Losing Faith in the U.S., the Gulf States Are Turning to Its Enemies

Yesterday, the Iranian foreign ministry announced an upcoming visit from the emir of Qatar—a country recently designated a “major non-NATO ally” by Washington. Such a move is typical of Doha’s diplomatic approach, as Danielle Pletka explains:

Almost alone in the Middle East, the small emirate of Qatar has managed to walk the balance beam between powerful actors: housing a key U.S. air base, al-Udeid, and enjoying a defense pact and major non-NATO ally status with the United States, all the while maintaining friendly relations with Iran; hosting senior leaders of U.S.-designated terrorist groups including Hamas, the Taliban, and assorted other terrorist actors; and continuing to finance and promote Al Jazeera, a vast media network that routinely pushes anti-Israel, anti-U.S., pro-Iran, and pro-Muslim Brotherhood messaging.

This strategy has in the recent past put Qatar at odds with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other Gulf states. But that’s changing, as these countries have dipped their toes in reconciliation with Iran and its Syrian client state while working to improve relations with Russia and China. Pletka writes:

For Washington’s traditional Gulf partners, particularly the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, everything revolves around the question of who will defend them against Iran and its proxies. In the Obama era, the answer was clear in their minds: the United States would be on Iran’s side. . . . But many believed Obama was an aberration. Hope revived in the Trump era, but it quickly became clear after Iranian-sponsored attacks on key Saudi oil facilities that even the most virulent of Iran’s foes in the White House would not spring to Riyadh’s defense. Needless to say, Biden’s team—peopled by former Obama administration officials and a vice-president who made denouncing Saudi Arabia a key element of her foreign policy—would not be an improvement. Thus solidified the Gulf’s era of hedging.

Tehran’s willingness to take advantage of Gulf hedging is a shrewd strategy. It doesn’t signify any alteration in Iran’s overall ambitions for itself and its proxies, but it does underscore a willingness to play the game that Qatar copyrighted. And in the short term, that willingness may diminish the open war of attrition between the region’s Sunnis and Shiites and cement in place Iran’s hegemony over Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen. More importantly for the United States, it means an almost complete loss of influence in the region.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Barack Obama, Gulf Cooperation Council, Iran, Joseph Biden, Kamala Harris, Qatar, U.S. Foreign policy

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion