by Zaakir Ahmed Mayet (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 46, No. 10, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1439)
On May 25, 2013, when Hizbullah Secretary General, Sayyid Hasan Nasrullah announced that “Syria is the backbone of the resistance and the support of the resistance,” it changed the entire dynamic of the situation in Syria. Sayyid Nasrullah had accurately predicted, “The resistance cannot sit with its hands crossed while its backbone is made vulnerable and its support is being broken, or else we will be stupid.”
This changed the face of the war in Syria into one with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) troops, Russian hi-tech weapons systems and Hizbullah with advanced fighting capabilities. This rewrote the entire rubric of Western interests in the region and spelt the doom of their hegemony. These events were completely unexpected and a resistance victory was not part of the calculation of the hegemonic powers.
It is with this understanding of the Syrian conflict that we interpret the following statement in 2017 by Israel which provides the clearest connection to the recent developments with the GCC+1 and Israel/US (hegemony).
In March 2017, the Times of Israel covered the Meir Dagan Conference at the Netanya Military College. The head of Israeli intelligence (Mossad), Yossi Cohen, and Israeli armed force Chief-of-Staff Leuitenant General Gadi Eizenkot took different views in defining Israel’s number-one threat, with Cohen focusing on Iran and Eizenkot opting for Hizbullah. This symbolises the two most pressing threats to Israel. According to Cohen,
The Middle East is our home field and therefore we need to be involved in all matters in the region. We need to form alliances, to identify mutual interests with allies, and also with enemies on certain issues.
It is now clear that the existential threats posed by the extended presence of Hizbullah and IRGC in Syria and Iraq were the catalyst for the current conflict with Qatar. This is most accurately captured by the statements of Israel’s former defence minister Moshe Yaalon when he spoke in Washington on September 15, 2016. He said,
Iran’s Shiite axis, including the Asad regime, Hizbullah, and Yemen’s Houthis, the Muslim Brotherhood camp, led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but also encompassing elements in Egypt and Hamas, the global jihadist camp, including the Islamic State and al-Qaeda and the Sunni Arab camp, which comprises Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and others. Israel and the latter camp share several common adversaries, and while their cooperation is already robust (albeit quiet), it is in their mutual interest to increase it even further. The United States should join Israel in publicly aligning with the Sunni Arab camp.
One recent step in this direction was the signing of a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding in which Washington will grant Israel $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade.
The statement above by Moshe Yaalon gives us an indication as to what the siege of Qatar is about. As much as it may be about internal GCC rifts, there is no explanation as to what catalysed the drastic action if we are to assess it according to the above equation. The catalyst is elsewhere and as has been demonstrated above, the catalyst is Israel’s security picture, not only as an independent state but as the symbol of US and Western hegemony in the Muslim East. The threat to US influence and hegemony via the extension of Israel threatens the GCC+1 as well. The Ikhwan, albeit weak in Egypt after the defeat under the boot of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in Turkey still poses a significant ideological threat in the form of political Islam. This means that politics, state craft, and foreign policy must all be guided by the Islamic principles of justice as opposed to self-interest which has been the mantra of the GCC. In fact, it was self-interest and reliance on Western hegemonic powers by the Amir of Najd, ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Al Sa‘ud, and King of Hijaz, Sharif Husayn, that formed “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” and the other Gulf shaykhdoms.
The greater threat from a tangible military point of view has been the re-establishment of the resistance axis with capabilities of an Israeli doomsday and thereby threatening the GCC+1 who have always thrown their lot in with the Zionist regime.
It brings us back to the very first question that sparked this series of articles and the analysis above. Why Qatar? It is my submission that Qatar was never the main target, it was a litmus test. Qatar is the one country that has links to both the Sunni Ikhwan and the Shi‘i Muqawamah. Huge sums of money were spent in promoting sectarianism to divide the brothers in resistance, the Ikhwan and al-Muqawamah; as cogently reported by the Middle East Institute, the burning question was, had the GCC+1 succeeded? The rallying of both Turkey as a projection of the Ikhwan and Iran as a projection of al-Muqawamah, to the aid of Qatar has demonstrated that both the Brotherhood and Iran are aware of the enemies they face, that is, Israel/US and the GCC+1. There are numerous factors that have contributed toward this rapprochement that would be unnecessary to extrapolate at this point. What is evident is that there is a rapprochement and the net result is a mega bloc of the Ikhwan and al-Muqawamah. This narrative is borne out by the good-cop bad-cop play currently on show to the world.
On June 12, 2017, reports of a mediation offer to de-escalate the tension from other GCC countries such as Kuwait and Oman, offers by Morocco, and even the United States signal an important point. The siege was meant to bring about a reaction: to test if the two blocs that Moshe Yaalon referred to as “Iran’s Shiite axis, including the Asad regime, Hizbullah, and Yemen’s Houthis; the Muslim Brotherhood camp, led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but also encompassing elements in Egypt and Hamas” will combine to pose a formidable threat to US/Israeli hegemony and the GCC+1.
What does all the politics, military analysis and interpretation tell us? In summary, the Western hegemony established by Sykes-Picot remained intact for an extended period of time. Israel was viewed as a strategic asset and as an extension of Western hegemony. With the advent of the Obama administration, a receding of hegemonic power was observed. They focused on covert operations as opposed to large footprint demonstrations of force like the Bush administration. This affected Israel negatively as simultaneously it was losing its deterrence capacity to non-state actors, Hizbullah and later to Hamas. It was in relation to the declining projection of force by the hegemonic powers and Israel’s existential threats that the GCC rallied to support the hegemony that gave them their states in the first place. As the panic set in amongst the unholy alliance, the waves of revolution in the region were hijacked and exploited to achieve certain aims.
The primary geopolitical interest was to destabilise Syria in the hope that rebel movements and ISIS would wipe out the corridor between Hizbullah, Hamas, and Iran, thus neutralising the threat as the Ikhwan had been neutralised by el-Sisi, the new addition to the parasite club. The equation went awry in horrendous proportions and the end result has been a stronger Hizbullah, Iran, and Hamas.
Political Islam is still alive and so is Resistance Islam. Both are threats to GCC+1 and Israel, the latter causing unimaginable hardships in the Muslim world from Palestine to Syria/Iraq to Yemen. Qatar was merely a test case to determine not only the true alliances but also their capabilities.
Where will this take us? Does it take us to the edge of a world war? Regardless of what may be, the outcomes are in the hand of the Almighty. What we do know is that the GCC has come out openly in support of the Islamophobe Donald Trump and the apartheid, Zionist, colonial, settler state of Israel. It now rests with us, after reading the above and knowing what we know now… Who do we support? If justice is your compass, the answer is simple: we support Palestine — we are the Ikhwan and al-Muqawamah.
Zaakir Ahmed Mayet is Chairman of the Media Review Network of Pretoria, South Africa.