News Snob

This blog is in defense of people, news snobs, who still read newspapers and subscribe to Newsweek or Time magazine.   I can not think of my cell phone as a news information source.  I have a hard time with anyone else who thinks this way.   Besides the print media, there is television news reporting and  current topic shows and internet sources.

There’s a program called, Morning Joe.  It has guests to comment on various current  topics.  I have included a Wikipedia links, on the show and on the host Mika Brzenzinski.   Her father,  Zbigniew Brzezinski, was admired as a worldwide expert in foreign affairs (see information at end), with outstanding accomplishments including  nuclear arms reduction in Russia and the US recognition of China.

Donald Trump made an extremely crude remark through Twitter on one of the show’s hosts, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzenzinski.   I don’t tweet or receive tweets.  People are saying tweets  reveal character.  In Trump’s case, it is more of a confirmation.    The Morning Joe show has certainly had its share of controversies,  But the list of both liberal and conservative guests is very impressive.   Trump’s comments have piqued my interest and I’ll probably start watching the show.

I believe the slew of 24/7 “news” network, has resulted in a number of shows with an particular political agenda.  Probably the worst is Fox News.  Their reporting of the news is usually well done.  But,  I generally don’t listen to the conservative commentary from “news shows.”   I don’t know what is gained from listening to five people on a couch all agreeing with one another.

Perhaps what turns me off the most, is when the show’s host cut off the responses of their guests, use sarcasm and “righteous indignation” to make their point.  Worst offender of this is Lou Dobbs of Fox News.  He poses long leading questions, which are not answered in the manner he likes, are quickly cut off, with the comment, “Well we are just about out of time.”

I like BBC, and some of the shows on CNN.  Fareed Zakaria’s GPS program is far too short, but I think the focus is generally good.  I always go for content over commentary.   The recent firing of Greta Van Susteren at MSNBC for falling ratings is troubling.  I always admired her ability to ask questions of her  hosts in a concise and impartial manner.    She had a great interview with Scott Pruit, administrator of the EPA.   I know declining ratings means declining revenue.  Shows like hers are needed at times of crisis as viewers want to hear intelligent and impartial interviews from people at the top.

Then there’s the highly biased radio programs, and internet sites.   Because it is so easy, they can generate a ton of sensationalism.  Usually, there is a product for sale, or contributions solicited.

One which came to light at a White House briefing was “Project Veritas”  with a great name, but also 100% biased cut-and-paste videos.  Veritas is the goddess of truth, who  hid at the bottom of a well because she was so elusive.  I don’t think she would appreciate Mr. O’Keefe’s videos –  I think an appropriate title would be “Project Dolos.”   I would call Dolos the god of marketing and social engineering.  Dolos has found his Garden of Eden on the internet.

I really worry that the future generations of Americans are not going to be able to discern the difference between real news and the YouTube variety of cut and paste sensationalism.

Finally, my opinion of the print media.

Warren Buffet, the richest man in the US, reads six newspapers a day.    I suspect he’s always has an ear to hear from experts in select areas and use his own head for information processing.   The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, always put accurate content first, despite everything Trump has said.  There’s a digital version of the Financial Times, which I might subscribe to in the future.   Some of the greatest news reporters work for these newspapers.    Time and Newsweek are excellent.

However, print media in the content first style of the Financial Times or the New York Times  is a tough business.  I am very glad that Jeff Bezos, of Amazon bought the Washington Post, which will ensure its ability to provide honest investigative reporting for decades to come.  It is what the subscribers paid for and he won’t change this.    The commentaries might not suit Donald Trump or any other president, Republican or Democrat.   But, they will come from the best experts in their field.

I am not against the internet.  I have written before that the internet is an incredible resource- if you go to the right places   It’s all free.  Wikipedia and  Scotusblog are two of my favorites.   I use the fact checking sites generally after a major speech.  Politifact.com and factcheck.org are my favorites.

I confess to being a news snob.   My filters are up as it is all content over commentary.  And the New York Times has the Qatar crisis on the front page.  It’s about time!

Stay tuned,

Dave

Her father,  Zbigniew Brzezinski, was admired as a worldwide expert in foreign affairs, serving as National Security Advisor under  President Carter, and then later asked to stay on in the role when Ronald Reagan became President.  He declined.

