Why does Saudi Arabia want Assad to be dethroned?

Disintegration symptoms in the Gulf Arabs

Qatar's exit from OPEC has purely strategic business, no political reasons, said Qatari energy minister Saad al-Kaabi - only to then let go of a point against "an organization controlled by a country" in his press conference. What is meant is of course Saudi Arabia, the unequal sparring partner of the small emirate.

Qatar is not an oil, but a gas giant: if the emirate leaves, that will change next to nothing within OPEC. From a political perspective, concerning the states on the Arab side of the Persian Gulf, things look different again: Qatar publicly demonstrates what is happening in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman - going on. The Arab Gulf States, which moved closer together after the 1979 revolution in Iran, are divided and in some cases violently divided: although the GCC's founding idea, a common front against Iran, is currently the overriding political issue in the region.

Not a member of the first hour

Qatar is not a founding member of OPEC, but joined it only a year later, in 1961. Until the mid-1990s, Qatar saw its role more or less as the security policy satellite of the powerful Saudi Arabia. That changed in 1995 when Hamad bin Khalifa dethroned his father (who in turn pushed his cousin away in 1972). The Saudis did not like that, they in turn supported an unsuccessful attempted coup against Hamad in 1996. During this time, Qatar's total change of strategy with the new formula "security through visibility" occurs.

Security through visibility

In 2002, Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador from Doha for the first time for six years. As is so often the case, the reason was the Al Jazeera television station, where media attacks on the Saudi royal family were not taboo. After a brief calm in 2008, the conflict with the Arab Spring broke out again in 2011. Qatar supported the Islamic revolutionary movements, that is, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, saw and sees the Muslim Brotherhood as a direct threat to the Salafist monarchies in the Gulf.

Emir Hamad handed over the business of government to his son Tamim in 2013. If Saudi Arabia expected another Qatari course change, it was disappointed. The crisis escalated in June 2017, since then Qatar has been under a total economic and political boycott of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt. The GCC members Kuwait and Oman did not go along.

Politically broken

The break now lasts for a year and a half, and in some cases it is taking on bizarre forms: In Riyadh, for example, there is the consideration of digging a canal at the shared border, which would turn Qatar into an island. But Qatar, which for its part has a political heavyweight as an ally in Turkey, is relatively undamaged and confident.

Contributing to this is that the Qatari Air Force Base Al Udeid is home to the largest number of US military personnel in the Middle East. Washington wants a strong GCC and is not happy with the Saudi Qatar policy.

But the relationship between Qatar and the UAE is even more shattered than the Saudi-Qatari relationship. And it is interesting to see that the Emirates are now pursuing a regional policy that is just as independent as Qatar was before. In various ways one can already observe the breaking up of different Saudi and Emirati interests, for example in Yemen. (Gudrun Harrer, December 4, 2018)