Germany Surrenders Before the GCC Sheikhs


While the West has traditionally been vocal about concerns over workers’ rights abuses in the GCC countries, it is a widely known principle in international relations that self-interest trumps everything else. Ever since Qatar beat the USA, Australia, Japan and South Korea to win hosting rights to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in 2010, despite never having qualified to play in the World Cup itself, it has been suffering snide comments about its eligibility to host the event, ranging from bribery accusations to poor treatment of expatriate labor and, more recently, anti-LGBT laws. However, as the geopolitical sands have shifted during the past decade, the same countries are taking a visibly different position.

Berlin’s scramble for alternative gas supplies

Foreseeing a gas crisis in the coming winter months, Europe is quickly searching for alternative supplies to Russian gas. Azerbaijan is being wooed by the EU officials for the very reason, but strong Russian influence in the South Caucuses and a fragile ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan make this an unviable option. The other, relatively safe, option is the GCC. With this in mind, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is currently on a whirlwind tour of the biggest gas exporters in the region—Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar, eager to sign gas deals that can ensure a stable gas supply for German residents during the harsh winter months.

Chancellor Scholz’s 2-Day Trip

Chancellor Scholz’s first stopover was Jeddah, on 24 September 2022, where he met the Saudi Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). For the German economy, Saudi Arabia is an attractive source of hydrogen, which it wants to use for energy instead of natural gas. Ironically, just 4 years ago, Germany was among a handful of European countries that had imposed a ban on 18 Saudi nationals who were believed to be involved in the MBS–sponsored assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The next day, Chancellor Scholz flew to Abu Dhabi where a formal agreement was signed for the supply of LNG to Germany starting from December 2022. Germany has been rapidly developing its LNG terminal infrastructure under the realization that it has to reduce reliance on Russian gas and explore other sources. The initial shipment from UAE will be for 137,000 cu m, which is not a lot, but it is a first step at building deeper relations within the region. The same day, the Chancellor landed in Doha, where he met the ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and even committed to send an official representative to the FIFA event, which is scheduled to kick off on 20 November 2022.

Despite pressure from home-grown as well as international groups to take a firm stand on the human rights situation in the Gulf countries, including not only poor workers’ conditions, but arbitrary political arrests and restrictions on gender minorities, the Chancellor did not raise these issues. He even praised the Qatari government for making progress on workers’ conditions, indicating that Berlin has more important things to worry about.

The FIFA World Cup—Berlin Sings a Different Tune

Since winning the FIFA World Cup hosting bid in 2010, Qatar has been developing its infrastructure rapidly, mainly through foreign labour from the Indian subcontinent. New roads, hotels and stadiums have been constructed. At the same time, thousands of workers have lost their lives due to dangerously high temperatures, absence of adequate breaks and drinking water, and squalid living conditions.

German football officials have repeatedly alleged corruption on the part of Qatar in being awarded the bid, while also calling for the decision to be reversed by FIFA. In one of the qualifying rounds last year, German players wearing black shirts, lined up to spell “HUMAN RIGHTS” to embarrass the Qatari government.

The GCC nations have always been willing to trade with the West as the autocratic regimes need western support to ensure their continued rule. Moreover, as the move is intended to weaken Russia on the international stage, the GCC sheikhdoms will be happy to comply, owing to strong Russian relations with Iran and Syria. Chancellor Scholz will return to Berlin a happy man after a successful tour, and official government representation to the World Cup in November will ultimately silence all voices from Europe supporting political, civic and economic rights in the GCC.

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Idlib: An Uphill Battle for Turkey

The killing of 33 Turkish soldiers in air raids in Syria’s Idlib province is likely to prove a major blow for President Tayyip Erdogan, who has made up his mind to lock horns with Russia in Syria. Turkey has been pushed towards a frontline war with Northern Syria by its Western allies without knowing the consequences of this unending battle.

Four Turkish political parties in the Turkish parliament issued a joint statement to condemn this attack by signing a statement of political means solution based on international law to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the region.

Turkish President Erdogan asked Putin “to get out of the way” and let the Turkish troops deal with Syrian President Bashar Assad. The United States and Russia used their full strength in Syria, and finally, the US stepped back, failing to down the Assad government in Syria. Turkey is demanding the same thing to replace the United States’ role in Syria while challenging Russian interests in Idlib.

Turkish wrath is serious; it has been widely shared on social media. Who did Turkey hold responsible for the killing of 33 Turkish troops? Is it Syria or Russia? Will Turkey confront Russia in Syria directly? These questions are now in everyone’s mind. Who will be the target of the Turkish wrath? These questions are still unanswered.

Before the Syrian crisis, Turkey enjoyed excellent relations with all Arab countries and had strategic cooperation councils with the majority of them. Because of ex-Turkish policies that relayed on zero problems with the neighbors, now everything is different and Turkey is facing challenges not only with its neighbors but with everyone.

The problems of Turkish president mounted after the Arab spring because his Ottoman dreams had awakened, he thinks that he can rebuild the Ottoman Empire, which ruled the majority of Arabic countries for about 400 years. Syria was the greatest failure for Erdogan, this substantial failure was heard inside Turkey, when a military coup took place against him on July 15, 2016. At that time, Putin helped him to survive, although of course, such help wasn’t for nothing. Putin thought to himself that a weak Erdogan is better than another strong army ruler, and Erdogan may help him in Syria. Still, after four years, Erdogan changed his mind, which caused Putin to become rather upset and angry with him.

Turkey has been rolling between its Western allies and Russia for the past several years. Turkey is not a stable partner and is a bit confused about choosing its strategic interests in various regions. Physically located between East and West, Turkish foreign policy is also hanging between the East and West.

If we take a look at the recent developments and track record of Turkey, it is very interesting. Turkey shot down a Russian SU-24 jet in 2015, after which we witnessed very tense relations between Turkey and Russia. Soon after this, Russian tourists stopped visiting Turkey, which resulted in a substantial financial loss to Turkey. Russians tourists are top of the list of any other nationality visiting Turkey with 6.9 million visitors and a 16 per cent share in total foreign tourists. Therefore, Turkey should keep in mind that any major confrontation with Russia severely affects the Turkey tourism sector and is damaging for the already ramshackle Turkish economy. There have been several phases of bitter ties between Russia and Turkey. Still, on the purchasing of S-400 missiles, Turkey went to a very tense level of ties with the United States (US), but again Turkey is favourite for its Western allies, so the west takes it as like contumacy.

Despite the major conflicts with the US and now with Russia, Turkey wants both Russian S-400 missiles and US, F-35. Again it’s a strange demand that Erdogan wants to be fulfilled, but a brilliant choice if Turkey wants to hit back the US. In that case, they must have an F-35, and if they confront Russian in Idlib, then they have S-400 missiles.

Turkey and Erdogan have a diversity of foes and friends. Turkey believes in making friends with those who are the foes of their opponents, but that does not work in call cases. Sometimes Turkey’s enemies are Turkey’s friends, and Turkey’s friends are Turkey’s enemies. Like in the current scenario, Turkey is considering having joint operations with Israel; nevertheless, Israel is on the top of the list of Turkish foes. Erdogan used Israel’s rhetoric for applauding inside and outside Turkey.

Turkey has been actively involved in numerous fronts, lobbying inside Muslim blocs to take over the Muslim world leadership role.

Many countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and even Turkey’s NATO allies are waiting for this moment to see Turkey in troubled waters in Syria. Both fear to see Erdogan trying to realize his dream of the rein of the Ottoman Empire. However, it would be tough to revive the Ottoman era: the West is concerned about Erdogan’s various speeches with hints about that.

At this stage, the situation in Northern Syria is interesting, and any aggressive move might lead to a serious battle.

Following the air raids at Turkish troops, prospects of a direct military confrontation between Turkey and Russia are very high. Amidst the prevailing scenario, tensions between the two sides are alarmingly high, although both sides are looking for their respective stakes. As per available indicators, the two countries are ready for de-escalation to some extent, but the risk of an incidental escalation is more substantial than expected.





