by Dr. Kobi Michael
The turmoil of the past four years has shaped a new geostrategic reality in the Middle East and beyond. The disintegration of the regional order and the disconcerting rise in the power of nonstate actors in the area, in the shape of radical terrorist groups that seek to form a new world order based on Islamic law, are a wake-up call -- perhaps even the last one -- for the free world.
Unless the free world finds a way to consolidate its efforts, and finds the strength and courage to act; unless the free world is able to sideline the need to be politically correct in favor of truly differentiating between right and wrong and between what is humane and what is barbaric; and unless the free world would be willing to temporarily jeopardize financial prosperity based on blood money and corruption in favor of real action -- the forces of evil might trump the forces of good.
Four major Islamic camps have formed: political Islam, led by the Muslim Brotherhood; radical Sunni Islam, represented by terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, the Islamic State group, the Nusra Front, etc.; Shia Islam, led by Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah; and moderate-national Islam, represented by Egypt and the Arab monarchies, excluding Qatar.
The bitter rivalries between these four camps may make for strange, albeit momentary, bedfellows -- Saudi Arabia and Iran versus the Islamic State group, for example -- but these brief alliances would not be enough to blur the lines between the camps, as the turmoil sweeping through the Arab world has only made the differences between them starker.
Three camps pose a clear threat to the free world and its interests in the Middle East, and only the moderate-national Islam camp can be considered a reliable ally. But the West, and especially the United States, has at time favored political Islam, which it perceived as a new hope, thus turning its back on moderate Islam.
U.S. policies have led the moderate camp, led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia -- which share strategic interests with Israel as well -- to despair, prompting Cairo and Riyadh to increase their cooperation, and making them the only force in the Arab world today that could put up an "iron wall" and stop political and radical Islam from running rampant.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has proven as much after he forced Hamas to agree to a cease-fire with Israel during Operation Protective Edge, thus cementing his position as the most influential Arab leader in the region.
Qatar, for its part, has been trying to stop this "iron wall" from coming up. This tiny, affluent emirate, which enjoys the U.S.'s support, has made its survival strategies into what drives some of the most volatile conflicts in the Middle East, by directly and indirectly backing jihadist groups, such as Hamas in the Gaza Strip, al-Qaida and Iraq and Syria, and others.
Qatar's international prestige and influence have skyrocketed over the past few years due to several key factors, including its immense wealth, the success of its flagship television station Al Jazeera, the significant American military presence on its soil alongside substantial arms deals with the U.S., and its successful bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
This tiny emirate's success has made it arrogant, irresponsible and defiant of anyone it perceives as its regional rival. Qatar is the proverbial golem that has become a monster. And now it has fostered other golems, which have evolved from fringe actors in the regional theater into monstrous and destabilizing elements, which have also exported terrorism to the West.
Radical Islam's murderous rampage is no longer confined to the Middle East -- it has arrived at the gates of the free world and it mandates that the latter comes to its senses, even if it means severing ties with Qatar.
The West has ample tools at its disposal, including dealing Doha's international prestige a crippling blow by revoking the license it has been given to host the World Cup games. The West can denounce Qatar and even impose sanctions on the emirate over its human rights violations. Beyond that, the free world also has an array of clandestine measures it could apply to rattle Qatar's leadership into rethinking its positions on regional issues.
Dr. Kobi Michael is a senior lecturer at Ariel University and a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.