The politics of West Asia is hard to understand. Most of the oil producing countries of West Asia are rich. United States of America (USA) has a sizable influence in the region with Saudi Arabia its close ally. The dramatic decision taken by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and Libya to suspend diplomatic ties with Qatar will have far-reaching implications not only in the region but globally. The decision of these countries to snap ties was taken in the background of US President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Riyadh. India is immediately concerned about its six lakh and fifty thousand citizens working in the tiny country Qatar.
The statement of Saudi, released through Saudi Press Agency, accused Qatar of backing terrorist groups like Muslim Brotherhood, Daesh (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda and supporting the activities of Iranian-backed terrorist groups in the governorate of Qatif of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom of Bahrain. Saudi also accused Qatar of backing Al-Houthi militias even after the announcement of the coalition to support the legitimacy in Yemen. Qatar immediately denied the allegations and expressed ‘regret and utter
Saudi had described Trump’s last month’s visit as ‘historic’ and his meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) a ‘landmark event’. Trump decided to criticise Iran from the land of Saudi and praised Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah Sisi, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Obviously, he did not give importance to the serious human rights violations by these three. Trump landed in Riyadh on May 20, the day after reformist Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was re-elected with a massive margin over conservative rival Ebrahim Raisi. Trump chose to target Rouhani immediately.
In 2011, they formed a political party Freedom and Justice
Party and won presidential elections in 2012. Following massive demonstrations, Mohammad Morsi was overthrown by the military. In 2014, Saudi, Egypt, UAE and Russia declared Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation. Qatar also has a major US military base. It has around 11,000 military officials.
Saudi and Qatar are major exporters of Wahhabi form of Islam, which is radical. The role of Saudi in giving birth to Taliban is well documented. At that time, there was an alliance between the US, Saudi and Pakistan against Afghanistan. The common enemy of Saudi and Qatar is Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Bashar is an Alawi and a Shia too. They are supporting militants fighting against Bashar regime. The US is also against the Syrian regime and so is Israel. But countries like Russia, Iran and Lebanon are with Syria. Qatar is with Saudi in Yemen. Recently, Saudi is trying to project itself as a leader of Sunni Islamic world. Saudi and Iran are two major players in West Asia and Saudi is trying to bring all Sunni nations together against Iran. In West Asia, Iran is also a major player. Iran is a Shia majority country. Bahrain is a Shia majority country but ruled by Sunni. Qatar has maintained a good relation with Iran. Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim Bin Hammad Al Thani recently had a telephonic conversation with Rouhani and it is believed that he criticised Saudi for its anti-Iran agenda. Iran is supporting Bashar al-Assad. Iran is with Houthi militia fighting the Saudi-backed government in Yemen. Iran blamed Trump for setting the stage during his last month’s Saudi visit.
In 2014, Saudi, Bahrain and UAE had withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar alleging Qatar’s active support to Muslim Brotherhood, which has spread to various countries of West Asia. The tension continued for 10 months. But, this time things are more serious. Saudi and its allies have also asked Qatari citizens to leave their countries within 14 days. Saudi has closed its borders and snapped land, air and sea links. Qatar mainly gets food items via Saudi and the supply of food and other essentials may affect Qatari citizens badly if the current scenario continues for some time.
In the prevailing situation in West Asia, Sushma Swaraj, Minister for External Affairs, said, “There is no challenge arising out of this for us. This is an internal matter of GCC. Our only concern is about Indians there.” Indians outnumbers local Qataris. Annual bilateral trade between India and Qatar is $ 18 billion. Qatar is also the largest supplier of LNG to India. The crisis in West Asia will also weaken the fight against militancy. A divided West Asia will also help militants to gain lost ground. It is necessary that international community intervenes soon and sees that the crisis is resolved. There cannot be good Taliban. The region must be free from Saudi-Iran tension to defeat terrorism.