[News] Israel backs Saudi Arabia in confrontation with Qatar

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jun 7 12:08:01 EDT 2017


  Israel backs Saudi Arabia in confrontation with Qatar

Ali Abunimah <https://electronicintifada.net/people/ali-abunimah> 6 June 


Israeli officials have gleefully endorsed the position of Saudi Arabia 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/saudi-arabia> and the United Arab 
Emirates <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/united-arab-emirates> in a 
growing confrontation with Qatar, the most public acknowledgment yet of 
the deepening alliance 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/saudi-israeli-relations> between 
certain Gulf states and Tel Aviv over their common enmity towards Iran.

Meanwhile, evidence has emerged of close cooperation between the United 
Arab Emirates and a key Israel lobby group to pressure Qatar over its 
support for the Palestinian resistance organization Hamas.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia and several of its satellite states, including 
the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, broke off diplomatic relations 
with Qatar and imposed a blockade, cutting land, sea and air links to 
the country.

Regional media reported that shelves in stores in Qatar, whose only land 
border is with Saudi Arabia, were quickly emptied as residents feared a 
prolonged closure could lead to food shortages.

Justifying its decision, Saudi Arabia has accused 
<http://lobelog.com/whats-happening-in-the-persian-gulf/> Doha of “grave 
violations” such as “adopting various terrorist and sectarian groups 
aimed at destabilizing the region,” including the Muslim Brotherhood, 
Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and al-Qaida.

    Israel’s “opportunity”

Israeli officials were quick to offer their support to Saudi Arabia.

“New line drawn in the Middle Eastern sand,” Michael Oren, Israel’s 
deputy minister for diplomacy, proclaimed on Twitter 
<https://twitter.com/DrMichaelOren/status/871646906753134592>. “No 
longer Israel against Arabs but Israel and Arabs against Qatar-financed 

Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman declared 
that the crisis was an “opportunity for cooperation” between Israel and 
certain Gulf states.

“It is clear to everyone, even in the Arab countries, that the real 
danger to the entire region is terrorism,” Lieberman claimed. He added 
that the Saudi-led bloc had cut ties with Qatar “not because of Israel, 
not because of the Jews, not because of Zionism,” but “rather from fears 
of terrorism.”

Chagai Tzuriel, a top official in Israel’s intelligence ministry, told 
/The Times of Israel/ 
that Qatar was a “pain in the ass” to other “Sunni” Arab states allied 
with Israel.

Israel’s former defense minister Moshe Yaalon also expressed backing for 
the Saudi-led sectarian coalition. “The Sunni Arab countries, apart from 
Qatar, are largely in the same boat with us since we all see a nuclear 
Iran as the number one threat against all of us,” he said 
at a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of Israel’s military 
occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Syria’s Golan Heights.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia continued to escalate 
the situation, suspending the license of Qatar Airways and ordering its 
banks to sell the Qatari currency.

    Who supports “terror”?

While Saudi Arabia offered no evidence for its charges against Qatar, 
the accusations are rich coming from a regime that has been one of the 
biggest sources of funding 
to so-called jihadi groups going back decades 

But like Saudi Arabia, Qatar too has been accused of financing 
or allowing money to flow 
to ISIS and al-Qaida-affiliated groups in Syria.

Israel has also had no problem with al-Qaida linked groups, and even 
ISIS, in Syria, offering them various kinds of cooperation and material 

So the source of Saudi ire must lie elsewhere. Qatar has for years, 
along with Saudi Arabia, been part of the counterrevolution 
to thwart or reverse the so-called Arab Spring uprisings.

Qatar was taking part 
in the Saudi-led war on Yemen, before being kicked out 
<http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/breakingnews/30317229> of the 
coalition this week.

The two-year bombing campaign in Yemen has killed thousands of civilians 
and brought the impoverished country to the brink of famine 

But Qatar has often found itself backing different horses 
<http://lobelog.com/whats-happening-in-the-persian-gulf/>: Doha 
supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, while Riyadh has backed the 
regime of Abdulfattah al-Sisi, the army chief who led the 2013 military 
coup that overthrew the elected Muslim Brotherhood president in Cairo.

These differences had soured relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia 
for years.

But Saudi Arabia may have been emboldened to act now, after US President 
Donald Trump gave full endorsement 
to strengthening a Saudi-led anti-Iran alliance during his visit to 
Riyadh last month.

