This message is here to announce that I’ll soon upload a report (or rather a video) about the penguin dance. It’s a Romanian wedding dance, simple and frankly ridiculous, that has become a phenomenon in Saudi Arabia and in the whole Middle East.
So now I’ve just got a teaser. It’s an animation that’ll be included in the video.
Qatar is historically stuck between four powers from all four sides: Bahrain north, Oman south, Saudi Arabia west and Iran east. The country itself is too small to fend off a military assault from its neighbours. It is also prone to coups, including foreign-induced. To survive, it must thrive in diplomacy and keep good relationships with everybody. In the same way, it musn’t support a specific group or power to the point of polarising itself, because that would create enemies. Qataris have long been excellent diplomats, but now, they stand in the shade of troubling elements.
If diplomacy is vital for the survival of the nation, so why having created and supported Al Jazeera? As a television news network, this company holds a tremendous mediatic power. It is also widely associated with Qatar’s image and the other way round, and can thus heavily influence the country’s image. By its critical coverage of the powerful, Al Jazeera has always harmed Doha’s diplomatic efforts. Because of that, the Forgotten land of God has faced numerous diplomatic incidents. The latests include a diplomatic row with Egypt, which has jailed three Al Jazeera English journalists for 7 to 10 years on terrorism charges; and this spring’s showdown with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, who withdrew their ambassadors from Doha and called on the country to shut down Al Jazeera and to stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2004, Washington even intended to bomb their Qatari ally to get rid of the satellite channel. The network’s most influential branch, Al Jazeera English, regularly criticises the relationships of its sister Arabic-language channels with Doha (I’ll soon upload a video about that).
If the absence of polarisation is vital for national security, why support the Muslim Brotherhood and thus get enemies? This support is the other reason for the aforsaid diplomatic upheavals with Cairo, Riyad, Abu Dhabi and Manama, four governments that do not like the Brotherhood. Recently, the Kuwaiti MP Nabil Al-Fadl accused Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood of supporting the Kuwaiti opposition.
Because of its support for the Brotherhood and of Al Jazeera’s editorial policies, Qatar became at odds with Saudi Arabia. It is the only country in the region with goods reasons to invade the small peninsula: to take hold of the gas fields that could save its oil-dependent economy. So it is the country in the region it was most important to keep good relationships with.
Source (about the historical Qatari need for diplomacy): « Qatar – a modern history » by Allan Fromhertz.
Further information about the incidents between Al Jazeera and the United States: The 9/11 decade — The Image War (part 3 — the episode deals with the media and propaganda in the war on terror in general, but most of it is devoted to Al Jazeera’s specific case)
The Saudi economy relies heavily on oil. At first, when drilling into an oil reservoir, the pressure inside is enough to draw the precious liquid to the surface. But as stocks diminish, pressure diminshes too and eventually it’s not enough anymore. One must inject natural gas to push the oil and collect it. The quantity of gas required is so large that importing it is not economical; it must be extracted in the country, near the oil wells. Most oil-producing countries also happen to own the required gas fields. Saudis now regret to have burnt the gas seeping from the oil wells instead of reusing it. Prospections in the Empty Quarter, in the south-eastern desert, did not allow to discover any sizeable gas field. Even if there were indeed gas fields there, they would be too far away from the oil wells (in the Dammam region, on the Persian Gulf) to be economical. If Riyad doesn’t quickly find gas near its oil fields, the country won’t be able to extract oil anymore and its economy will collapse.
Near the Saudi oil fields lies Qatar, the third biggest gas exporter in the world. Alongside with Iran, it owns a large part of the North Field / South Pars, the largest gas field on the planet. The emirate stands on a peninsula smaller than Wales, virtually entirely desertic, and poorly defended if it wasn’t for the American base of Al-Udeid – it’s the largest in the region.
Finally, Vladimir Putin showed a few months ago that you can invade the little nearby peninsula if you wish to. In his case it was Crimea. Saudi Arabia could follow his exemple and wish to invade its very own little nearby peninsula.
Counter-argument: Washington has previously been allied with both the emirate and the Wahhabi kingdom, but its relationships with the latter have decayed recently. If the Saudi army invaded Qatar, the Americans would probably retaliate. Moreover, they own a large military base on the small peninsula.
Source: « Saudi Arabia on the Edge » by Thomas W. Lippman, pp. 58-60