lunes, 5 de junio de 2017
Terremoto en Qatar
Siguen llegando las notas y análisis de un mundo sorprendido por la reciente decisión de un grupo de países del Golfo de romper relaciones con su ex-aliado, Qatar. Posteamos ahora tres notas; las dos primeras son de Zero Hedge:
Título: It's A "Geopolitical Earthquake": A Stunned World Responds After Saudi Alliance Cuts All Ties With Qatar
Texto: Virtually nobody saw it coming. Late on Sunday night, the Saudi-led alliance of Gulf Arab states, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain including Egypt, shocked the world when they announced they had severed ties and closed borders with one of the Gulf's wealthiest, if smallest, neighbors Qatar, a (now former) member of the Gulf Cooperation Council in what we called a "geopolitical earthquake" and what Bloomberg dubbed "an unprecedented move designed to punish one of the region’s financial superpowers for its ties with Iran and Islamist groups in the region."
As we noted first last night, just days after president Trump left the region, a "geopolitical earthquake" took place in the Middle East as the rift between Qatar and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council exploded with Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt cutting all diplomatic ties with Qatar accusing it of "spreading chaos," by funding terrorism and supporting Iran. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt all said they will suspend air and sea travel to and from the Gulf emirate. Saudi Arabia will also shut land crossings with its neighbor, potentially depriving the emirate of imports through its only land border.
It was not immediately clear when the proposed measures would be implemented. Saudi Arabia said it would "begin immediate legal measures with friendly, sisterly countries and international companies to implement that measure as quickly as possible for all types of transit from and to the state of Qatar."
Saudi Arabia cited Qatar’s support of “terrorist groups aiming to destabilize the region,” including the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State and al-Qaeda. It accused Qatar of supporting “Iranian-backed terrorist groups” operating in the kingdom’s eastern province as well as Bahrain. Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain and the U.A.E., gave Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave.
Qatar responded by saying it regrets the "unjustified" decision of the gulf nations to sever ties and called the accusations “baseless”, saying they were part of a plan to “impose guardianship on the state, which in itself is a violation of sovereignty.”
The first hints that not all is well emerged just three days after Trump left Riyadh as part of his first international trip in May - during which the US president and Saudi King Salman singled out Iran as the world’s main sponsor of terrorism - when the state-run Qatar News Agency carried comments by Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani criticizing mounting anti-Iran sentiment. Officials quickly deleted the comments, blamed them on hackers and appealed for calm, however it was too late and Saudi and U.A.E. media outlets then launched verbal assaults against Qatar, which intensified after Sheikh Tamim’s phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over the weekend in apparent defiance of Saudi criticism.
“Qatar is right in the middle of the GCC countries and it has tried to pursue an independent foreign policy,” said Peter Sluglett, director of the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore quoted by Bloomberg. “The idea is to bring Qatar to heel.”
Qatar's geopolitical importance can not be underscored, not only for its vast wealth, but because Qatar is one of the biggest producer of liquefied natural gas (and arguably the source of the 6 year long Syrian proxy war, due to Qatar's documented desires to pass a natgas pipeline into Europe through Syria), and also hosts the forward headquarters of CENTCOM, the U.S. military’s central command in the Middle East.
And speaking of Qatar's wealth, while the country has a population smaller than Houston, it has one of the world's largest sovereign wealth funds with over $335 billion investments in companies from Volkswagen, to Rosneft, Barclays, Credit Suisse and Tiffany's.
The economic fallout loomed immediately, as Abu Dhabi's state-owned Ethihad Airways, Dubai's Emirates Airline and budget carrier Flydubai said they would suspend all flights to and from Doha from Tuesday morning until further notice. Qatar Airways said on its official website it had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia.
What prompted the surprising move by the Gulf-states?
According to some, emboldened by "warmer" ties with the US under President Trump, the Saudi-led alliance is seeking to stamp out any opposition to forming a united front against Shiite-ruled Iran. And while Monday’s escalation is unlikely to hurt energy exports from the Gulf, it threatens to have far-reaching effects on Qatar according to Bloomberg.
“There are going to be implications for people, for travelers, for business people. More than that, it brings the geopolitical risks into perspective,” Tarek Fadlallah, the chief executive officer of Nomura Asset Management Middle East, said in an interview to Bloomberg Television. “Since this is an unprecedented move, it is very difficult to see how it plays out.”
