10:21 GMT12 July 2020
Listen Live
    Get short URL
    2017 Qatar Diplomatic Crisis (37)

    Saudi Arabia may challenge Iran’s role in the Middle East to expand its influence and increase pressure over Qatar, according to a Turkish political expert.

    On Sunday, the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt met in the Bahraini capital of Manama to discuss the unfolding diplomatic crisis in the Gulf.

    The top diplomats also expressed their readiness for a dialogue with Qatar if it "confirmed the cancellation of terrorism support." The four Arab countries also stated that the ultimatum they delivered earlier to Qatar remains in force.

    Moreover, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that Doha’s alleged calls to internationalize the Muslim hajj pilgrimage were "aggressive and a declaration of war against the Kingdom."

    Responding to the allegations, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said that Doha had not made such a call and accused Riyadh of politicizing the issue of the Hajj.

    In early June, the four Arab countries cut off diplomatic relations with Doha, accusing it of supporting terrorism and meddling in their internal affairs, and imposed an economic blockade against the tiny Gulf nation.

    They subsequently issued an ultimatum to Qatar containing 13 demands, including requests that Doha sever all ties with Tehran, close Turkey’s military base in Qatar, shut down Al Jazeera and end support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Sputnik Turkey sat down with Hakan Güneş, a scholar and political scientist at Istanbul University, to discuss possible further developments in the Gulf.

    According to the expert, Riyadh is likely to try to change the balance of power in the region, including taking on Iran’s positions.

    Recently, influential Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr made a rare visit to Saudi Arabia, which was regarded as another effort to fix troubled ties between Riyadh and Baghdad. In February, al-Jubeir visited Baghdad, in the first official visit by a Saudi foreign minister to Iraq since 1990. Saudi Arabia has been concerned about Iran’s growing influence in Iraq and is seeking to restrict it. Iran has also condemned the blockade of Qatar by the four Arab countries and provided political and economic support to Doha.

    "Saudi Arabia is looking for a new balance in its diplomacy. One of the possible scenarios is that Saudi Arabia may try to neutralize Iran’s influence in order to teach Qatar a lesson. Such a move would lead to significant changes in the regional balance of power in favor of Riyadh," Güneş said.

    The expert pointed out that the current tensions between Riyadh and Tehran are at a very profound level and rooted in their long-time struggle for power in the Middle East.

    "The West is not concerned about this and doesn’t see the political value of this trend. But this standoff between Saudi Arabia and Iran has lasted for nearly 40 years. They have spent serious money to win over each other’s zones of influence across the Arab world," Güneş said.

    Commenting further, he noted that Saudi Arabia also has differences with Turkey, which has been supporting Qatar since the day the crisis broke out.

    "Saudi Arabia, on the one hand, and Turkey and Qatar on the other hand have differences on a number of issues. The current level of tensions between Riyadh and Doha risks resulting in a mutual declaration of war. Without Turkey’s involvement, Qatar could not stand [a chance] against Saudi Arabia and would have to accept the ultimatum," Güneş suggested.

    According to the expert, the presence of Turkish troops in Qatar mitigates the risk of a military confrontation between Riyadh and Doha. 

    2017 Qatar Diplomatic Crisis (37)


    Arab Countries Ready for Dialogue, if Qatar Ends Terrorism Support - Minister
    Qatar Ready for Talks After Arab States Reply to US Settlement Proposal – Doha
    Erdogan Risks Repeating His 'Syrian Mistakes' While Dealing With Qatar Crisis
    The Price of Defiance: Why US, Saudi Arabia Turning Kuwait Against Iran
    tensions, diplomatic crisis, Middle East, Turkey, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia
    Community standardsDiscussion