Tag Archives: US

Qatar crisis, where to?

A few months ago when Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries took a stand against Qatar, it was clear that the crisis is not a short term one. The countries involved have a long history of conflict with Qatar, including recent attempts to influence their policies.

While it is unlikely to be a short-term crisis, there is little suggestion of the potential for military escalation. Rather, it is more likely the next steps will be an escalation of economic and jurisdictional measures against Qatar.

In recent weeks the Qatari Foreign Minister has visited major global capital cities to speak with his counterparts who could influence international decision-making on the issue. The strategy is to demonstrate the Qatari willingness to negotiate on the key issues and to defend themselves against accusations of sponsoring and supporting terrorism.

Also under discussion is likely to have been the potential deepening of Qatari relations with Iran, which goes against the demands of the Gulf States. It is distinctly possible that this is already moving as indicated by events in Syria. Some believe that the recent progress of the Syrian Army and its allies on the ground are a result of the new Qatari position with Iran.

While relations with Iran are a useful political leverage point for Doha, it could easily backfire. Qatar’s strategy is heavily reliant on the US to step in to defend it; deeper relations with Iran are unlikely to lead down a path where the US protects it. Qatar has signed a MOU with the US to support the fight against terrorism; the current US administration may well interpret that to include Iran.

The US appears to be eager to contain the gulf crisis, despite the fact that the Trump administration’s containment plan for Iran is based on increasing pressure and isolation. As such, it will be interesting to watch how Doha pivots back to the US and distance itself from Iran in order to resolve the Gulf crisis.

Qatar’s other ally in Turkey is also struggling both in Syria and within its own borders. The US-Kurdish alliance is causing issues, enough for the Turkish President to publicly criticize its establishment quite bluntly, but to no avail. Internal Turkish politics are heating up with growth in support for opposition parties, internal fragmentation and increased security concerns.

What we are seeing is that Qatar’s two strongest supporters in the Gulf crisis in Iran and Turkey are unlikely to be able to maintain their positions in the longer term. Qatar’s best option is to position with the US as an impartial broker, however that will likely require Doha to accept a large part of the demands from its Gulf neighbors.

Dr. Amer AL Sabaileh

Mosul Battle: What next

According to various security reports, the last few weeks have seen a mass systematic withdrawal of IS fighters from Mosul, anticipating the US operation of liberating Mosul from ISIS.

Politically, the US insists on separating the efforts of fighting ISIS in its main cities of Mosul and Raqqa. This kind of tactic highlights the lack of pragmatism in the way the US is fighting terrorism in the Middle East.

Since the declaration of the Caliphate by IS, the US has wanted to appear as the savior and liberator of Mosul and Raqqa.  There was a similar Hollywood-style in the assassination of Osama Bin Laden and a similar political investment.

The announcement of the US military plan to liberate Mosul based on avoiding a humanitarian disaster demonstrates the American interest is the political story in Washington and the impact on the presidential election. The message being sent is the role of the current administration in the liberation of Mosul to demonstrate the success of Obama’s second term, much like the elimination of Bin Laden was used to demonstrate the success of his first term.

In publicly announcing their plans, ISIS has responded by withdrawing from Mosul, making American success much more likely as the ISIS presence in Mosul has decreased significantly, making liberation a much simpler task. While IS fights have moved to Raqqa, those remaining in Mosul have taken to guerilla tactics with an increase in suicide bombings and surprise ambushes.

So while entering Mosul will not be so difficult, the next step will be the real challenge as they attempt to reestablish political stability, without challenging Iraqi authority. Furthermore, the real battle with ISIS is just being shifted to Raqqa, where most of the IS forces are preparing for a confrontation. A battle for Raqqa is likely to be far more complicated, not just because ISIS will remain and fight after having months to prepare, but also because of the lack of coordination between the Russian and international allies, which will only create more complexity and make success more difficult to achieve.

Meanwhile, Turkish supported troops have taken the village of Dabeq will crush the IS ideology on which the terrorist group justifies itself as the successor of the medieval caliphate and the prophecy that they will prevail in the final battle of Armageddon between the forces of good and evil.

The impending fall of Mosul will also trigger the search for the next successor to the caliphate.  We are likely to see the birth of new groups claiming to be the legitimate successor of the caliphate heritage. Moreover, the direct attack on Mosul could also scatter IS fighters, which will result on individual and uncoordinated terrorist attacks across the region and the world as followers of the IS doctrine have shown a capacity to operate globally.

Despite all of this, the symbolism of the fall of Mosul is very important, as it is the place from which La Baghdadi announced the birth of the caliphate. As such, it will be considered a big blow to the organization and its narrative. While there may be negative implications for IS, it will also have negative impacts for the rest of the world with a greater risk of terrorist attacks, while also setting up a difficult battle for Raqqa. Especially so if the US insists on not coordinating with other forces in the region to liberate the last remaining major city that IS holds.

Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh