer, 345.

[22] Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, “Qatar: The Gulf’s Problem Child,” The Atlantic accessed July 11, 2017,

[23] Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, “Qatar: The Gulf’s Problem Child.”

[24] Howard W. French, Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017), 6.

[25] Patrick Wintour, “Qatar given 10 days to meet 13 sweeping demands by Saudi Arabia: Gulf dispute deepens as allies issue ultimatum for ending blockade that includes closing al-Jazeera and cutting back ties with Iran,” The Guardian, Friday 23 June 2017, accessed 25 June, 2017,

[26] Birce Bora, “Analysis: Why is Turkey deploying troops to Qatar?: Turkey's decision is not necessarily anti-Saudi, but it is definitely pro-Qatari,” Al Jazeera, 11 June 2017, accessed 11 June 2017,

[27] Huda N V, “Qatar’s investments in Turkey reaches over $20bn,” The Peninsula Qatar’s Daily Newspaper, 12 May 2017, accessed 11 June 2017,$20bn

[28] “Saudi and the Brotherhood: From friends to foes Shifting political goals in Riyadh have led to a muddled history between the Kingdom and the Muslim Brotherhood.,” Al Jazeera, 23 June 2017, accessed 11 June 2017,

[29]Yoel Guzansky and Clive Jones, “Why are the Israelis and the Saudis Cozying Up?” The Newsweek, May 18, 2017, accessed 17 June 2017,

[30] Louay Y. Bahry, “The New Arab Media Phenomenon: Qatar’s Al-Jazeera.” Middle East Policy, Vol. 8, No. 2 (June 2001), pp. 88-99; Jeremy M. Sharp, “The Al-Jazeera News Network: Opportunity or Challenge for U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East?” U.S. Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report RL31889, July 23, 2003; and Hugh Miles, Al-Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel that is Challenging the West (New York: Grove, 2005).

[31]  Patrick Wintour, “UAE ambassador threatens further sanctions against Qatar,” The Guardian, 28 June 2017, accessed 09 June 2017,

[32]Zeeshan Aleem, “Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic war with Qatar, explained: Why seven countries severed ties with Qatar in a matter of hours,” Vox, Jun 6, 2017, accessed 09 June 2017,

[33] Patrick Wintour, “UAE ambassador threatens further sanctions against Qatar.”

[34] Patrick Wintour, 6.

[35] Stephen M. Walt, Taming American Power: The Gloobal Response to US Primacy (New York: W.W. Northon, 2005), 222. See also: Sam C. Sarkissian, John Allen Williams, Stephen J. Cimballa, US National Security: Policymakers, Processes & Politics(Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers), 25.  Ziv Rubinovitz, “The Rise of the Others: Can the US Stay on Top?” in Great Powers and Geopolitics: International Affairs in a Rebalancing World, ed. Aharon Klieman, (Switzerland: Springer, 2015), 45.

[36] Sam C. Sarkissian, John Allen Williams, Stephen J. Cimballa, US National Security: Policymakers, Processes & Politics(Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers), 26. 

[37] Kenneth M. Pollack, “Securing the Gulf,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 82, No. 4 (Jul. - Aug., 2003), 4.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Offshore balancing would limit US military deployments and interventions to those situations in which vital US interests were at risk. See. Sam C. Sarkissian, John Allen Williams, Stephen J. Cimballa, US National Security: Policymakers, Processes & Politics(Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers), 25.

[40] Jeffrey Martini, Becca Wasser, Dalia Dassa Kaye, Daniel Egel, Cordaye Ogletree, The Outlook for Arab Gulf Cooperation (Santa Monica, California: Rand Corporation, 2015), P 8.

[41] Jeffrey Martini, P.iii.

[42] “Leaked documents 'reveal Saudi and Emirati crown princes' support for al-Qaeda and IS in Yemen'” The New Arab, 11 July 2017, accessed 12 July 2017

[43] “Tillerson Leaves With No Comment After Four-Day Qatar Crisis Talks,” Radio Free Europe, July 13, 2017, accessed July 15, 2017

[44] “Trip by Jean-Yves Le Drian to the Gulf”, France Diplomatie,  14-16 July 2017,  accessed July 18, 2017,

[45] Faisal J. Abbas, “What Tillerson got wrong, and what Le Drian got right on Qatar” , Arab News, 15 July 2017, accessed July 18, 2017,

[46] Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Obama Doctrine": The Atlantic's Exclusive Report on the U.S. President's Hardest Foreign Policy Decisions,” The Atlantic, Mar 10, 2016,

[47] Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Obama Doctrine": The Atlantic's Exclusive Report on the U.S. President's Hardest Foreign Policy Decisions.”

[48] The History of “Security Condominium” approach:  Beginning in the 1970s, NATO and the Warsaw Pact engaged in a host of security engagement forums, confidence-building measures, and arms control agreements (such as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions talks, and the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe) that were intended to deal with all of the continent's various security issues as a whole. Negotiating these deals took over two decades of painful wrangling. But in the end, they produced a Europe that was much more stable and secure than ever before. See: Kenneth M. Pollack, 13

[49] Kenneth M. Pollack, 13.


About the Author(s)

Njdeh (Nick) Asisian is an Armenian Iranian who came to the US during the Iranian revolution.  He has worked as a researcher and analyst for the Department of Defense over the past decade.  He is currently a researcher and scenario development advisor for the Army's Mission Command Training Program.  He has a very strong educational background in Eurasian and Middle East history, politics, and defense/security issues, as well as International Law.