The stunned confusion explains the sudden, adverse reaction in Qatar assets, which saw the Qatar QE Index of stocks plunge tumble 8%, the most since 2009 to the lowest since January 2016 while Dubai's index fell 1.2%. Separately, Qatar bond yields surged in the worst day in 7 months as Qatar CDS spiked to 2 month highs.
There were also fireworks in the FX arena, where forward contracts for the Qatari riyal soared by over 200bps to 4.05%, suggesting a currency devaluation may be imminent as a result of the economic blockade.
While Brent initially rose as much as 1.6% to $50.74 a barrel, it has since pared all gains as concerns that the tenuous OPEC alliance may be about to collapse, resulting in a fresh flood of crude in the market. That said, keep an eye on the Straits of Hormuz: heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, and Iran typically draw market attention to the tight waterway through which about 30% of the seaborne oil trade passes.
Politicians, largely behind the curve, chimed in and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it’s important that the Gulf states remain unified and encouraged the various parties to address their differences. Speaking at a news conference in Sydney, he said the crisis won’t undermine the fight on terrorism. “What we’re seeing is a growing list of some irritants in the region that have been there for some time,” Tillerson said. “Obviously they’ve now bubbled up to a level that countries decided they needed to take action in an effort to have those differences addressed.”
Making the matter a particular headache for the US State Department is that all five countries involved in the dispute are U.S. allies, and Qatar has committed $35 billion to invest in American assets. The Qatar Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, plans to open an office in the Silicon Valley.
Then there is the issue of the 2022 World Cup: As Reuters notes, "the diplomatic broadside threatens the international prestige of Qatar, which hosts a large U.S. military base and is set to host the 2022 World Cup. It has for years presented itself as a mediator and power broker for the region's many disputes". Kristian Ulrichsen, a Gulf expert at the U.S-based Baker Institute, said if Qatar's land borders and air space were closed for any length of time "it would wreak havoc on the timeline and delivery" of the World Cup."
Not the First Time
As Bloomberg reminds us, this is not the first time Qatar has been singled out and disagreements among the six GCC members have flared in the past; tensions with Qatar could be traced to the mid-1990s when Al Jazeera television was launched from Doha, providing a platform for Arab dissidents to criticize autocratic governments in the region except Qatar’s.
The Gulf nation also played a key role in supporting anti-regime movements during the Arab Spring, acting against Saudi and U.A.E. interests by bankrolling the Muslim Brotherhood’s government in Egypt. Qatar also hosts members of Hamas’s exiled leadership and maintains ties with Iran.
In 2014, Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Bahrain temporarily withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar. That dispute centered on Egypt following the army-led ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader. This time the measures are more severe than during the 2014 incident, when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, again alleging Qatari support for militant groups. At that time, travel links were maintained and Qataris were not expelled.
In 2011, Qatar used its media and political clout to support long-repressed Islamists in the "Arab Spring" uprisings in several Arab countries. Muslim Brotherhood groups allied to Doha are now mostly on the backfoot in the region, especially after a 2013 military takeover in Egypt ousted the elected Islamist president.
The former army chief and now president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, along with the new government's allies in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, blacklist the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, said on its state news agency that Qatar's policy "threatens Arab national security and sows the seeds of strife and division within Arab societies according to a deliberate plan aimed at the unity and interests of the Arab nation."
The crisis comes just weeks after Moody’s cut Qatar’s credit rating by one level to Aa3, the fourth-highest investment grade, citing uncertainty over its economic growth model.
“Qatar is economically and socially most vulnerable from food and other non-energy imports,” said Paul Sullivan, a Middle East expert at Georgetown University. “If there is a true blockade, this could be a big problem for them. Rules stopping citizens of the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia and Bahrain from even transiting via Qatar could cause significant disruptions.”
Iran also chimed in, with an official saying the Gulf crisis is a fallout from Trump Saudi visit: "Rift and crumbling of unity” among Gulf nations "first result of the sword dance in Riyadh," Hamid Aboutalebi, a deputy chief of staff for political affairs, said on Twitter. The comments were a reference to Donald Trump’s Saudi visit last month, when he took part in a ceremonial sword dance with Saudi officials
“Time for sanctions has ended, cutting diplomatic ties, closing borders, blockading nations” is not the way to end crisis, the Iranian added and said that Saudi, UAE, Egypt, Bahrain need to choose “democracy at home and talks in the region.”
