Life sometimes forces itself upon people seeking attention and redress. And that is what I am doing. Even the Prophet Muhammad had to work extra hard one year into migration to Medinah. On the 17th of Ramadaan, with a paltry party of 313 intrepid untrained, ill-equipped, hungry, fasting souls he stood up to a thousand strong, fully fed and watered invading Quraysh.
So, what is one to make of the current Qatar Condition? As they say, “When you have friends like these, who needs enemies?”
Apparently, lifelong friends have viciously pulled the plug on her! Was it wanton? Clearly, but not uncharacteristically. Is this a measure of GCC disarray? Of course. Was it a mistake? No. Was it a connivance? Globally. Was it right and fair? No. Then what is the endgame? At this stage, let’s say, “It is complicated.”
Interestingly, with land and air blockades, physically there is only one way out for Qatar – the sea! Metaphorically, there appears to be just one path open as well – abject surrender! At these early moments when all parties are taking stock, the Qataris are naturally loathe to go belly up. They have made it clear.
Unsurprisingly, this is not the only black cloud to gather in the neighborhood. Restricted to about 3-4 hours of daily availability, Gaza is now afflicted with an embargo on electric power supply. The last 10 days of Ramadaan has been reduced from a spiritually driven abstinence on hyper drive to the mere matter of physical survival. Yes, ‘mere’, for the Gazzans are used to nail after nail being driven into their collective coffin for the umpteenth time. God alone knows what He has infused into the marrow of the Gazzans to resist the viledom that has descended on them for decades.
There is one common factor between Qatar and Gaza: support for Hamas and governance by Hamas, respectively. So, the collective punishment directed at both peoples is designed to extract the surrender and demise of Hamas. But to what end? Is there finally going to be an independent Palestine? Or just another Oslo to buy Israel time so that it can lay itself down even more comfortably in the neighborhood.
For behind the scene strategists, the endgame has three elements to it. Two ends are acting as the carrot for the third end! For the KSA and its vassal states of UAE and Bahrain, empowerment against Iran through the promised $110 b arms deal with the USA, proposed, promoted and defended by the Nemesis of Palestine is the first end. Note the opposition to it is dying on the vines in the US Congress. No surprise there. The second end seeks reduction of the Muslim Brotherhood to non-entity. This would finally muzzle whatever is left of the hoarse, squeaky popular Arab voice that could upend the stratagem, gain Egypt’s stamp of approval and undermine any intellectual and organizational basis for future resistance by GCC masses toward political emancipation. The third and final end is to put Hamas to rest while granting a patsy nationhood status to Palestine. It is not clear how Hamas is barring Palestinian independence except that while Israel seeks religious purity for herself, it is not going to tolerate it in her neighbors, whether Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Iran or Palestine! So, it will not endorse an independence declaration that has Islam in it. This is quite in keeping with how the US and Israel have coopted former Muslim satellite states of the Soviet Union and why they are supporting the future leftist regimes of Kurdistan.
However, there are several absolutely discounted, most devastating latent ends. First, continued voiceless incarceration of the Arab masses under dictatorial arrangements, economic under performance and social degradation for having arranged a backdoor way to peace instead of approaching it from a position of unity, strength and popular support. This would be even unlike how Anwar Sadat had gone about. Through 1973 October War, Egypt had gained a semblance of strength. Then Anwar wanted to make peace. He preferred to do so without selling it first to his own people. While Israel ratified the deal in her popularly elected Knesset, Anwar spurned his people as well as Egypt’s traditional Arab allies. The US Democracy was fine with this.
Second, an increased scope for open warfare with Iran. The GCC 3 forgets that it may end up fighting with Iraq, too, and with Syria however dismembered it may be by then. This is in keeping with the practice of real politick: what the US and Israel cannot control, they will not leave in peace. Neither will GCC 3 find peace by engaging in misdirection and warfare so as to delay reform. So far it has ensured peace through proxy combats offshore and politically flat bedding its populace.
If Muslim history of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s were properly read, one weakness that stands out in comparison with Europe and the resurrecting Japan, how much control over matters of the state were vested in the people, the right to free speech and legal protection against men at the top. In fact, one reason Muslims did so well for such a long time from the outset is the right to freedom of choice, right to voice against inequity, and the right to be defended against inequity. Once the state became usurping, forcing the devolution of Muslim political and judicial cultures, these virtues fell by the way side. Consequently, the competitiveness of the Muslim state was lost.
Another element, quite unnoticed by the worldly GCC 3 rulers, is the simple fact of modern economy: Industrial wealth will exceed wealth derived from natural resources alone. Resource starved Japan is a glaring case in point. Also, the US is hugely endowed with natural resources, yet her industrial productivity far over shadows that. Through unchallenged ownership and control of natural resources and by barring any objections to that arrangement, the GCC 3 rulers have set up states where industrial drive is stymied. Their sovereign rights has required of them to establish a highly subsidized under-performing but fawning and supportive citizenry as a protective barrier. The ruling class has become a leisure class and many of the locals are coasting on fat paychecks unrelated to merit or productivity. With greater political freedom, recognition of merit and healing approach to foreign workers – giving them more rights, greater benefits and wages, subjecting to greater education and training so as to employ them in burgeoning industries - could set off an industrial miracle in the GCC 3 region. Wealth would multiply. In exchange for a loss of absolute control over all matters sundry, the GCC 3 rulers would become far wealthier absolutely, if not relatively. They would eschew the problem of 100 percent of zero is zero. In reality, the GCC 3 rulers would continue as rulers, but this time by popular choice. An oft-remembered Prophetic tradition states that people who, before converting to Islam, were great in character and leadership, they continued in their greatness and authority after having ceded to Islam. The Prophet himself is a case in point. He was respected for his honesty and trustworthiness before Islam. Look how he continued to be revered after prophethood.
