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Arab countries cut ties with Qatar over change in US policy — Russian expert

"The US gave a green light to the Arab countries eager to counter Qatar on the international stage," the expert said
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MOSCOW, June 5. /TASS/. Saudi Arabia and some other Arab countries’ decision to cut ties with Qatar may positively affect the military and political situation in the region, President of the Russian Institute of Religion and Politics Alexander Ignatenko told TASS. He added that this move also marked a change in the US approach to resolving conflicts in the Middle East.

New dynamics

"I believe we will witness new dynamics in relations between the Middle Eastern states, as well as in efforts to resolve regional conflicts, particularly in Syria and Iraq, where the Islamic State terror group (outlawed in Russia) and some Al-Qaeda-affiliated units are active," the expert said adding that "these changes can either further destabilize the region or increase stability."

When asked if changes in relations between the Middle Eastern countries and Qatar could influence the Syrian conflict, Ignatenko said that "these decisions will lead to the increasing role of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in the Syrian conflict." "Some positive changes may follow triggered by these countries or some others," he added.

Qatar’s role

Ignatenko went on to say that it had been known for a long time that Qatar supported a number of religious and political extremist groups in order to influence the domestic policy of various Arab states. "These countries, including Saudi Arabia, point to such groups as the Muslim Brotherhood that Doha used to affect the domestic situation in Egypt, Libya and Syria, as well as to the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, which is now called Jabhat Fath al-Sham (outlawed in Russia)," the expert explained. "Another important aspect is related to the Islamic State that has been destabilizing the situation in Syria and Iraq."

Egypt has also been emphasizing Qatar’s destructive role. "Egypt has been repeatedly protesting against Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups affiliated with this one, which carry out terrorist attacks on Egypt’s territory," Ignatenko noted adding that Cairo openly accused Doha of supporting the so-called Wilayat Sinai, an Islamic State offshoot.

"Another question is how close and legally documented Qatar’s ties with these terror groups are," the expert said. "However, it is a fact that accusations were voiced in the past but no actions were taken," Ignatenko noted.

According to him, "the United States, who has an allied relationship with Qatar, contained the Arab countries, besides, the Obama administration was hesitant to cut this Gordian knot."

Change in US position

The reason why the Arab countries at last decided to take some steps is the change in the US position. "After the new US president (Donald Trump) and the secretary of defense took office, a decision was made to tackle Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist groups," he said. "The US gave a green light to the Arab countries eager to counter Qatar on the international stage," Ignatenko added.

"This entire process began after US Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ visit to Qatar, where he met with the Emir and said that Doha’s use of the Muslim Brotherhood to interfere in other Arab countries’ internal affairs was inacceptable," Ignatenko pointed out. "It came to the surface of the regional political life. This process was initiated by Washington after it had been informed about Qatar’s activities," the Russian expert said.

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.