Situation: Qatar continues to funnel weapons and facilitate other assistance to Syrian rebels and Salafi jihadists fighting the Assad regime in Syria.
Bottom Line: Determining the outcome of the conflict in Syria is very difficult due to the sheer number of private players in this theater and the varying agendas. Determining the extent to which Qatar is willing to go is made easier by understanding what it wishes to achieve: Global stature—and a pipeline through Syria.
Analysis: Right before the conflict in Syria broke out, Iran had cut a deal with Iraq for an Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline to pump natural gas from the world’s largest gas field, South Pars, which is shared by Qatar and Iran. Qatar could not allow this to happen. It would have given Iran the upper hand in its perceived quest to form a “Shi’ite crescent”. Qatar wanted the pipeline first. Qatar’s original plan was a pipeline from South Pars through Iraq and on to Turkey, and then to European markets. This pipeline, however, would have to traverse southern/central Iraq and Northern Iraq. This has become problematic due to the oil-resources power struggle between the Kurds of Northern Iraq and the Iraqi central government. A pipeline through Syria would be much easier. It would also be convenient for Jordan, which has apparently been promised free Qatari gas for its help in training Syrian rebels on its territory and allowing them to use Jordanian territory to launch offensives against Assad’s forces in southern Syria. For Jordan, which imports 95% of its fuel needs, this would be a massive socio-economic coup, but it is also inviting danger by training jihadists on its territory that could later turn on the monarchy.