President Barack Obama viewed the conflicts in the Middle East as having their roots in the previous Western colonialism. Additionally he viewed American military use as an incentive for countries like Iran to oppose the U.S. using such means as terrorism. So, President Obama adjusted his foreign policy, believing that openness would be rewarded with cooperation and civility. This belief was the reason the nuclear agreement with the Iranian regime was established and caused him to grant concessions to secure the deal. However, he overlooked such issues as Iran’s support for terror and its human rights record.
His motive was to make peace, but his assumptions about the nature of the Middle East was wrong.
In an article by Michael Tomlinson for iranlobby.net, he writes, “For many decades, the Arab world was uniformly united in using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the primary talking point in diplomatic circles, but with the ascendance of the Iranian regime over the last few years, the Arab world and Iran’s neighbors have quickly re-calculated the risks of allowing Iran unfettered freedom.
The price of this has been tragic for the Syrian people, as Iran used its Revolutionary Guard Corps and Quds Force troops, alongside Hezbollah fighters, Iraqi Shiite militias and recruited Afghan mercenaries, all to fight on behalf of the Assad regime.
In Yemen, Iran has used armed Houthi rebels in a front against Saudi Arabia, which poses a significant threat to the Kingdom. Additionally, Iran’s efforts to control Iraq as a Shiite proxy gave birth to ISIS and other extremist groups, according to Iran Lobby, who also claim that, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the mullahs in Tehran behind much of the machinations taking place aimed at their Sunni rivals, which explains why the latest flare up involving the tiny Gulf state of Qatar exploded this week.”
The Atlantic spelled out the problems Qatar’s neighbors have had over the past decade. The Atlantic reported that Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, cut ties with Qatar in 2014, and withdrew their ambassadors from the country for nine months. Now things have gone markedly further, and includes economic sanctions. Qatar’s only land border is with Saudi Arabia, therefore disruption to the flow of goods and people by air, land, or sea, may cause rapid economic disturbance and lead to social or political unrest.
The roots of the tensions between Qatar and its neighbors predate the Arab Spring in 2011 and Qatar’s subsequent high-profile support for Islamist transitions in North Africa and Syria.
Tomlinson writes, “In fact, nearly every ‘crisis’ in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) over the past quarter-century has, in some way, involved Qatar. The other Gulf leaders’ patience with Doha’s sometimes-maverick regional policies may have finally snapped.”
Qatar’s post-1995 leadership has pursued autonomous regional policies designed to free the country from Saudi involvement. Qatar’s support for regional Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, and provision of Doha-based Al Jazeera as a platform for groups criticizing regional states, incited friction.
Amid the tension between Qatar and its neighbors, the Iranian regime sees an opportunity to extend its influence to Qatar. Iran immediately blamed President Donald Trump for setting the stage during his recent trip to Riyadh. The deputy chief of staff under Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Hamid Aboutalebi, tweeted, “What is happening is the preliminary result of the sword dance,” referring to Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia.
“The prospect of a U.S. president forging a new Arab coalition against Iran must be freaking out the mullahs in Tehran which may explain their near hysterical response to Trump in blaming him for everything,” writes Tomlinson.
Iran and Qatar share a massive gas field in the Persian Gulf, thus providing a strong incentive for them to band together. Iran may be hoping to strengthen its relationship with Qatar, and meanwhile drive a wedge into the Gulf States by offering to move food and supplies by convoy into Qatar. This is a move that Saudi Arabia is blocking. The underlying central issue between Qatar and its neighbors is about the Iranian regime.