A Russian envoy in Vienna, Vladimir Voronkov, was cited by RIA saying that that tensions between Qatar, Middle Eastern nations are a sign of political destabilization in region.
Finally, with confusion still rampant over last night's events, here courtesy of Bloomberg is a recap of key reactions by various analysts and investors who believe the damaged diplomatic ties will lead to increased volatility and pessimism toward Middle Eastern assets.
Here are some views on the move by market participants:
Tarek Fadlallah, chief executive officer of Nomura Asset Management Middle East:
o “Clearly this is going to rattle investors, mostly foreign investors, that have to play a key role in regulation reform and investment program.”
o “Political uncertainty, particularly given recent headlines on Trump’s visit, make investors wary of investing not just in Qatar specifically, but in region more broadly”
o Expect spike in volatility, followed by downward move in markets in general
Marwan Shurrab, head of high net worth and retail equities brokerage at Al Ramz in Dubai
o Sees volatility increasing in the very short-term
o Investors will watch for any kind of announcement, or further clarification coming from governments or companies
o Investors will assess which companies have the biggest exposure to the region and therefore, have potential revenues at risk
o Some long-term investors could find opportunities if any signal of potential recovery
Majd Dola, senior research analyst at Al Ramz Capital in Dubai
o Many U.A.E. companies have operational exposure to Qatar ranging from mid- to-large size projects, sees some “negative economic impact on already struggling companies”
o Notes Drake & Scull has 500m dirhams worth of projects in Qatar; Arabtec has two joint ventures, pending legal cases, and receivables; DAMAC announced a 500m-dirham tower in Doha recently
o While hard to quantify the direct impact on those companies, it won’t be positive in short- term
o “If we take this one step further, Qatar is set to host World Cup 2020, which created a massive potential pipeline for U.A.E. developers and contractors”
o Qatar investment funds might also be under pressure to liquidate U.A.E. holdings
o Companies like DXBE (11% owned by Qatar investment) might face further pressure if things moved further in negative direction
Abdul Kadir Hussain, head of fixed income asset management at Arqaam Capital Ltd.
o Expects some initial impact on Qatari bonds.
o “A lot of them are held in hold-to-maturity books so I don’t expect a major pullback.”
o Still, expects a small narrowing of bond spreads
o Doesn’t expect move to affect bonds across the GCC at this point since they are “relatively cheap” for their ratings
o Given the lull in market due to summer and Ramadan, technicals are probably supportive in terms of new issuance
Peter Sluglett, director of the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore
o “Desire of the Trump administration is that nobody in that region should have any sort of relations with Iran. Qatar is right in the middle of the GCC countries and it has tried to pursue an independent foreign policy. So the idea is to bring Qatar to heel”
As for the biggest question of all: is Qatar's ambition for a trans-Syrian nat gas pipeline now officially over, the jury is still out...
La segunda nota sugiere una posible causa inmediata de la ruptura de relaciones:
Título: The Shocking Trigger Behind Today's Gulf Scandal: Qatar Paid Al-Qaeda, Iran $1BN In Hostage Deal
Texto: The FT has unveiled what its believes is the key trigger behind the shocking overnight collapse in diplomatic relations between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors. According to the FT, the catalyst that forced the Saudis and their allies to unveil the cut in diplomatic and economic ties, is that Qatar allegedly paid up to $1 billion to Iran and al-Qaeda affiliates "to release members of the Gulf state’s royal family who were kidnapped in Iraq while on a hunting trip, according to people involved in the hostage deal"; the secret deal was allegedly one of the triggers behind Gulf states’ dramatic decision to cut ties with Doha.
The details of the payoff: "around $700m was paid both to Iranian figures and the regional Shia militias they support, according to regional government officials. They added that $200m to $300m went to Islamist groups in Syria, most of that to Tahrir al-Sham, a group with links to al-Qaeda."
A regional Arab official said the total paid to jihadi groups was closer to $300m. “So, if you add that up to the other $700m they paid to Iran and its proxies, that means Qatar actually spent about a billion dollars on this crazy deal,” he said.
The Iraqi Shia militia commanders in Iraq, all from hardline Iranian-backed groups, said that, to their knowledge, Iran had obtained around $400m after giving them a payment they would not disclose. They agreed to share some details because they were unhappy about their share of the payment.
“They [the Iranians] took the lion’s share,” said a member of one of the Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq. “That’s caused some of us to be frustrated, because that was not the deal.”
The "ransom payments are the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said one Gulf observer.
Not to be confused with the Obama administration secretly airlifting crates full of $1.7 billion in cash to Tehran to release five US hostages held by Iran, the FT writes that commanders of militant groups and government officials in the region told the Financial Times that "Doha spent the money in a transaction that secured the release of 26 members of a Qatari hunting party in southern Iraq and about 50 militants captured by jihadis in Syria."
By their telling, Qatar paid off two of the most frequently blacklisted forces of the Middle East in one fell swoop: an al-Qaeda affiliate fighting in Syria and Iranian security officials.
If nothing else, at least Qatar got a better bang for the physical buck, at $38 million per hostage, compared to the $340 million the Obama administration paid for the five US hostages released by Tehran.
While there is no official evidence, the FT adds that the deal, which was concluded in April, heightened concerns among Qatar’s neighbours about the small gas-rich state’s role in a region plagued by conflict and bitter rivalries, which however is at least somewhat confusing: after all it was well-known since the Podesta emails that even the US state department had confirmed that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar were the two primary funders of the Islamic State and various Jihidaist groups in the region. Recall from our October 2016 post:
In a leaked email sent on August 17, 2014 by Hillary Clinton to her current campaign manager, John Podesta, who back then was counselor to Barack Obama, she admitted that Qatar and Saudi Arabia "are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region."
The email, which was sent just days after the US launched it "temporary" air campaign in Syria, which has now extended over two years, represents an eight-point plan laying out ideas how to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Clinton’s email said that the United States should engage in "military operations against these very irregular but determined forces" by "making proper use of clandestine/special operations resources, in coordination with airpower, and established local allies" such as Kurdish forces.
Having confirmed the role of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Hillary then states that "we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia" and recommends to step up US commitment to the Kurdish Regional Government or KRG. "The Qataris and Saudis will be put in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious U.S. pressure. By the same token, the threat of similar, realistic U.S. operations will serve to assist moderate forces in Libya, Lebanon, and even Jordan, where insurgents are increasingly fascinated by the ISIL success in Iraq."
In any case, last year's revalation appears to have been "news" to Saudi Arabia - the other named source of funding to ISIS, and on Monday, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain took the extraordinary step of cutting off diplomatic ties and transport links to Qatar, alleging the country fuels extremism and terrorism.
The FT further notes that Doha denies it backs terrorist groups and dismissed the blockade by its neighbours as “founded on allegations that have no basis in fact”. It said it could not immediately respond to a request for comment on the hostage deal. But a person close to the Qatari government acknowledged that “payments” were made. The person was unaware of the amounts or where the money went.
Doha has a history of reaching out to all kinds of controversial groups, from rebels in Sudan’s Darfur region to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hamas in Gaza. Qatar touts itself as a neutral player that can act as an intermediary in regional conflicts. But its critics, notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE, allege it also uses such interventions to play both sides and fund radical Islamist groups, most recently in Libya and Syria. And to Doha’s critics, the hostage deal was further evidence of that role.
In an amusing twist, one FT source - a Syrian opposition figure who has worked with an al-Qaeda mediator on hostage swaps in Syria. - adds that "if you want to know how Qatar funds jihadis, look no further than the hostage deal.... And this isn’t the first — it is one of a series since the beginning of the war."
Those who spoke to the FT said the deal highlighted how Qatar has allegedly used hostage payments to bankroll jihadis in Syria. But to its Gulf neighbours, the biggest issue is likely to be the fact that Doha could have paid off their main regional rival, Iran, which they accuse of fuelling conflicts in the Arab world.
This particular saga began when an Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militia, known as Kata’eb Hizbollah, kidnapped the Qataris in December 2015. Three Iraqi militia leaders say the hostages were held in Iran.
Kata’eb Hizbollah is an Iraqi group but it is seen as having links with Iran’s main regional proxy, Hizbollah, the Lebanese militant group. The latter is helping Iran back Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, in his country’s six-year conflict.
It gets better: the hostage transaction was also linked to a separate agreement to facilitate the evacuation of four towns in Syria — two surrounded by jihadi forces and two besieged by Shia militias — say Syrian rebels and diplomats. One western diplomat said the arrangement provided Qatar the “cover” to finance the hostage deal. “Iran and Qatar had long been looking for a cover to do this [hostage] deal, and they finally found it,” he said.
