The situation in the Arabian Gulf appears to be escalating, and according to a report from Arabic CNN, #Qatar has begun preparing to defend itself. The report, which has been verified by CNN, cites US intel and states that Qatar has mobilized some of their Leopard tanks, apparently in defiance of the Saudi ultimatums that were delivered a day ago by Kuwaiti emissaries. While the ongoing interactions being facilitated by Kuwait remain a secret, the preparation of arms by Qatar may be indicative of their reply to the Saudis. While the major #World Powers who have a stake in this escalating conflict were apparently caught off guard, the picture that is emerging is one of disarray.

Advertisements
Advertisements

The layout

Qatar is a small nation with a lot of money. They also have mutual defense treaties with the US, UK, and France. While their army is small, their nation is host to both a major US naval base, as well as one of the most important US run airbases on the planet. Saudi Arabia's military would have no problem removing the Qatari defenses in a matter of days, though it is unknown how that would be seen by the nations that have signed defense pacts, let alone Iran, who has heavy arms across their gulf coastline, which faces Qatar.

Turkey has also entered the fray, and over the last 24 hours, their legislature has approved measures to quickly provide thousands of troops to defend Qatar. President Erdogan expressed his discontent with the sanctions that have been imposed on Qatar while speaking in Ankara, and also that he intends to continue to build up ties with the small nation.

Advertisements

How any of this figures into the political algebra that Saudi Arabia has been calculating is anyone's guess, but the real thorn in the Saudi paw may be #President Trump.

The 800lb gorilla

Initially, President Trump, as well as various cabinet members, came out in favor of the Saudi action. What changed over the course of a day is unknown, but whatever it was led to a phone call from President Trump to the Qatari Emir, wherein he, “extended an olive branch” and, “emphasized the importance of all countries in the region working together to prevent the financing of terrorist organizations and stop the promotion of extremist ideology.”

The nature of his complete reversal of opinion is open to speculation, but it may have something to do with the aforementioned military bases that the US, and to a lesser extent, the rest of the West relies on. Another more worrying idea is the kind of power struggle that could emerge in the wake of a Saudi military action.

What happens next?

It is no secret that Saudi Arabia wants access to Qatar's lucrative North Field, and while Qatar has been boxing clever with the geopolitical situation it finds itself in, Saudi Arabia is not likely to have the same deft hand when it comes to dealing with either a very hostile Iran, or an increasingly jealous United States.

Advertisements

China has just started using its first oversea naval base in Africa, and the US has been adamant in its demands that China is not allowed to rise up the naval power ladder. Saudi Arabia has been moving closer to China, and this uncertainty could mean a lot of extra support for the small kingdom of Qatar if push comes to shove. If the US wants to maintain its role in the region.