Qatar blurs regional powers to diffuse Iran-US conflict

Qatar once more takes the lead as a mediator in the recent crisis that engulfed the Middle East after the targeted assassination of Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian Major General in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who was targeted by the US drone strike at Baghdad’s International Airport on 3rd January 2020.

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s visit to Iran directly after the incident of Soleimani’s killing is being seen as a very serious and wise diplomatic move by the Qatari side to reduce the tension in the region.

For the last decade, Qatar has been playing a responsible and mature role in resolving the regional and global conflicts towards peaceful solutions and has a very solid stance on the implementation of international law. On one side, Qatar has been facing air, sea and land blockade from its neighboring Gulf States including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE since 2017 but playing a very positive and responsible role in diffusing tension between major power players.

Despite the face of numerous challenges from the neighboring states, Qatar is getting the status of the most favorite state in the Middle East compared to any other country and it is because of equal treatment on part of Qatar towards all the other countries in the region and across the world.

The difference between Qatar’s diplomacy and the other GCC members is that Qatar used to engage other countries into dialogue and negotiations on the grounds of equality without resorting to hegemonic mantra, however, some other states in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia used the policy of supremacy and dominance and try to exploit the other states with its influence.

Qatar is getting huge leverage due to its diversified diplomatic style and moving successfully to become a regional and global hub for its diplomacy, dialogue, and diversity.

Qatar’s shuttle diplomacy towards the de-escalation in the Middle East and its emerging role as a mediator, proving a successful episode in diffusing tension not only between Iran and the USA but also played an effective role in bringing all the stakeholders at the negotiable table for peace in Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani visited Iraq and met his counterpart is another serious effort from Qatar in defusing tension among all parties towards restraint.

Kuala Lumpur Summit Aftermaths- A New Muslim Bloc in the making

A new Muslim country’s bloc is being seen in the making while witnessed a number of developments in the aftermath of the Kaula Lumpur Summit gesturing that there is a very strong desire for new leadership for the Muslim world.

The Muslim world needs a new Muslim’s order for the presentation of better counter-narrative, existing challenges and to combat the increasing threat of Islamophobia.

The dynamics of the Muslim world are changing very fast. Qatar, Turkey, and Malaysia are gearing up for the unity of the Muslim countries; however, Saudi Arabia feeling afraid of losing its hegemonic control. The KL Summit is likely the act to spurn the hold of the few Muslim countries’ overall on the Muslims world.

Unfortunately, those few countries who are claiming to have a hold on the entire Muslim world badly exploited the less developed Muslim states for their own interests and for the sake of the pro-western agenda.

Kuala Lumpur Summit was actually an effort to unite the divided Muslim world but the propaganda against the KL summit in its aftermath is actually exposing the fear of so-called Muslim countries who foresees their monopoly ending.

The recent Kuala Lumpur Summit is actually the first major gesture towards this new episode of the new Muslim world order. A new Islamic bloc is being anticipated to solve the challenges of the Muslim countries and to give the confidence of the depressed Muslim countries is the need of the hour.

The End of Saudi Hegemony

Malaysian Prime Minister calls for the Muslim world to get united after the assassination of the Qasem Solemini is another powerful stance from any Muslim country that scared the Saudi Arabia hegemony.

Saudi Arabia’s leadership specifically the crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman thinks that the control of Saudis is losing rapidly in the region and especially in the Muslim world.

Saudi Arabia did not want to get independent in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Qatar is a very good example that how Saudis made its blockage and try to use all its influence to let it down but as they pushed, Qatar emerged as a global hub and more interactive to the world.

There is an increasing debate among the Muslims countries that whenever west want to implant their agenda or policies they implement through Saudi Arabia or its close allies.

So the Saudi hegemony is ending fast under the current circumstances and the existing policies of the kingdom leadership. After the successful show of the Kuala Lumpur Summit with the presence of three major Muslim states, experts are predicting a domino effect, which is going to end the theological and political grip of the oil-rich kingdom on Muslim governments.

Malik Ayub Sumbal is a Geopolitical Analyst, Commentator. He also President and Founder of The Caucasus Center for Strategic and International Studies (CCSIS). Malik tweets @ayubsumbal  

Soleimani’s assassination triggers US-Iran standoff

Amidst an environment of a tense standoff between Iran and the US since the last couple of months, the United States assassinated high-ranking Iranian military and intelligence official Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport on Friday morning along with several other Iran-backed officials operating in Iraq.

The assassination of Qasem Soleimani is being anticipated as the most aggressive action, which could trigger the US and Iran towards a possible state of war by exposing the region to alarming tragedy.

Both sides are making vengeful statements with objectives to undermine each other with severe consequences. Iran warned of the severe avenge of the killing of a senior commander of the IRGC’s Quds Forces Major General Qasem Soleimani. Being the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Qasem Suleimani was considered as the architect of the nation’s military, intelligence operations, and a close confidant of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. On other side, the US used to tag Qasem Suleimani as a terrorist and one of the world’s most dangerous men, aiding Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad in the Syrian Civil war and causing the deaths of hundreds of Americans during the Iraq war.

US engagements in the region during the last two decades witnessed the fact that US administration including Donald Trump and his predecessors are experts in solving one problem by creating another big mess in the region. In this scenario, statements from the US president following the assassination of Qasem Suleimani that the targeted action against Qasem Soleimani was initiated “to stop a war, not to start one” seems hilarious.

Donald Trump has pushed the US towards an unending rivalry and conflict by Killing Qasem Soleimani by opening a new Pandora box in the region. The International strategists and analysts are seeing the decision of strike of US Administration as a plethora to divert attention from the internal crisis faced by Trump and his administration.

The killing of Qasem Soleimani became international headlines in the global media for the last two days. Donald Trump played Iran card for his elections and to get rid of its impeachment crisis but this Iran card leads the US towards a major watershed.

Donald Trump old tweets about using Iran cards for Obama haunted him and widely discussed and shared on social media. Following the assassination of Qasem Suleimani, some elements in the US are praising Donald Trump for the death of Soleiman, while some others are condemning the action for escalating already fraught tensions. It is too early to gauge the intensity of possible consequences and implications of the assassination of Qasem Suleiman; however, the US administration has to come out with more solid justifications this time for its actions.

Donald Trump does not need enemies while making such kind of decisions. The warmongering rhetoric of Donald Trump has multiplied the intensity of tension between the US and Iran. Donald Trump has made several tweets by justifying his stance on Qasem Soleimani’s killing. His repeated tweets gestured that he is well aware of any expected reaction from Iran. Trump is trying hard to downplay the killing of Qasem Soleimani that does not seem possible in a country like Iran.

Iran has made up its mind to react following the assassination of powerful men of Iran in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport. Iran has categorically warned for retaliation to avenge the murder of Soleiman by pointing out that time and the target will be told by the time.

Iran Foreign Minister Javed Zarif started meeting with his various counterparts for their future strategy on Qasem Soleimani. There has been huge curiosity around the world that what kind of reaction is being expected from Iran in the aftermath of Qasem Soleimani killing by the US.

Donald Trump put the US into the worst snare by jeopardizing US national security by killing Qasem Soleimani. Donald Trump has negated all his previous policies and strategies on the Middle East for he used to criticize Obama and his administration.

The killing of Qasem Soleimani will prove to be a major setback for Trump’s elections as thousands of Americans have also come to roads in New York against war hysteria of Trump administration.

Iran’s strategic partners will support Iran at this stage when they engineered a new battlefield for the US to engage it for more skirmishes to weak US defense sector and waste its more capital in the region.

On the other side, millions of people moved to roads to attend funeral prayers for Qasem Soleiman in Iraq and Iran and to honor Commander Qasem Soleimani, which hinted at the fact that the situation is not as rosy as depicted by US administration. The consequences are going to be exposed with Iranian rhetoric that Iran has made up its mind to avenge the assassination of Qasem Soleiman and in this connection, till filing of this report, the missile was reportedly fired at base camp in Iraq housing US soldiers with confirmation of news regarding injuries of US troops.

Malik Ayub Sumbal is Geopolitical Analyst, Commentator and Columnist. He is also Founder of The Caucasus Center for Strategic and International Studies (CCSIS). He tweets @ayubsumbal