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Russian expert says confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar long expected

According to experts, the United States may be the country capable of making peace between Riyadh and Doha

MOSCOW, June 5. /TASS/. Confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both striving for regional leadership, has been brewing for a long time, said Vladimir Yevseyev, Deputy Director of the Department for Eurasian Integration and SCO Development at the Russian Institute of the CIS Countries.

"Saudi Arabia has much more problems with Qatar than it may seem," said Yevseyev, who is also an expert at the Valdai Club. "In the recent years, a secret rivalry between Doha and Riyadh has been going on in several countries of the region," he added.

Washington’s role

When speaking about the seriousness of such a confrontation, Yevseyev pointed out that Saudi Arabia seemed unlikely to benefit from a rift among the Gulf states. "If Saudi Arabia takes tough measures, then it would be interested in a compromise, for instance, making Qatar pay more attention to the Saudi interests," the expert added.

According to Yevseyev, the United States is the country capable of making peace between Riyadh and Doha.

"It is important for the United States that its partners do not quarrel among themselves," he said. "Particularly when a common front against Iran is being formed."

"This is why the United States may act as a mediator in order to solve this issue," the Russian expert added.

Race for regional leadership

Yevseyev also said that the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar had become especially noticeable when Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Qatar-sponsored Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt following the Arab spring events. "It was Saudi-backed General Al-Sisi who overthrew him," the expert noted. "In other words, Egypt played a special role in the confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Eventually, Saudi Arabia won and now Egypt has cut diplomatic relations with Qatar," he said.

In the expert’s opinion, this secret rivalry was sure to become clear sooner or later. "I believe that this message (on the Qatari governmental website) citing the need to improve relations with Iran only gave impetus to the confrontation," he noted. "Everything came to the surface, because Qatar has been pursuing its own policy and did not usually hold consultations with Saudi Arabia, which annoyed Riyadh a lot since it seeks hegemony in the Sunni countries of the region," Yevseyev said.

The confrontation between Riyadh and Doha is currently evident in Lybia, as Qatar has been supporting members of the Islamic State terror group (outlawed in Russia). "Saudi Arabia has its own clientele there. In Syria, it supports Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia) while the Islamic State has the support of Qatar," Yevseyev added.

Who wins?

According to the Russian expert, the Saudi ruling dynasty wants to neither destroy nor isolate Qatar.

"The Saudis want Qatar to recognize Riyadh’s leading role in the Sunni world," he said. "If Qatar brings itself to do it, then the two countries will reconcile. But the peace will be relative because Qatar will try to take advantage of its enormous financial resources and ties with the United States in order to pursue its own policy. So a crisis is inevitable," the Russian expert said.

From the other hand, Qatar does not have the potential to fight for leadership with Saudi Arabia, Yevseyev said.

"Actually, Qatar is not capable of becoming a regional leader, except for its financial wealth," he pointed out. "In this regard, I think that reconciliation will not be full and is sure to be followed by rising tensions."

Breaking off diplomatic relations

Earlier on Monday, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, as well as Yemen, the interim government of Libya and the Maldives announced cutting diplomatic relations with Qatar over Doha’s support of terrorism. Qatar expressed regret over this decision calling it groundless. A number of air companies from the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia said they would suspend flights to Qatar. In turn, Qatar Airways suspended flights to Saudi Arabia.