Monday, June 12, 2017

US - Arab Alliance Emerges

Trump in Arabia

A Pro-American Arab Alliance that Fights? - Jonathan Spyer

The decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen to cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar is the latest step in the reemergence of a clearly defined US-led Sunni Arab bloc of states. The task of this alliance is to roll back Iranian influence and advancement in the region, and to battle against the forces of Sunni political Islam. Little noticed by Western media, this conservative Sunni alliance against Iran and Sunni Islamism has been under construction for some time.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE were the first to recognize the new regime of Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi following the military coup on July 3, 2013. Financial support from both countries has been crucial in ensuring the avoidance of economic disaster in Egypt. The Saudis and Emiratis were the moving force behind the interventions into Bahrain in 2011 and Yemen in 2015. In both cases, the intention was to prevent the advance of Iranian interests.

The results in Yemen have been mixed, but by no means constitute the debacle that the intervention has been presented as in some quarters. The Houthis remain in control of Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, but the nightmare scenario in which an Iran-supported force acquires control of the narrow Bab al-Mandab Strait, through which all shipping between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea must pass, was avoided. Emirati and Saudi special operations forces played a key role in the fighting.

[T]he election of US President Donald Trump appears to have sharply increased the scope and ambitions of the pro-US Gulf Arab states. It is clear that they identify a regional outlook similar to their own in Trump and key figures around him. This raises the possibility of a more assertive and clearly defined strategy regarding both the Iranian and Sunni Islamist adversaries.

At the Riyadh meeting on May 21, 55 Muslim-majority countries signed a declaration pledging to establish “a reserve force of 34,000 troops to support operations against terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria when needed.”

Declarations by Gulf states have not always been followed by concerted action on the ground, of course. But with the current emergent standoff between pro-Western and pro-Iranian forces in eastern Syria, and the incremental loss of territory by Islamic State in that area, it is not hard to think of the type of roles that a standing Gulf Arab counterterrorism force would play – for example, in holding and administering Sunni Arab areas in cooperation with local forces.

Qatar, through its support for Muslim Brotherhood-associated movements and via its enormously influential Al Jazeera satellite channel, tried to turn the energies of the Sunni Arab masses in Syria, Egypt and the Palestinian territories into political power and influence for itself (while, of course, harshly suppressing any attempts by its own largely noncitizen population to claim rights). This project has failed.

For a moment, [in the recent past] a large Sunni Islamist bloc based on Qatari money and Muslim Brotherhood power seemed to be emerging. Brotherhood-associated parties controlled Cairo, Ankara, Tunis and Gaza. Similar movements seemed plausibly within reach of Damascus. But this bloc proved stillborn, and little of it now remains.

The hour of the revenge of Doha’s Gulf neighbors has thus arrived. The shunting aside of little Qatar, however, is ultimately only a detail in the larger picture. What is more significant is the reemergence of an overt alliance of Sunni Arab states under US leadership, following the development of military capabilities in relevant areas, and with the stated intention of challenging the Iranian regional advance and Sunni political Islam.

Originally published under the title "Lines in the Sand: Qatar's increasing isolation in the Arab world"
Jonathan Spyer, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, is director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs
[Jerusalem Post]

Saudi Newspaper Criticizes Hamas - Yasser Okbi

The Saudi newspaper Okaz reported Friday that Hamas has invested "$120 million in the last three years in intensive tunnel construction....Hamas allocates millions of Saudi and UAE dollars in order to support Iranian-orchestrated terror."

Saying "there is no difference" between the Islamic State and Hamas, the paper called for immediate Arab intervention in order to prevent Hamas' exploitation of Gaza's citizens. "Hamas uses all the aid that the Palestinians receive to support their interests, it digs tunnels beneath schools, houses and hospitals and thereby poses a danger to the lives of Palestinian civilians." 
(Maariv Hashavua-Jerusalem Post)


Iran nuclear deal - Daniel Pipes, PhD

Trump's trip to the Middle East revealed the degree to which he sees the Iranian threat as the organizing principle of the region: "What's happened with Iran has brought many of the parts of the Middle East toward Israel." A common fear of Tehran (and to a lesser extent, of ISIS) seems to be the foundation on which he plans to build an Arab-Israeli alliance...
[Tehran Times]

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