Third, looking the other way as the USA is allowed to snatch victory from the mouth of defeat by dismembering both Iraq and Syria and violating UN mandate while creating “liberated” independent Kurdistan states. This would plague the locality forever to the delight and plan of outsiders. Russia will like it of course. The debate over recapture of Crimea should end just then. Curiously, wherever the West treads mightily on Muslim land, it creates other “free” lands at moment’s notice: East Timor and South Sudan, but it could not tolerate an independent Palestine in her own territories even after 70 years! But the Kurds should beware: They may be reduced to fleeing pawns of foreign secret service as were the Laotians post-Vietnam saga. Or they could be used, abused and reduced to ashes like the brave Afghanis. The secret service does not care for the Kurds except as tactical tools - a lowly thorn being used to pick another lowly thorn, with the added possibility of conversion to Christianity. If remaining united and together works for the USA and the EU, why should it not work for the Kurds, Syrians, Iraqis, Turks and Iranians? Today’s wrongheaded governance may be changed. However, the economies of scale in governance, business, education, health, science and technology and military brought about by political contiguity is not a laughing matter when considering a ‘free’ Kurdistan that would start at the bottom, landlocked and hemmed in by hostile neighbors.
Finally, the type of independence Mr. Mahmoud Abbas is being allowed to gain for the West Bank and Gaza is a throwback to the post-colonial period of 50’s and the 60’s and post-Soviet period of 90’s: dictatorial! Palestinians are expected to jump from their foe’s frying pan into traditional Arab fire. No sane Gazzan will abandon Hamas, even without electricity, because they would then be entering into a contract defeated and disowned for no fault of their own.
Here then is the quandary for Qatar. Her GCC 3 friends are fools and they are greedy. They are also opportunistic. That makes them coward. Their ignorance and their excesses have made them vulnerable. Many of their personal lives spent in the West are likely captured in the archives of hostile foreign secret services. They are truly liabilities to the legitimate aspirations of their peoples and to the Muslims in general.
Under Bush I, Kuwait was made into a bait for Saddam. Qatar likewise has now been made into a bait. She is a part of the First Son-in-Law’s vaunted brilliant project to resolve the Palestinian conflict once and for all. Before the JCPOA, Israel had one success: reversing Egyptian Spring and neutralizing those of Tunisia and Libya, and afterwards it had one failure: the failed coup in Turkey. Now, having failed to have Iran attacked following the JCPOA, a country which in Israel’s mind continues to light the Islamic candle, an idea she has made the US coopt, Israel probably wants a big reward to handover any territory whatsoever.
First, create independent surrogate Kurdish states supportive of the US and Israel. Next, having helped launch decades ago KSA’s self-fulfilling prophecy of the Persian Shi’a Monster, KSA is expected to be the first line of defense for her against Iran or to at least keep the latter engaged with various nuisances and slow down its socio-economic progress until a regime change is achieved. To Israel’s dismay, Obama completely veered off course with his high fluting worldliness and inclusiveness. As a payback, her PM fed the GOP meter to destroy Obama’s presidency then and to unravel its accomplishments now. It appears that her Manchurian Candidate, the Donald, has duly reset the clock with the help of an obliging US Congress.
Lastly, not only debilitate and dismember Hamas into a non-entity but also take away its spiritual and intellectual basis in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood. It will completely eliminate organic resistance the type that has been bulwark of every historic democratic movement. That it disenfranchises multiple groups of people appears inconsequential. Democracy will give stability and real power to the vast Middle East. As an aggressive strategy the US and Israel seek its removal. Democracy can wait until the ME, the entire Muslim World in fact, has become completely secularized. Even after that ensure setting up of a pre-Erdogan type Turkish democracy peppered with military coups. [Note: Author has always distanced and disowned himself from any and all bombing, shooting, knifing, driving-down, flying-in and droning deaths of civilians everywhere whether by self-declared militant groups or national militaries.]
Thus, unless someone in the Congress train wrecks the $110 b military sale to KSA, Qatar could very well be the latest fresh kosher meat for the Eretz Yisrael or Greater Israel Food Processor Project. If such an agenda exists, and everyone realizes Israel does not take planning lightly and that it is a religiously driven Jihadi state, then it appears to be more secretive, more dangerous, more comprehensive and more lasting than the Manhattan Project ever was. Qatar is not going to come out intact from this rascal vice. Either she will “voluntarily” change or she will be changed by other means as necessary.
Qatar loses either way. If it is as principled as its role to date have suggested, then it should stick its ground and be willing to go down in flames - be true to herself. Then there is better than half a chance somebody will empathize and stand up for it. If Qatar goes down fighting, its GCC 3 friends will be severely burned, too. Hence, Qatar’s counter plan requires that she cannot fear dispossession or death. For the faithful in Ramadaan, the meaning of a part of the verse in Suratul Ra’ad [Quran 13:11] could not ring clearer: Innallaha la yughayiru ma bi-qawmin hatta yughayiru ma bi-anfusihim. Meaning: Surely, God changes not what the condition of a people is until they change what is within themselves.
The Arab Spring in Al Jazeera started with Bahrain and Yemen. The raging flame has just jumped to Qatar!