Wikipedia:  Zbigniew Brzezinski

Wikipedia:  Mika Brzezinski

Wikipedia:  Morning Joe

Wikipedia:  Jim O’Keefe  (founder of Project Veritas)

A reference is made to the  god Dolos (representing trickery and deceit) and goddess Veritas (representing truth) comes from Greek Mythology.   In one of Aesop’s fables,  two statues are created, one of Veritas, and another an imitation.  When life is given to the two statues, only Veritas can walk with measured steps.  The imitation had no feet.  Thus, in the long run, truth overcomes falsehoods or deceit.  Please click on the link below, to fully enjoy how Aesop told his fable, in the 6th year, BC:

Link on Aesop’s fables 

 

Negotiating the non-negotiable demands

It is not business as usual in Qatar.  Food supplies from the GCC countries have been cut off.  Qataris will be deported.  Both the Saudis and the UAE have been talking tough- met our demands or else!  So, I pity those who want to negotiate anything in this environment.   The ten day deadline is up on Monday.  Just waiting for the “what else” to happen.

Stay tuned,

Dave

The Qatar-Iran Mega Gas Field

The political world in the Middle East seems to be in continual flux,with the Iraq and Syria conflicts,  Qatar crisis and the Libyan civil war.     However, the business world seems very different and much more stable,  as investments in oil and gas must be made over decades, not timed to local or regional  politics.   It appears the business deals transcends all the political rhetoric and cultural differences, with the common goal of sound investments for the long term for the mutual benefit of all stakeholders.

The Trump administration seems obsessed with blaming everything linking terrorism to Iran.   It is a theme popular with  Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, but I think now, it is a pretext for their blockade of Qatar.    The only other non-Arab  country with this fixation is Israel.

The business world doesn’t see this as a problem.   Simply put, “Money talks and nobody walks away from a profitable deal.”   Even the French, who have seen more of their fair share of terror attacks.

Iran and Qatar  economically they have no choice, but to cooperate, as they are “joined at the hip”  by a mega gas field, the South Pars (belonging to Iran) and North Dome (belonging to Qatar) field. The division of the field based on maritime agreements.  Fortunately, for both countries, there is no dispute on gas ownership.

South_Pars

The South Pars  reserves account for roughly 7.5% of the world’s gas reserves and almost 40% of Iran’s total natural gas wealth. The field  is the world’s largest gas field in terms of recoverable gas with a reserves of 1235 trillion cubic feet (tcf).  The second largest gas field, Urengoy, in Russia has 222 tcf.   The field  produces both natural gas and condensed gas liquids (condensates).   See links below for more details.

The field was discovered in 1971, but first production did not occur until 1989.   With the discovery of  a mega field, why wait so long to develop?  Gas discoveries are a blessing and a curse.   Gas,  unlike oil,  can not be easily transported and sent to European and Asian markets.   Gas can be liquified  transported in specially built tankers.  The curse is that mega gas fields require mega investments, in terms of hundreds of billions of dollars.   To develop the field, Iran needed international partners from France (Total) and China (CNPC).

The French company, Total, operates South Pars, which means they are responsible for exploration, development and production, but Iran and the other partners have  approval authority on all activities.   The Pars Oil and Gas Company (POGC). a subsidiary of National Iran Oil Company, has jurisdiction over all South Pars-related projects.

Since the mid-2000s development of the field has stagnated due to a lack of foreign investment and export opportunities because of United Nations (UN) and Western sanctions against Iran.  A partial lifting of these sanctions in 2015 has enabled POGC, which was established in 1998, and the government to move forward with the 24th development phase set out for the field.

Total benefited from the lifting of sanctions as field development, aimed at increasing gas production could continue.  As Republican candidates where crisscrossing the US, denouncing the Iranian nuclear agreement  deal as the most horrible deal of the century,  Total was quietly discussing with Iran on the next development phase of the South Pars field.  By November 2016, Iran announced a memorandum of agreement, and in April 16, 2017,  President Rouhani  concluded contracts for  5 new phases of field development worth 20 billion dollars. See links below. It is expected that Iran’s production will surpass Qatar’s.

All this depends on an accessible market.  It is a big “if.”   Iran ships its gas via pipeline.   Qatar has a far reach to the rest of the world through its liquified natural gas (LNG) facilities.   Qatar exports 1/3 of all LNG worldwide.   Qatar supplies the UAE by the Dolphin pipeline and LNG shipments.

As Iran was announcing development plans in South Pars,  Qatar followed by the announcements of further developments in the North Dome.   The withdrawals from both sides of the field must be done in a way to avoid significant migration across the maritime country boundary.  So it made sense that as Iran planned increases, Qatar would do the same.   Also,  engineers on both sides have to collaborate to avoid excessive withdrawals which could impact total recoverable gas and liquids.   This is called “reservoir management.”

So,  the GCC countries likely could see the gas supply was going to be increasing,  and both Iran and Qatar would seek ways of extending the lines of  supply either by pipeline or LNG tankers.    Interestingly,  even though the UAE has taken the extreme position that the 13 demands are non-negotiable,  the critically important gas from Qatar still flows to the UAE.

The current Qatar crisis likely came to a boil, as a number of actions taken by Qatar.  This includes the payment of ransom to Shite militants in Iraq which could be used to support the claim of terrorism.  It also saved the  lives of members of the royal family.  Others have commented on the open reporting on the 2011 Arab Spring uprising by Al Jazeera, upset many of the Arab countries.  A “respectful press” would have immediately taken the side of the government, not the dissenters.  Qatar’s willingness to accept exiled dissidents from other Arab countries angered Saudi Arabia and the other GCC country.

But, perhaps what has not received enough attention is the economic power of the tiny nation of Qatar, was on the rise.   Could it partner with Iran in the future, by processing Iranian gas for LNG  export?   Could Qatar  invest in  LNG  projects or construction companies?  This would seem to be a perfect fit.

Qatar was really understood that its hydrocarbon assets would not last forever,  and it needed to diversify into other areas.  Exactly what the Saudis are doing right now.

In sum,  Iran’s planned increases in gas production, would result in more gas development  from Qatar, and a push to increase LNG processing capacity.   The other GCC countries knew the rising economic wealth of both Iran and Qatar  would change the balance of power in the Middle East.  While Iran was too big to isolate or pressure, Qatar looked vulnerable.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Offshore Technology: Developing South Pars: a look at Iran’s mega gas field (undated but likely written prior to April 2017)

Iran opens new South Pars gas field phases worth $20 billion

Qatar crisis: Have the Saudis gone too far?

Middle East Eye:  Iran seeks stronger Ties with Qatar

(Any suggestions- I know there is a lot of discussion on these points, and I’ll add more later)

 

 

 

Bob Corker’s Action on Arms Sale is Spot On

Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, moved to block sales of arms to the GCC countries, until there is resolution on the Qatar crisis.   Already the Senate has approved 500 million dollars of arms shipments to the Saudi Arabia.  The Qatar crisis has the potential to escalate once the 10 days expires on the 13 demand letter on Friday. Numerous commentaries on the crisis have appeared in the New York Times and Washington Post, showing a deep understanding of the problems in the region.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

NYT, OpEd, Joost Hiltermann Qatar Punched above its Weight.  Now it is paying the price.

NYT, Senator puts a hold on any future arms sales to Persian Gulf nations over Qatar Feud 

Perhaps the song should be “What’s terrorism got to do with this?”  music by Tina Turner.

 

How to de-escalate the Qatar crisis?

I present this as an open question.  Going forward, there is no doubt that all of the 13 demands will be rejected by Qatar.  Kuwait appears to be the negotiator in this crisis.  I suspect Oman will play a role.

It may be premature to even think how the crisis can be de-escalated.  Perhaps, what should be addressed is how any further measures by Saudi Arabia and allies to economically harm Qatar be avoided.

The US, UK and the Economic Union can all condemn the blockade on the basis of free trade.  They can also condemn the list of demands as an affront to national sovereignty.  The other Arab countries have state owned news media, why should Qatar be denied this right?   The answer is simple- because Al Jazeera has become the largest and most successful.   It has nothing to do with terrorism.

But, would international condemnation  have any effect?   Would action by the UN help?

The US policy began with tweets from Donald Trump,  foolishly taking credit for the Saudi’s action.   Then it seemed to more to neutral, offering assistance in resolving the crisis.  Now,  the policy seems to lean more towards Qatar.

The most immediate crisis is the deportation of thousands of Qataris from the other Arab countries.  The most obvious step would be to delay these deportations.  However, given the inevitable refusal of Qatar to accept any of the demands,  the deportations are likely.

So, what is the path forward?

Stay tuned,

Dave

I note that there are many excellent articles on the Qatar crisis.  I will provide more links in the future.

Qatar – Criticism of the “Demand List” Grows

The demand list is short.   Clearly missing from this list, is any basis for the demands.

But, it is clear underlying these demands is  a general accusation  that Qatar supports terrorism.  It is accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood through commentary from the Al Jazeera news network.    The Muslim Brotherhood is recognized only by certain countries as a terrorist organization.

Further, it is accused of harboring terrorists within its country.   In this respect, we can welcome Qatar to the club as we too harbor “terrorists.”  Surprised!  They are only labeled terrorists by leaders outside of our country.

One US harbored terrorist is Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish national, who according to Wikipedia:

He is currently on Turkey’s most-wanted-terrorist list and is accused of leading what the current Turkish officials call the Gülenist Terror Organisation (Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü, FETÖ). A Turkish criminal court issued an arrest warrant for Gülen.  Turkey is demanding the extradition of Gülen from the United States.

Mr. Gulen is 76 years old, and came to the US in 1999 for medical reasons.  He was an ally of President Erdogan until the anti-corruption protests in 2013.  The US has refused to turn over Mr. Gulen, until it receives evidence of terrorist activities.   Why make a fuss over just one elderly man which has been convicted of crimes against Turkey?   Because of our values and national sovereignty.  Gulen has a US permanent visa.  Also, he has never advocated violence.   In fact he is very much against Islamic violence as follows:

Gülen has condemned terrorism. He warns against the phenomenon of arbitrary violence and aggression against civilians and said that it “has no place in Islam”. He wrote a condemnation article in the Washington Post on September 12, 2001, one day after the September 11 attacks, and stated that “A Muslim can not be a terrorist, nor can a terrorist be a true Muslim.” Gülen lamented the “hijacking of Islam” by terrorists.

President Erdogan’s definition of a terrorist is likely the same as Syrian President Assad, as anyone whose ideas might threaten the continuation of his regime.

President Obama did not hand over our “terrorists” without sufficient evidence of terrorist activities.  President Trump will do the same.  Qatar will do the same.

The demand to shut down Al Jazeera will fail.  Saudi Arabia can not tell a news network in another country what it can and cannot broadcast.

It is hoped that this list of demands will highlight the fact that the blockade led by Saudi Arabia  is political power grab  and has no role in the fight against Islamic jihadists.  It also shows how the Saudi’s “played” President Trump’s visit to their maximum advantage.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Saudi Arabia Issues List of Demands on Qatar

Saudi Arabia has given Qatar 10 days to comply with 13 demands as given below:

Demands from Saudi Arabia

“This list of demands confirms what Qatar has said from the beginning – the illegal blockade has nothing to do with combating terrorism, it is about limiting Qatar’s sovereignty, and outsourcing our foreign policy,” said Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al Thani, director of the Qatari government’s communications office, in a statement on Friday.

This action by Saudi Arabia means the blockade will not be resolved easily as it is becoming a test of wills and might.

Al Jazeera Report

Perhaps, the worse Trump tweet, yet in 2017, has been the June 6, tweet.  Fortunately this does not represent the State Department’s viewpoint.

trumps tweet on qatar

Now Saudi Arabia is ordering Qatar to shut down the independent news network, Al Jazeera.

Hopefully, the US will side with Qatar in the inevitable rejection of these demands.  If not, then we believe in the freedom of the press for only ourselves and not others.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

Qatar Export Problems and What’s Next

Qatar has enormous gas reserves.    Gas requires a market.  When the local market is limited,   producers often have to invest heavily to make their gas marketable worldwide.  Qatar, along with many other countries, have invested in conversion of their gas to liquified natural gas (LNG) for the purpose of export.  These liquification plants (usually called “trains”),, shipment ports and the carriers usually are require billions of dollars to construct.   There has to be ports constructed to safely  receive the LNG.   For safety purposes, the carriers’ offloading buoys are located a long distance from shore.   Qatar is the world’s largest LNG exporter.   This opens up the world to their gas.

