Have you ever wondered why a country like Qatar got involved in the Syrian conflict? Why did a tiny Arab state, the third smallest Arab country, (after Lebanon and Bahrain) with enough revenue from its natural gas and oil to continue purchasing premiere league European football (soccer) teams, Swiss banks and American television channels for another 300 years? Qatar has already spent upwards of $3 billion in trying to bring about regime change in Syria, according to the Financial Times. Qatar pushing for regime change is similar to Monaco or Andorra conspired to bring about regime change in Germany.
Then, of course, there is the giant Saudi Arabia, also trying to influence the outcome of the Syria war. So why this insistence by the Saudis and the Qataris over shaping the political future of Syria? What is going on in Syria? It certainly is not for the importance that the Gulf monarchies place on the desires of the Syrian people to be free.
Initially we were led to believe that this had more to do with religious overtones than anything else, however it is now starting to emerge that there may be commercial reasons driving the support given to the Syrian rebels by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
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If we are to believe an article by Michael Snyder titled “Is the United States Going to go to War with Syria over a Natural Gas Pipeline?” that appeared on-line over the weekend, the reason behind the joint Saudi-Qatari anti-Assad initiative is because the two Gulf nations wanted to build a pipeline through Syria, but Syria refused. Why the refusal?
Consider this: A Saudi-Qatari pipeline would give the Gulf states an easy way out of the region for their gas and oil to reach Europe in a faster, cheaper and more secure manner than having to transit through the Straits of Hormuz, and be liable to the prevailing diplomatic situation in the region.
Bashar Assad’s refusal to play along with the rest of the big boys and delay the flow of Gulf oil was very upsetting to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two countries already irked by Syria’s interference in regional affairs – mainly the killing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Harriri.
If this move upset fellow Arabs, on the other hand it greatly pleased Russian President Vladimir Putin because it gave him the advantage in delivering Russian gas to the West.
It gave Russia a second reason for supporting Bashar. The first of course being the deep-water naval facilities the Russian Mediterranean fleet enjoys on the Syrian Mediterranean port of Tartous.
Now it all becomes much clearer why the Russians were ready to start WWIII over Syria. Bashar may have received a big boost to his ego in believing that his old friends in the Kremlin would initiate a global thermonuclear war over him. But the truth is Russia was gambling for its future revenues, playing its cards very tight.
If for a nanosecond Bashar thought that there was still a breath of hope left in the old socialist alliance and that the remnants of the Warsaw Pact nations –in other words Russia -- would rush to his assistance, well, it turns out the old communist in Putin is in essence a closet capitalist.
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For Qatar too, it is a matter of finances. Transporting gas by pipeline is quicker and far more economic than cooling is down to liquid form to be shipped in specialized tankers. And although Saudi Arabia and Qatar may be working hand in hand to remove Bashar from power, this is where their cooperation stops. Both the Saudis and the Qataris want to control the outcome of the Syrian conflict.
Another clue that the Saudis are playing for keeps is their deployment of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the head of the Saudi intelligence agency, who has kept himself rather busy flying from Riyadh to the front lines in Syria to Ankara to talk to the Turks, to Moscow to convince the Russian to drop the Syrian president.
So certain are the Saudis of their success in Syria that Bandar is reported to have promised Putin that Russia can continue to use the Syrian ports if they drop their support for Bashar now.
By. Claude Salhani
Claude Salhani is editor of ArabSpringNow.com and a specialist in the Middle East, terrorism and politicized Islam. He tweets @claudesalhani. His latest book, Inauguration Day, is available exclusively on line at amazon.com.