By Saeid Jafari, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.
The power constellations in the Middle East are growing ever more complex. On June 5, Saudi Arabia along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt broke off ties with Qatar, accusing it of a slew of trespasses, including support for terrorism.
At first, Riyadh assumed that it could quickly forge a unified regional front against Doha and was counting on Washington’s support in this endeavor, particularly in light of US President Donald Trump’s recent visit to the kingdom. However, not only has Riyadh failed to achieve this goal, it may have brought its rivals closer together.
The move to blockade Qatar is in line with the Saudi tendency for drastic foreign policy decisions in recent years, including its war on Yemen. Now the remarks made by the conflicting parties as well as regional and international players reveal that a new framing of regional powers is to be expected.
In a tweet on June 6, Trump voiced his support for Riyadh’s maneuver and implicitly accused Qatar of being a sponsor of terrorism. It should be noted that Qatar hosts the largest US military base in the Middle East, which is perhaps why on June 7 Trump called Qatar’s emir and offered US help to resolve the deepening feud between the tiny emirate and its Persian Gulf neighbors.
Meanwhile, on June 9, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on the Saudi-led coalition to ease its blockade of Qatar, saying the cutoff was hindering the fight against the Islamic State and provoking food shortages. A few days later, on June 14, the United States signed a $12 billion deal to sell Qatar dozens of F-15 jets, highlighting Washington’s confused policy toward the crisis — a policy that could not be summed up in one tweet by Trump.
However, a look at the opposing stances adopted by regional players proves the situation to be even more complicated. Turkey’s decision to stand by Qatar has divided the region in two. On the one side are Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies who are against Doha, and on the other side are Turkey, Iran and, to a lesser extent, Russia, who supports Doha.