Qatar has contracts with Japan to supply LNG.  The shipping is now more costly  and likey causing delivery delays because these tankers can not refuel in the Persian Gulf.  However, shipments will continue.  Japanese buyers of LNG are hoping to renegotiate the LNG delivery contracts on better terms, to take advantage of Qatar’s situation.

Qatar also supplies the UK.  There was concern last week when two tankers delivering Qatari gas turn around as they entered the Gulf of Aden, but later reports indicate the  Qatari tankers can pass through the Suez canal and supply Europe.

Oil export is a bit tricky.  The very large crude carriers (VLCC) carry nearly a billion barrels of oil.  They generally make multiple loading  (“liftings”) at ports of other  countries to fill their tanker.  However, the rules of the blockade prohibit this-  if a tanker  has a partial load from Qatar, it can not top off its load by lifting at a Saudi port.  Qatar is scrambling to find smaller tankers to lift their crude.

Food is being supplied by an emergency airlift from Turkey.   The US could be doing much more as we have an airbase in Qatar, but I suspect the 100 billion dollars in potential new contracts with the Saudi’s is keeping Trump from taking any action.  Doha is not Berlin.  The stock market in Qatar dropped around 10%, which does not include Qatargas, as it is not a publicly traded  company.   The credit rating of Qatar dropped a notch due to an S+P downgrade.

I have combed the internet, looking for possible ways each side could de-escalate the crisis.   I found nothing that was likely.  The most obvious way to keep the diplomatic/ economic crisis from turning into a humanitarian one, is to stop the deportations,  or at least push back the deadlines.   Qataris were given 2 weeks to leave Bahrain, UAE and Saudi Arabia.    I believe some measures are being done to ensure the families are not broken up.  Amnesty International has come out strongly against these deportation as it makes people on both sides of the conflict, the  real victims of the conflict.  I am certain the Arab countries are now sourcing the labor market, and will be bring in many laborers from Pakistan and the Philippines.   I have not confirmation on this- it’s really just my hunch.   Once deportation begin, it will be difficult to undo through negotiations.

The outsiders, including Russia, France and the US,  plus the non-aligned Arab countries of Kuwait and Oman, all want to help in negotiating a lifting of sanctions.  But, it remains confused at what would satisfy the main actors (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain) in this blockade.   Qatar is not about to “rein in”  Al Jazeera,  in essence, make it less effective a news network.   It is in daily competition with all other news outlets, and given the widespread use of satellite television,  their major competitors are the BBC, CNN and Euronews, at least for the English speaking world.  And they are doing very well. Qatar denies they have any connection with Hamas or any terrorist organizations.

This type of sanctions usually don’t work.  All they will accomplish is to cause hardships for Qatar and the companies and investors doing business with Qatar.   Those who financed Qatar’s rise in the world, were likely rich Persian Gulf investors, buying Qatari bonds, which would be “safe” investments.  They are likely taking a big hit.  The blockade can be lifted easily, but it seems things are at a stalemate.   On the other hand, there are opportunities to escalate the situation.   Qatar could cut the gas supplies to UAE through their pipeline, but this would likely backfire, and Qatar would be the bigger loser.   Other Arab countries would step up their gas supplies to the UAE and the Saudi blockage would gain more unity.   The Arab countries can through controlling the airspace,  effectively ground Qatar Air without much repercussions.  They seem to want to put Qatar Air out of business.   Stopping Qatari  LNG carriers passing through the Suez canal,  would violate international laws,  but  it is still a potential step.  Yemen controls the Gulf of Aden, so this would be the place to extract more economic harm to Qatar.

I have no idea of how this mess can end.    The most recent series of terrorist attacks, in the Philippines and Iran, suggest the Sunni based ISIS is still the number one instigator of secular violence in the world, not tied in anyway to Qatar.   Trump is still going nuts pushing his travel ban, but it is equally likely that the next outside terrorists to land on our shores (there has been very few of them) is equally likely to come from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, France, Belgium, UK or  the Philippines, rather than Libya, Sudan or Syria (countries named in the travel ban).     Actually,  the next terrorists to cause bloodshed in  the US, are more likely to  be US permanent residents or citizens, than agents from any other country.   It is all politics, and getting uglier by the day.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Qatar crisis worsening

In the four prior blogs, I tried to explain some of the key element of the crisis. It was not comprehensive.  I will list a few recent events not included in the last blog.  These events are  all within the last 5 days, although they are not really in proper time sequence.

Massive deportations and family separations will result:

Al Jazeera headline:  Saudi-led blockade on Qatar ‘breaking up families’ Amid GCC diplomatic crisis, hundreds of mixed-citizenship couples are facing separation.  It should have mentioned that Qatar retaliated, expelling Saudi, UAE and Bahraini citizens.   In their article,  it is stated:

Shortly following the severing of diplomatic ties and border closure between Qatar and the three Arab Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, Qatari nationals were ordered to leave within 14 days. Saudi, UAE and Bahraini citizens were also given the same timeframe to leave Qatar.

As a result, hundreds of mixed-citizenship Qatari couples are facing the grim prospect of being split from their families. The children inherit the nationality of their father in mixed citizenship couples, so in many cases, the children are really unfamiliar with the countries to which they are being deported.  It is a humanitarian disaster.  Each day, reconciliation seems more unlikely as each side is trying to inflect as much damages on the other as possible.

Read more

UAE  15 year sentence for “sympathy  crimes”:    “Strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form,” Gulf News quoted UAE Attorney-General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi as saying. Offenders could be punished with a jail term of up to 15 years and a fine of at least 500,000 dirhams ($136,000), Gulf News reported.

Russian Hacking:   Washington (CNN)US investigators believe Russian hackers breached Qatar’s state news agency and planted a fake news report that contributed to a crisis among the US’ closest Gulf allies, according to US officials briefed on the investigation. The FBI recently sent a team of investigators to Doha to help the Qatari government investigate the alleged hacking incident, Qatari and US government officials say.

June 5 activities were aimed at sanctioning Qatar, and isolating its ability to trade and obtained supplies.  Saudi Arabia’s central bank asks local banks to sell Qatari riyals and not to buy any more, local media and Reuters report.  Egypt airspace to close on Tuesday.. Egypt’s ministry of civil aviation has announced that the country’s airspace will be closed to Qatari flights starting Tuesday 04:00 GMT.   Lieberman, Israel’s defence minister, has praised the measures against Qatar, saying: “There is no doubt that this opens very many possibilities of cooperation in the struggle against terror.”  Saudi Arabia has shut down Al Jazeera Media Network’s local office, according to Saudi state media. The Saudi Ports Authority has notified shipping agents not to receive vessels carrying Qatari flags or ships owned by Qatari companies or individuals. Egypt suspends air and sea links.   Egypt’s foreign ministry said in a statement the country was suspending air and sea links to Qatar, citing national security.

Yemen cuts ties, despite Qatar’s assistance fighting the Houtis:  Yemen’s internationally recognised government has cut relations with Qatar and says it supports the decision by the Saudi-led coalition to end Qatar’s participation in the war on the Houthis in Yemen. Qatar has been part of the coalition since March 2015.  The government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi says it severed ties with Qatar in part over its support of extremist groups in Yemen “in contradiction with the goals announced by the countries supporting the legitimate government”.

Just half the news!  June 10, A separate report from Saudi’s state-run news agency SPA acknowledged Tillerson’s call for Qatar to curtail support for “terrorism”, but did not mention his remarks that the crisis was hurting ordinary Qataris, impairing business activities and harming the fight against ISIL.

I guess that’s enough for now.   See link for the latest updates.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Al Jazeera:  Saudi led blockade is breaking up families (So is Qatar’s deportation)

Al Jazeera: Qatar Diplomatic Crisis: Latest Updates

Qatar in Crisis – Part 1, The earthquake

“A small problem in the beginning can be a big one in the end,”  Thomas Aquinas.

There has been a number of conflicts between Persian Gulf countries, but this crisis has exploded like an earthquake with enormous ripple effects.

The claim of the other Persian Gulf countries, lead by Saudi Arabia is that Qatar supports terrorist organizations.  Qatar denies this, and claims just the opposite, that it actually is fighting the terrorism, in particular,  the Sunni based al-Qaeda and ISIL groups.   It is amazing how quickly Qatar’s friends are siding with the Saudis.  For example, Qatar  supported Libya’s effort to end the oppression by  their dictator, Gaddafi.  Now even Libya (eastern side gov’t)  has joined in the effort to isolate Qatar.  Some thanks!    This will be reviewed in later blog.

This  is not the front page story in the US- but the consequences are huge and may be long lasting.    Wikipedia calls this a diplomatic crisis.  They are keeping up to date with the countries severing ties with Qatar .  I particularly like the  Al Jazeera site, with it’s  timeline of all events.   Al Jazeera is now banned in all hotels in Saudi Arabia, yet it remains the best information source.  There’s been great  reporting in the New York Times, as usual.

The Persian Gulf region’s  political,  economic and military alliances  are, at this moment, in turmoil.  It is quickly getting worse by the hour  as other countries, including Turkey, Russia and the US are becoming involved.   The US can’t help from being involved as it has a major military base on Qatar.  Numerous universities, including Texas A+M have set up university programs in Qatar.    The liquid natural gas (LNG) facility in Qatar has US and French partners -Occidental Petroleum   and Total.  Huge gas reserves are located in the Persian Gulf (South Pars/ North Dome gas condensate field)  and production is shared by Iran and Qatar,  so these two countries are economically joined at the hip.   Qatar Petroleum began drilling additional wells in April 2017, after a 12 year lapse.

Another precious gem of Qatar is the Al-Jazeera news network, which Saudi Arabia and Egypt  hate,  but is a very reliable international news network, not a propaganda machine, as claimed.   Free speech and absolute monarchies, as in Saudi Arabia never really combine well.

The claim of supporting terrorism by the Saudis, seems to focus on support of the Muslim Brotherhood, more than any other organization.   Support of both Hamas and Hezbollah is also cited by Saudi Arabia and other countries.  I will explain in a future blog the recent ransom paid to an Iraqi shi’a group in return for members of the Qatari royal family upset Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

All efforts are being exerted by Saudi Arabia and their allies to control Qatar by isolating them.   There are no set of demands issued by the Saudi alliance.   Qatar is highly defiant right now.   Qatar is fiercely independent and extremely prosperous.    It will rely on Turkey for food and water supplies.   Saudi Arabia can’t isolate Qatar by land or sea,  but by denying airspace rights, this could be  a super big problem for Qatar Airlines. I believe the crisis is really about economic and political dominance of the area.  The fight to end funding of terrorism, is really the pretext.

There is nothing simple or easy to understand about this crisis.   It will not fit within one quick blog, so it is likely it will likely be broken up in parts.

Qatar by most measures is a small and wealthy country.  It’s GDP per capita is around $74,000, higher than the US, with $54,000 per capita.  Of course, the distribution of wealth is very different. It has 2.2 million inhabitants, and is about the size of Connecticut.  This is a country with only 330,000 Qatari citizens and all the others are expatriates.

There are a number of excellent summaries of Qatar on the internet.  The Lonely Planet travel guide used to say that the capital city, Doha, was one of the most boring places to visit.  They completely changed their tune and  now rave about the Doha, as a travel destination.  See Links at the bottom of this blog.

The crisis began when  Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut off relations with Qatar.    This is a major power play among the six  Gulf Cooperative  Council (GCC) countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.   The GCC was formed in 1981.  It provides cooperation among the countries in many areas, including trade, economic development and mutual military defense.   The GCC was active in providing air attacks against ISIL in Syria.  This cooperative effort against ISIL includes Qatar.

Some very critical background.  Of the Saudi Arabia’s Muslim  population, 90% belongs to  Sunni branch of Islam.   Just the opposite in Iran, as about 90% belong to the  Shi’a branch of Islam.   There are more  subgroups  within each of these branches and even the subgroups do not work well together.   No country is 100% Sunni or Shi’a.   In the Muslim world,  around 80% belong to the Sunni branch.

All countries, connected by land to Saudi Arabia have high Sunni populations:  Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, UAE and Oman.   Qatar is the exception  as it is about 60% Shi’a.

Now, the terrorist groups, ISIS and al-Qaeda beliefs stem from the most extreme subset of the Sunni Islam, although most Muslims would say they really represent  an extreme departure of the Muslim religion.  It would not make much sense to claim that Qatar is both supporting fighting against these terrorists groups in Syria through air strikes and simultaneously supporting these groups.  As a predominately Shi’s country, support of a Sunni based terrorist group makes no sense.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Links:

Wikipedia: Muslim Brotherhood

Wikipedia: Qatar

Wikipedia:  Qatar in Crisis

Al Jazeera: Qatar Diplomatic Crisis: Latest Updates