According to two opposition figures with close contact with the groups paid, Qatar used the evacuation arrangement to pay $120-$140m to Tahrir al-Sham. Another $80m, they said, went to the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham.
“The Qataris pay anyone and everyone, to what end? They have only brought about our ruin,” said a Syrian rebel commander, who gave details about the payments but asked not to be identified.
Going back to our analogy of Obama dumping crates of cash - anywhere between $400 million and $1.7 billion - in Iran, it appears this time was not that different:
Another confusing chapter of the deal is that Haidar al-Abadi, Iraqi prime minister, said in April his government had seized hundreds of millions of dollars, which Iraqi officials said arrived on Qatari planes “illegally”. It is not clear if this is money is part of the sums mentioned above, or an additional amount.
The punchline: “The money all came in suitcases, can you imagine this?” said one senior official.
And while Qatar has now been scapegoated for funding Al-Qaeda and ISIS, something most have known for years, a question emerges: does this mean that Saudi Arabia - another chronic supporter of terrorism in the region and around the globe - is now off the hook?
Por su parte, el sitio web Moon of Alabama ofrece una reflexión que sirve de contexto para entender mejor esta ruptura:
Título: "The GCC States Led By Saudi Arabia Will Collapse Into Oblivion"
Texto: Emboldened by U.S. backing Saudi Arabia launched a campaign to finally subjugate Qatar into client state status. The plan has now reached a high point. A few hours ago Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia severed all ties with Qatar.
All sea- and airspace have been closed for Qatari traffic and the land-routes severed. All Qataris will have to leave those countries within 14 days. Qatari diplomats were given just 48 hours.
The immediate consequences are huge. Some 37 million passengers cross through Doha each year. But Qatar Airways now has to fly through Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish airspace to reach Europe. (If the situation persists the UAE owned Emirates Airways will likely order a huge bunch of new planes.) Half of the food in Qatar comes via Saudi Arabia through Qatar's only land border. 600-800 trucks per day can no longer pass. The 19 flights per day between Doha and Dubai are called off. Oil prices rose some 1.6% and the Qatari stock exchange tanked.
The reasons for the immediate spat are manifold. It has only little to do with Iran.
The Saudis accuse Qatar of supporting terrorists. That is like Britain accusing the U.S. of imperialism, or the mafia cutting ties with the mob over gangsterism. As Joe Biden remarked (vid) when still Vice President, both Wahhabi countries, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have been funding and fueling terrorism in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. But the Saudi view is that the more "liberal" Qatar is simply supporting the "wrong" kind of terrorists.
The Qatari government and its mouthpiece Al-Jazeera installed and supported the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. The Saudis put that government down by financing a military coup against it. Qatar is supporting the Muslim Brotherhood government of Turkey. It is supporting the Palestinian Hamas, also a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate. Qatar is financing various al-Qaeda aligned groups in Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. The Taliban have their only diplomatic mission in Doha. Until recently the Saudis have been financing ISIS. They are now mainly back at financing various other Jihadi groups in Syria under CIA control. The UAE is sponsoring the Libyan general Hiftar who is fighting Qatari supported al-Qaeda aligned groups. The Saudis are making nice with Israel and have no interest in the Palestinian cause which Qatar supports.
There are diverting interests in hydrocarbons. Qatar is the world's biggest exporter of natural gas - a serious competition to Saudi oil exports. It has recently intensified its relations with other producers and customers in the Gulf region and beyond.
More local and personal dimensions of the spat include many intermarriages and competitions between Saudi and Qatari tribes and families. There are rumors that significant tribal groups in the Saudi's Najd desert, especially the al-Tamim, have recently renewed their ties to Qatar under its current emir Prince Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani. This was an "in your face" for the al-Sauds.
Oman and Kuwait have taken no position in the fight and try to mediate. Turkey is allied with Qatar but has stayed suspiciously quiet. There is a new defense agreement between Qatar and Turkey promising Turkish support if Qatar is attacked. The Turkish military has a base in Qatar with some 600 soldiers. A huge share of foreign investment in Turkey has come from Qatar. The Turkish and Qatari government coordinate tightly in their common support for al-Qaeda and other Takfiris in the war on Syria.
