Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Saudi Arabia v. Qatar


Saudi Arabia intends to close the local office of the Qatari-owned al Jazeera satellite television station in the latest episode in the escalating conflict in which the Saudis, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are in confrontation with Qatar, say local media.

At the heart of the dispute is Qatar’s backing for the Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia banned last Friday, and Qatari opposition to the regime of Field Marshall Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt that came to power in a coup last summer.

Riyadh and Doha now differ on almost every aspect of foreign policy, notably Qatar’s support for jihadi rebels in Syria and al Jazeera’s willingness to provide a television platform for critics of the Gulf monarchs and their allies.

So far Saudi Arabia has not had any success in forcing Qatar to the same political line as the more conservative Gulf states. Gestures such as a withdrawal of the Saudi, Bahraini, UAE and Egyptian ambassadors from Qatar is likely to be ineffectual. Doha remains the base for the Muslim Brotherhood and its spiritual guide, Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, who strongly criticised the UAE authorities after they had jailed dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members.

Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim al-Thani, is unlikely to bow to Saudi demands that would limit his country’s independence. But the Saudis have implied that they could step up the pressure on him by economic sanctions such as restrictions on use of air space and land borders.

It is unclear how far Saudi Arabia is reordering its foreign and domestic policy by opposing radical Islamic movements and labelling almost all of them as “terrorists”. Under a new decree, any Saudi who fights in a foreign conflict could face 20-30 years in prison as will those supporting them. There are believed to be between 1,000 and 2,000 Saudis fighting in Syria and it is unlikely they will all be detained when they return home.

The Saudi state is also engaged in a project to support a new offensive by rebels in southern Syria and is reported to be offering the rebel fighters anti-aircraft missiles.

Saudi policy remains ambivalent, despite the recent rush of repressive legislation at home and a greater emphasis on diplomacy over military action in dealing with Syria. Saudi preachers on satellite TV continue to call for anti-Shia jihad in Syria.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of  Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 28, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louis Proyect
The Outsider-Insider: Isaac Babel’s Big Mistake
Martin Billheimer
Now and Then, Ancient Sorceries
October 27, 2016
Paul Street
An Identity-Politicized Election and World Series Lakefront Liberals Can Love
Matthew Stevenson
Sex and the Presidential City
Jim Kavanagh
Tom Hayden’s Haunting
CJ Hopkins
The Pathologization of Dissent
Mike Merryman-Lotze
The Inherent Violence of Israel’s Gaza Blockade
Robert Fisk
Is Yemen Too Much for the World to Take?
Shamus Cooke
Stopping Hillary’s Coming War on Syria
Jan Oberg
Security Politics and the Closing of the Open Society
Ramzy Baroud
The War on UNESCO: Al-Aqsa Mosque is Palestinian and East Jerusalem is Illegally Occupied
Colin Todhunter
Lower Yields and Agropoisons: What is the Point of GM Mustard in India?
Norman Pollack
The Election: Does It Matter Who Wins?
Nyla Ali Khan
The Political and Cultural Richness of Kashmiriyat
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“It’s Only a Car!”
October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare