Editorial / The Yomiuri Shimbun – 2017-06-28 14:53:20
Chain Reaction of Antagonism in
Middle East Should Be Stopped
Editorial / The Yomiuri Shimbun
TOKYO (June 13, 2017) — The turmoil in the Middle East has been exacerbated. The latest developments may have an adverse impact on the campaign to stamp out the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) extremist group and even on the world economy. There must be an early end to the turmoil.
Saudi Arabia, leader of the Sunni Muslim world, together with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. All four countries belong to the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is deeply linked with the United States. It is unusual for their unity to fall apart.
Saudi Arabia has suspended all flights to and from Qatar and closed its land border. Egypt and other states have taken a series of actions to isolate Qatar, acting in concert with Saudi Arabiaâ€™s breaking ties with Doha. Qatarâ€™s adoption of a conciliatory stance toward Iran, a Shiite power, and its supporting terrorist groups are cited as reasons for these actions.
Qatar is expanding its individual diplomacy, apparently from a viewpoint of security. As Qatar shares with Iran one of the worldâ€™s largest underwater natural gas fields, the country is working to maintain conciliatory ties with Iran in expectation of cooperating with Tehran to develop the field.
For Saudi Arabia, which had been in conflict with Iran and severed its diplomatic ties with Tehran in January last year, this stance and actions by Qatar may appear to be acts of hostility.
Protect Gas Supply
Another cause for conflict is Qatarâ€™s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement that has expanded its influence through pro-democracy movements in the Middle East and even once held the reins of government in Egypt.
The current administration of Egypt considers the Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization. Saudi Arabia and the UAE also criticize that â€œQatar is destabilizing the regional situation by wielding its influence across the region through the Brotherhood.â€
US President Donald Trump may also have been partly responsible for widening the rift. In a meeting with GCC leaders during his visit to Saudi Arabia last month, Trumpâ€™s unilateral call for the reinforcement of group pressure on Iran might have prompted Saudi Arabia to take such a hard-line stance.
Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar are important allies to the United States. Qatar hosts the largest base for the US Air Force in the Middle East, which is also used for the coalition of allied nations trying to wipe out ISIL. There must not be any split in the cooperation of the US-led coalition.
Qatar holds the worldâ€™s third-largest natural gas reserves, also exporting natural gas to Japan. If its natural gas supplies to other countries are restricted, it could send gas prices soaring. Turmoil over a protracted period of time is a serious risk factor for the world economy.
In Iran, terrorist attacks were simultaneously carried out against Iranâ€™s parliament building and one other place, with the ISIL claiming responsibility for the attacks. It is feared that hard-line conservatives in Iran may increase their influence, thus further intensifying Tehranâ€™s antagonism against Saudi Arabia and other countries.
Countries concerned, such as the United States and Turkey, must accelerate their mediation diplomacy and stop the chain reaction of sectarian conflicts and terrorism that would destabilize the Middle East.
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