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 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

 

Al Jazeera America – Off the Air

Al Jazeera American News ended its broadcast on April 12, 2015.

Al Jazeera America

It provided excellent unbiased, in-depth, accurate   and comprehensive news.  David Cay Johnston wrote a column that sums up my feelings:

The Way News Should Be Done

“Great journalism doesn’t always attract large audiences, ”   as Johnston wrote is the unfortunate truth.  Further he wrote of how AJAM grew as leader in journalism:  “In 2013, when many top television and print journalists were looking for jobs, AJAM snatched up superb talents — including John Seigenthaler, Joie Chen, Antonio Mora, Randall Pinkston and Ali Velshi, the best in his class at explaining personal finance and economics.”

Excellence in journalism gets awards rather than audiences.  Viewer comments mirrored my thoughts – what goes on in the world affects us- so we need to be better informed:

Viewer comments

My favorite by far, is from Jane Smith, who writes, “Please come back AJAM.”

The other major news stations’ problems  are all too obvious- they are more focused on entertainment.  They are obviously pandering to their audience. Republicans like Fox News, and Democrats like MSNBC.    So much “reporting” and so little solid, unbiased reporting.

My favorite news station right now is the BBC.    For finance, Bloomberg and CNBC still lead the pack.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

The Media

 

laugh fest

Image from Africanews.com on South Sudan Laugh Festival last week.

The  four axioms of media reporting are:

  1. If it bleeds, it leads.*
  2. Incidences closer to the viewing audience are far more important than further away.
  3. The more similar the victims are to the viewing audience, the more likely people will watch
  4. Commentary should  conform to long held beliefs of viewing audience.  Fox has conservative  commentators and MSNBC has liberal commentators.

A terrorist attack in a shopping mall in Iowa.  Hasn’t happened, but if it does,  you will have every reporter in the country swarming down to cover the story.  And every political candidate will have something to say with tweets and text messages flying around within milliseconds.

A 178 people have die from an epidemic of  yellow fever in Angola. Reported last week. It was on BBC, one of my favorite news channels. Relatively unimportant as it is in Africa.

A blend of happy and sad news is nice.  Obama dancing the tango is fine. Of course, if you’re Fox News,  everything can be Obama’s fault.  Instead of dancing the tango, our Chief-in-Commander should be flying to Brussels in Air Force 1 , dressed on combat gear,  on the phone to the Brussels’ police demanding two Muslim terrorists are caught right now.

There is a lot of  election year theatrics.  Interpol exists if  you don’t know.  Fox plays to its audience- like usual. If Obama did try to be involved,   Fox would have come down, full force, that he was grandstanding,  totally superficial and an attempt to score points from a tragic event.  But both Kerry and Biden went to Belgium. and I’m certain discussions are of a longer term strategy for defeating ISIL fanatics.

Reporting from China or Moscow, what six people on the street think about Donald Trump is not international news.

A lot of things happen in the past week.  How many reporters flew to South Sudan to participate in the first Laugh Festival?

South Sudan’s Laugh Festival

From the looks of it, some people were close to dying from laughter.   How in the world do you have a laugh festival in a country beset with so many problems?  South Sudan is one of the world’s newest country,  for 2 years has been in a terrible civil war.

Yes, dear – there are serious events occurring outside of the US – Europe, and the other three “newsworthy” countries Cuba, Canada and Mexico.  The Brazilian Congress has started impeachment proceedings against their president, Dilma Rouseff  this week and over 3 million people protested against the government in Sao Paulo.

And just last week,  South African police launch a graft probe against the President Duduzane Zuma’s son.

Volkswagen and the EPA were supposed to be in court this week to tell the judge if the problems with emissions were fixable.  They got a one month extension.  I think it’s their second extension.

Last week, we learned scientists believe the Zika virus has been around in Brazil for 2 years. To me that’s frightening.

From the country down under, the Great Barrier Reef is disappearing due to climate change:

Great Barrier Reef 

But like the news of South Sudan’s festival, there was plenty of positive news, of which 99% goes unreported.  The new funding for World Health Organization to combat yellow fever in Africa last week has to be one of them.  The agreement signed in Egypt  between defense ministers from 27 African and Arab countries, pledging  information sharing in combating terrorism is another.  Or how women farmers are making a big difference and the great work of the Rainforest Alliance.  Terrific news.

I like to watch BBC  and Al-Jazeera news.   I like One American News, but only for their reporting, not commentary.  They keep them separate.  I like Bloomberg News.   I watch Fareed Zakaria  on CNN which is good,  except he should let others give “their take” as the lead in to the program.

Perhaps, the media could have reported on South Sudan’s laugh fest as kind of a happy news filler.

Stay tuned.

Dave

  • quote from Marshall McCluhen