Imposing a new order on the Gulf

The architects of the blockade on Qatar expect to be able to create a new geopolitical order in the Gulf.

Military ships are seen during a naval exercise by US and Qatari troops in the Arabian Gulf
Military ships are seen during a naval exercise by US and Qatari troops in the Gulf on June 16 [Reuters /Naseem Zeitoon]

There is a great amount of confusion surrounding the chaos in the Gulf, a crisis that emerged unexpectedly owing to a provocation no one predicted. One of the main actors in the triangle of Gulf chaos is a king, another an emir, and the third a president. Even if we cannot piece together the puzzle of how this new axis – a kingdom, an emirate and a president – has emerged, we are told that this strange embargo is being used to punish Qatar. Of the three, the country run by the president broke the embargo through sales of planes as early on as the second week of the sanctions. In short, we face less of a crisis, and more of a chaotic geopolitical depression.

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The embargo regime imposed on Qatar does not satisfactorily explain the “Gulf crisis” alone. A similar event led to the largely overexaggerated relationship between Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood – something that those in Egypt know best. After a coup in which thousands of innocent people were murdered, Qatar was not mentioned in the debates about the situation of the Brotherhood in Egypt. What stuck in the mind, and is still a fact that almost all serious people agree on, was this: the price of targeting the Brotherhood was pushing all other movements in the region towards radicalisation.

The relationship between terrorism and Islamic movements in the Middle East takes hold in one of two ways. The first is when the possibility for political participation and democratic change is bloodily crushed, while the second is through provocations by the intelligence services’ operations. Even if we forget the invasion of Iraq, pass over the occupation in Palestine and ignore the coup regime in Egypt, close our eyes to the crimes of the bloody regime in Syria; crisis and ending the lifetime of the current regional order alone is good enough for the radicalisation of masses.

So what is the picture we face? What is this crisis, which has been called the Gulf crisis? Roughly what do they want from Qatar? What will happen if Qatar carries out their demands? It will be enough just to answer the last of these questions. In order to answer it, we need to take a look at the geopolitics of the Gulf, in which Turkey, the US and Iran all share in different dynamics. Actors in the Gulf outside Qatar and the US President are demanding a new geopolitical order for the Gulf with no regard for other stakeholders (Turkey, Iran and the US establishment). In making this demand, they are making Qatar a target.

We are witnessing the disintegration of the old geopolitical order of the Middle East and the Gulf.


They seem to be expecting, essentially, to be able to create a new geopolitical order, destroy Islamic movements, finally end the financing of terrorism, take Turkey out of the picture, make Iran act like it isn’t in the Gulf and change long years of deeply instilled US security policy in a single night! Whether this expectation has emerged from political naivety or a lack of an understanding of the region is unclear. It is almost impossible to imagine any consequences beyond a few weeks of crisis.

While only a few weeks ago, Qatar meant just Qatar, as of June 2017 we’re now at a point where Qatar has gained a different dimension. At the same time, it remains a country containing a Turkish military base, which carries out joint exercises with the US, and whose border trade has turned into an airline trade route. A new geopolitical pattern has effectively emerged in relation to Qatar.

A new rhythmic diplomacy has been established with regard to a Qatar for whom there have been effectively no offers of active support against those implementing the embargo regime. On almost every issue, the embargoing states have seen the opposite outcome to the one they had envisaged. Will this lead to an understanding that attempting to hack a website and bring about a new geopolitical order to the Gulf is not a good enough idea to work in practice? We still don’t know. Those who had the wonderful idea of placing an embargo on Qatar have not yet come up with a positive solution to this scenario.

Even if there were no strange tensions stirring in Gulf geopolitics over Qatar, the region already has enough to deal with. These quasi-nation states built on energy economies and politics had hoped to keep a geopolitical order afloat based on nothing more than buying security from the West and opposing Iran. This mechanical geopolitical order naturally has problems in terms of its capacity to produce stability and peace. In fact, it might even be said that Qatar had introduced a hybrid political initiative into the vicious circle that characterised the geopolitical order of the Gulf.

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We are witnessing the disintegration of the old geopolitical order of the Middle East and the Gulf. Neither the order introduced to Mesopotamia after World War I, nor that introduced to the Middle East after 1947 is sustainable. In the same way, it is impossible to sustain the 1991 order in the Gulf.

Through supporting the unsustainable situation in Palestine, trying to keep the coup regime in Egypt on its feet, supporting sectarian terrorism in Iraq and Syria, and giving a bloody response to attempts at democratic change, this age-old crisis is only growing. From the Islamist-phobic discourse the Gulf has brought out in Atlantic populism to the absurd political move of demanding that Qatar be sacrificed, the current geopolitical crisis is intensifying. It is in the interest of all the actors involved to immediately end the crisis before the reputational damage and political crisis goes beyond the point of return. Just as a geopolitical order cannot be imposed through hacking a website, the fate of the Gulf will not be delivered by tweet!

Taha Ozhan is the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Turkish parliament.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.