On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt suddenly cut off diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar and closed their borders to it. The reason stated for this decision was Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood movement as well as Qatar’s friendly relations with the Iranian government. Donald Trump subsequently sent out a tweet in which he took credit for this move: “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the king and 50 countries already paying off.”
Turkey immediately announced its support for Qatar and accelerated legislation to send more troops to its military base in that country. It also called on Saudi Arabia to end this crisis. The Iranian government announced that its air space and land borders were open to Qatar in order to prevent a blockade against it. Subsequently, on June 11, 2017, the Iranian navy sent two battleships to the coast of Oman.
Analysts spoke of the possibility that the current proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia would turn into a direct war. One Republican analyst, Ross Douthat, compared the situation in the Middle East to Europe on the verge of World War I.
The Trump administration has offered mixed messages concerning this crisis; furthermore, the U.S.A., whose military base in Qatar has 10,000 American troops and acts as the center of U.S. operations in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, is currently not willing to endanger its interests there. Thus on June 15, Qatar signed a $15 billion deal to buy F-15 fighter jets from the U.S.A. Two U.S. Navy warships also arrived in Doha for a joint exercise with Qatar’s fleet.
In order to restate some basic socialist anti-war principles, it is necessary to clarify some issues related to this crisis and two other important events that took place in the Middle East last week:
1. The coming together of Qatar, Iran and Turkey against Saudi Arabia and its allies showed that coalitions now forming to compete with each other are not strictly based on the Shi’a-Sunni divide. The alliances currently confronting each other are fighting over the control of the region, its capital, and aim to repress any movements for social justice. Saudi Arabia and its allies count on the support which Donald Trump’s recent trip to the Middle East and a $110 billion U.S. arms contract with Saudi Arabia has offered them. Iran and its allies are counting on support from Russia.
2. The June 7 simultaneous ISIS attacks on the Iranian parliament and Khomeini’s mausoleum in Tehran, which led to 17 deaths and 52 injuries and which took place a few day after ISIS attacked pedestrians on the London Bridge, reveal that U.S., Russian and Iranian military campaigns against ISIS have not been able to stop this reactionary force or forces like it. The direct or indirect support of Iran, Russia, the U.S., and European nations for the Assad regime’s repression of the Syrian revolution, and the strengthening of Shia Jihadi militias in Iraq, were important factors in the growth of Salafi-Jihadist forces such as ISIS and Al Qaida. Some recent actions and words of the Trump administration which express opposition to Bashar al-Assad do not and cannot represent support for social-justice struggles in Syria. Rather, these actions are aimed at eliminating ISIS and limiting the Iranian government’s influence.
3. The cooperation between U.S. military forces and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party in ousting ISIS from the city of Raqqa does not mean that the U.S. will defend the Kurdish right to self-determination. Last week, after Iraq’s Autonomous Kurdish Region announced that it had set a date for a referendum on Kurdish independence, the U.S. did not support this planned referendum. The Russian government, which had claimed to support the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Rojava, has started to use the word “terrorist” to describe the Kurdish PYD forces fighting ISIS in Raqqa.
At this time, it is the responsibility of Middle Eastern socialists not to fall into the trap of the nationalist and hate-mongering propaganda of their states. Instead, we need to demonstrate that the current changing alliances are an expression of the logic of capital, its racism, misogyny and homophobia. We need solidarity between labor struggles, women’s emancipation struggles and those of oppressed minorities, including oppressed sexual minorities, against this destructive logic and for a humanist alternative.
This article was originally published on the Alliance.