S. Arabia doing what Saddam did to Kuwait: George Washington University professor

June 8, 2017

TEHRAN - An expert on Saudi Arabia is of the opinion that the Saudi kingdom “is doing what Saddam Hussein did to Kuwait” in 1990 but the only difference is that “the Al-Sauds want to take over Qatar with U.S. support.”

Hossein Askari, who teaches at George Washington Univerisity, tells the Tehran Times that “the world must not allow Saudi Arabia to bully Qatar with U.S. support.”

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: What are the real reasons behind the decision of some Arab states to cut ties with Qatar?

A: Please understand that this was not an Arab decision, but a Saudi one. The Arab and other Muslim countries that followed the Saudi decision are countries that rely on Saudi Arabia one way or the other—money or assumed political protection. Saudi Arabia has long been irritated by Qatar. They have had border disputes with armed skirmishes. The Al-Sauds have been upset with Al-Jazeera because of freedom to criticize Persian Gulf rulers. As you know, there is zero press freedom in Saudi Arabia and the Al-Sauds find Al-Jazeera objectionable. They look at Qatar as a small country that talks too much and acts too big for its size. Simply said, they want Qatar to follow Saudi Arabia’s lead as a ‘little boy’.

But for the others, Bahrain has become a part of Saudi Arabia. They have lost their independence and they do as they are told by Saudi Arabia in order to receive a share of oil revenues and other financial support. Egypt and Sisi are totally dependent on Saudi Arabia financially. The UAE has in recent years followed Saudi lead for protection. And Yemen’s discredited ruler is in the pocket of the Al-Sauds. But what is significant is that Kuwait, Oman and Jordan have not followed. I do not believe that Oman will join the Saudi camp. But Jordan may eventually join if it sees it in its financial interest to do so. Kuwait will have a tough time resisting the Saudi call as the Al-Sauds claim and remind Kuwait that it was their support that was key in the liberation of Kuwait.

But why this has happened now is to me what we have to look at. Trump has emboldened the Al-Sauds. They believe they have BOUGHT Trump. They are clever that way. They are used to buying support and they know how to do it. Trump has seen their wealth and their lavish palaces and lifestyle and he is looking forward to doing more business for his family company in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. I am sure that Trump’s sons and son-in-law believe that they will do much business in the region. I am afraid that the Saudis will engineer a coup in Qatar. If they take over Qatar, they get rid of a pesky country and they solve all of their financial problems, very much as Saddam Hussein hoped to do by taking over Kuwait.

This is what frightens me. Trump would do nothing and the balance in the Persian Gulf will be destroyed. Iran has to be aware of this.

Q: How far will the recent crisis go and should we expect Qatar to turn its back on Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood?

A: As you know, the Al-Sauds have no legitimacy at all. They always refer to Mecca and Medina and Islam for legitimacy. At the same time, they have seen religion as the biggest danger to their absolute rule.

If there were a religious challenge to them, then they would be totally naked.  So they have wanted the Muslim Brotherhood (and for that matter any other credible Muslim movement) to be totally extinguished, as they believe it poses a threat to their rule.

On the other hand, Qatari rulers do not see the threat from the Brotherhood. They believe that there must be more political freedom and change in the region. I don’t believe that Qatar will turn its back on Hamas and the Brotherhood right away. They will not give Saudi Arabia any excuse for a military operation against them. But even if Qatar turns its back on them, the question is whether Saudi Arabia will move on or will it exact a pound of flesh from Qatar or worse insist on total subservience to Al-Saud rule? I believe that with Trump in the White House, the Al-Sauds will see this as their best opportunity to get rid of the Al-Thanis and control Qatar and its natural gas. They blabber lies that Trump loves to hear—that it is all a fight against terrorists and that Qatar is supporting terrorists. All the while, the country that has financially supported terrorists is Saudi Arabia.

There is a UK government report that was commissioned two years ago on sources of financial support for terrorists and it was supposed to be publicly released but it has not been. I am sure they do not want to release it because it will confirm what most people believe—that Saudi Arabia is the financial backer of ISIS. There is a real danger of a Saudi takeover of Qatar. I cannot stress this enough.

Q: Should we expect an effort by Saudi Arabia to organize a coup plot in Qatar if the country does not live up to the expectations of Riyadh?

A: Yes, absolutely. I think that they will organize a coup through a small group of Qataris and pretend that they had nothing to do with it! It will be a very amateurish job, but it is likely.”

Q: What approach should Iran take in order to protect its national interests?

A: Iran must be very firm. Iran must right away and publicly declare (both the Supreme Leader and President Rouhani) loud and clear that it will not stand for any aggression of any kind towards Qatar. An attack or any covert operation in Qatar will be seen as an act of war and Iran will come to the defense of Qatar with everything at its disposal. Iran will honor its defense cooperation agreement and cannot stand by as Saudi Arabia with support of the United States bullies another country in the region. If Iran does not stand firm, it will endanger its own future.

Q: President Trump most recently tweeted that his trip to Saudi Arabia has already paid off as Qatar has been put on notice and isolated not to support terrorists.

A: Well this shows how little President Trump knows and either how incompetent or scared are his advisors. Qatar is not the country that has financed and produced terrorists. The facts are clear. It is Saudi Arabia. But the Al-Sauds have made business deals with Mr. Trump and the United States and they couch their agenda in something that Mr. Trump could embrace. They accuse Hamas  as a source of terrorism because the U.S. State Department brands Hamas as a terrorist organization with no evidence at all. And then they state that Qatar supports Hamas. So Qatar must be a supporter of terrorism. Such transparent nonsense! Israel wants the U.S. to isolate Hamas for its own agenda. The U.S. endorses Israeli wishes and then out of nowhere Qatar is labelled as a supporter of terrorism! Then Saudi Arabia labels Iran as a supporter of terrorism. So all of a sudden what Saudi Arabia does is interpreted as a helpful in the fight against terrorism. And Trump, as is his habit, takes credit for fighting terrorism. And that his trip to Saudi Arabia has already paid off. It is all so bizarre. But no one should forget, it is Saudi Arabia that has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to mosques and madrassas to infuse radicalism and extremism into young Muslims. Saudi citizens have contributed the money to sustain Al-Qaeda and ISIS. And the reason is simple. The Al-Sauds have no legitimacy and their only claim is to have extremist religious support. The world must not allow Saudi Arabia to bully Qatar with U.S. support. Iran must stand up and state its unequivocal support for Qatar, even if it means fighting with Qatar against aggressors. If Iran does this, it will prevent the takeover of Qatar and will be on the right side of history."

Q: Why is Saudi Arabia acting so now?

A: Saudi Arabia is doing what Saddam Hussein did to Kuwait but with one very important difference. The Al-Sauds want to take over Qatar with U.S. support. And as long as Trump is in the White House, they feel they have U.S. support. If Saudi Arabia takes over Qatar, it will solve its financial difficulties and get rid of what it considers as a difficult neighbor! This is all very dangerous."

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