The current standoff between Qatar and other Arab countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council were enabled by the Trump administration:
Whereas the Obama administration sought to enhance U.S. engagement with the GCC as a bloc, Trump focused instead on Saudi Arabia and the UAE as the twin pillars of its regional approach. Strong bonds reportedly have formed between Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia as well as Yusuf al-Otaiba, the influential UAE ambassador in Washington.
Key principals within the Trump administration, such as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, hold views on Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood that are virtually indistinguishable from those in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.
Trump fell into a Saudi-Israeli trap. The Pentagon hawks have dreamed of an "Arab NATO" to fight Iran. The envisioned "Arab NATO" may soon have its first war but it will be against one of its members. The (not-satanic) "Orb" show and the unlimited U.S. support for Saudi Arabia have exacerbated the fissures within the GCC and will hinder any common operations.
The U.S. military has huge interests in Qatar and other Gulf countries. Al-Udeid in Qatar is the biggest U.S. airbase in the Middle East. It is also the forward headquarter of the U.S. Central Command with some 10,000 U.S. soldiers and leads the fight against ISIS. The U.S. Navy fifth fleet is hosted in nearby Bahrain which has now declared a cold war with Qatar. Any spat or difficulty between the Gulf countries hinders U.S. military operations.
In Washington an intense Saudi and UAE lobbying campaign against Qatar has been ongoing for months. A Saudi lobbyist threatened the Qatari ruler with the "same fate as Egypt's Morsi". In a reprisal hacked emails between the UAE ambassador Yusuf al-Otaiba and Israeli lobbying organizations in Washington were recently published. The documents show that the Zionist lobby organization "Foundation for the Defense of Democracy" is advising the dictatorship of the UAE on how to fight the dictatorship of Qatar.
At the end of the "orb" show the Saudis and the U.S. pushed a document declaring various organizations and Iran "terrorist supporters." Qatar refused to sign it. Saudi clerics then declared that the Qatari al-Thani rulers are no longer considered to be "part of the Abdel Wahhab clan". That takes away the Wahhabi rulers religious legitimacy.
Qatar had tried to calm the situation down. It announced that six of its soldiers had been wounded while fighting for the Saudis near Yemen. It expelled a few Hamas leaders from the country. A mediator was sent to Kuwait - so far to no avail.
The extreme bullying of Qatar by the Saudis and the UAE, with total closure of all its borders, is designed to create an immediate capitulation. So far Qatar holds onto its course but in the end it is likely to fold. It will have to stop its support for "terrorism" i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood. Another scenario is a putsch in Doha with some Saudi puppet prepared to take over the realm. If that is unsuccessful a military move could follow. Qatar has little capabilities to withstand a potential Saudi invasion.
For Iran this is a chance to further blow up the GCC by intensifying its relations with Qatar. It could increase its food exports to the country and host Qatar airline flights. This in exchange for a Qatari retreat from Syria. The U.S./Saudi plan of confronting Iran through the GCC would then be in complete jeopardy.
No matter how the spat with Qatar ends, the GCC unity has (again) been exposed as a sham. It can not be repaired. Saudi "leadership" is shown to be just brutal bullying and will be resisted.
U.S. plans for a united GCC under Saudi leadership and U.S. control are in shambles.
The linch pin of all this is the Saudi war on Yemen. The Saudis support the Hadi puppet government of Yemen and two years ago aligned the other Gulf states, including Qatar, to fight against the Houthi in north Yemen. They accuse the Houthi of receiving Iranian support. There is zero evidence for that claim. The war and the coalition have failed. Houthi resistance continues unabated. With Yemen sinking into a famine thanks to a Saudi border blockade and a Cholera epidemic rapidly extending, the war must come to a close. Kuwait, Oman and Qatar are talking with the Houthi in Sanaa. Last week troops from the UAE used helicopters to again fight Saudi supported militia around the southern airport in Aden. The U.S. and Britain urge for the war to end and, behind closed doors, threaten to withdraw their support for it. The Saudi under their new leadership overestimate their capabilities. So did Trump when he raised their role. The Saudi "apes with Macbooks" do not have the capabilities needed for a serious political actor in this world. Their money can paper over that for only so long.
The above all reminds of a prediction made nearly two years ago by a Yemeni lawyer in Sanaa:
At the end of this war on #Yemen, the GCC states led by Saudi Arabia will collapse into oblivion. I do not know what will replace them.
9:29am · 15 Aug 2015