    Targeting Hamas and Iran

Qatar has continued to host the leaders of the Palestinian resistance 
group Hamas and has been under pressure 
<http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=777510> to expel the group’s 
officials – Israeli media claims that Qatar did expel two officials are 

But the biggest difference appears to be that Qatar has not been willing 
to fully sign up to the Saudi-Israeli alliance against Iran.

A deal in April in which Qatar allegedly paid about $700 million in 
ransom to release members of its royal family abducted by an 
Iran-affiliated group in Iraq reportedly enraged officials in other Gulf 

Qatar also reportedly paid about $300 million in ransom to several 
al-Qaida linked groups in Syria, according 
<https://www.ft.com/content/dd033082-49e9-11e7-a3f4-c742b9791d43> to 
/The Financial Times./

Also in April, Qatar lifted a self-imposed ban 
<http://www.reuters.com/article/us-qatar-gas-idUSKBN175181> on 
developing a major maritime natural gas field it shares with Iran, which 
would necessitate cooperation 
<http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/1.793798> between the two 
countries, according to the Tel Aviv newspaper /Haaretz/.

Things came to a head around the time of Trump’s visit and his summit 
with regional leaders.

Qatar’s national news agency published comments 
attributed to the country’s leader Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, 
calling Iran “a regional and Islamic power that cannot be ignored” and 
asserting that “it is unwise to face up against it.”

Tamim also purportedly said his country’s relations with Israel were 
“good.” Qatar has flatly denied the statements are real, claiming that 
the news agency’s website and social media accounts were hacked.

Qatar has historically maintained relations with Israel, even welcoming 
its then foreign minister Tzipi Livni to Doha in 2008.

But the Qatar-based network Al Jazeera has cited the fake comments as a 
trigger for the crisis, accusing Saudi Arabia and its allies of using 
them as a pretext to move against Qatar.

    UAE embraces Israel

Another factor is the close relationship between the United Arab 
Emirates and Israel.

Hacked emails published by /The Intercept/ 
reveal coordination between the Emirates ambassador in Washington, 
Yousef Al-Otaiba, and the neoconservative pro-Israel think tank 
Foundation for Defense of Democracies 

The emails reveal “a remarkable level of backchannel cooperation” 
between the Emirates and the think tank, which is funded by billionaire 
Sheldon Adelson <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/sheldon-adelson>, a 
close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to 
/The Intercept./

The email exchanges included complaints from the Israel lobby group 
about Qatar’s support for Hamas “terrorists.”

An agenda <https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3766679-FDD2.html> 
for a meeting between leaders of the Israel lobby group and Emirates 
ambassador al-Otaiba scheduled for this month includes such items as 
“Qatar support for radical Islamists” including Hamas, Qatar’s 
“destabilizing role in Egypt, Syria, Libya and the Gulf” and the role of 
the Qatar-backed Al Jazeera network.

It also includes ways to reduce the influence Qatar gains from hosting a 
major US air base.

One of the items on the agenda is “Political, economic, security sanctions.”

The agenda is evidence that the Foundation for Defense of Democracies – 
a key player in Israel’s anti-Palestinian propaganda – was gearing up to 
deliver in Washington the anti-Qatar message coming from Riyadh and the 
United Arab Emirates.

    US role

The leaked documents reveal that the Saudi-led bloc is troubled by the 
influence Qatar gains by hosting the massive American al-Udeid air base.

But this is precisely why the US, the overall imperial power, has no 
interest in a squabble among states that it views as vassals.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson affirmed the importance 
of US ties with all the states involved and offered to mediate, urging 
the feuding rulers to “remain unified.”

The US military lauded 
Qatar for its “enduring commitment to regional security” and affirmed it 
had “no plans to change our posture in Qatar.”

Qatar has taken these messages as signs of strong US support, but as 
ever Trump was quick to throw everything into doubt.

“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no 
longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar - look!” 
Trump tweeted 
<https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/872062159789985792> on 
Tuesday, appearing to directly endorse the Saudi-led campaign against Doha.

“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries 
already paying off,” he added 
<https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/872084870620520448>. “They 
<https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/872086906804240384> said 
they would take a hard line on funding extremism and all reference was 
pointing to Qatar.”

“Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of 
terrorism,” the president asserted. More likely, Trump is pouring 
gasoline on an already burning region.

A long-term goal of Israel has long been to divide Arab powers against 
each other, to “let them bleed,” as the official Israeli doctrine on 

Whatever happens next, Israel will continue to benefit from the chaos 
and divisions that only strengthen its hand.

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