Gulf Crisis Overshadows Ongoing Problems in the Middle East

The crisis in the Gulf region has been occupying the international agenda while the years-long problems in the Middle East are still waiting to be resolved

With the recent crisis in Qatar, the Middle East has been at the top of the agenda of international relations. For the last three weeks, there have been constant diplomatic efforts to resolve the problem between Qatar and other Gulf countries. Although the tension between them existed for a while, the causes of the sudden escalation are still being discussed among the experts of the region.

As mentioned in my previous column the position of the U.S. in this crisis has made it more confusing. For the last few weeks there have been discussions on the connection between American President Donald Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel and the potential connection of these trips to the abrupt Saudi-led attempt to isolate Qatar in the region. From the reaction of the different actors in U.S. foreign policy-making it will not be surprising in the coming days to read stories of another moment of misperception and miscommunication between the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East.

The crisis in regards to Qatar will have impact on the U.S.’s relationship with its allies in the region as well as between the Gulf countries if it cannot be resolved in a timely manner. But this crisis has already had an impact on different urgent matters in the Middle East by pushing the priority of these issues down on the list. First of all, although Syria is presented as one of the reasons for the escalation of the crisis between these Arab countries, the real crisis in Syria is waiting to be resolved.

The emergence of the Daesh terrorist group and the shift of attention of the international public from the crisis in the country to the fight against Daesh has already become a major challenge for the civilians in the country. The regime took fairly good advantage of this situation while internationally, the world preferred to turn its back to the urgency of the situation on the ground.

The humanitarian crisis in the region has continued to get become severer with the increasing number of refugees and with the plight of internally displaced people. At the beginning of the crisis in the Gulf region, people started to talk about Syria this time in the context of crises in the Gulf. Of course this crisis has also impacted the civil war in Yemen, which is in the middle of another major humanitarian crisis.

The challenging situation in this country started to be discussed in the context of the competition and rivalry between Qatar and the Saudi-led Gulf countries. In addition to this the crisis also had an impact on the future of the fight against Daesh, in both Syria and Iraq. Despite the ongoing fight against this terrorist organization on the ground, the crisis in the Gulf influenced the debate on both the future of the fight against Daesh and the post-Daesh situation on the ground in the Daesh-held territories. With the beginning of the Raqqa operation there are a lot of questions that need to be discussed and studied in regards to the future of the territories.

This question is very much related to the attempts of the Assad regime and Iranian-backed militias in the region to consolidate and extend their influence. Furthermore, there should be multilateral region talks in regards to coordinating the counterterrorism policies of these countries. However, since the beginning of the crisis in the Gulf, a new active fault line emerged between states in the region, which can also influence the fight against Daesh.

These are of course not the only issues that the Gulf crisis impacted or influenced in terms of priority for world leaders. The debates about the role of Iran started to be discussed within the context of this crisis. The recent reports also indicate possible consequences of this tension on intra Palestinian politics as well.

In all of these areas the crisis in the Gulf has become a major distraction. If the issue cannot be resolved in a very short period of time, there will be too many opportunists in the regional and international arena that will try to use this animosity in order to take advantage of the situation. The actors in this crisis thus need to consider the possible ramification of the crisis that have emerged, and the long term consequences of the actions of these states on one another.

[Daily Sabah, June 18, 2017]

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