Qatar Wants to Invade Syria
By Pepe Escobar
September 27, 2012 "Asia
Times " -- Make no mistake; the Emir of Qatar is on a roll.
What an entrance at the UN General Assembly in New York; Sheikh
Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani called for an Arab coalition of the
willing-style invasion of Syria, no less. 
In the words of the Emir, "It is better for the Arab countries
themselves to interfere out of their national, humanitarian,
political and military duties, and to do what is necessary to
stop the bloodshed in Syria." He stressed Arab countries had a
"military duty" to invade.
What he means by "Arab countries" is the petromonarchies of the
Gulf Counter-Revolution Club (GCC), previously known as Gulf
Cooperation Council - with implicit help from Turkey, with which
the GCC has a wide-ranging strategic agreement. Every shisha
house in the Middle East knows that Doha, Riyadh and Ankara have
been weaponizing/financing/providing logistical help to the
various strands of the armed Syrian opposition engaged in regime
The Emir even quoted a "similar precedent" for an invasion, when
"Arab forces intervened in Lebanon" in the 1970s. By the way,
during a great deal of the 1970s the Emir himself was engaged in
more mundane interventions, such as letting his hair down
alongside other Gulf royals in select Club Med destinations, as
this photo attests (he's the guy on the left).
So is the
Emir now preaching an Arab version of the R2P ("responsibility
to protect") doctrine advanced by The Three Graces of
Humanitarian Intervention (Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and
This is certainly bound to go down well in Washington - not to
mention Ankara and even Paris, considering French president
Francois Hollande has just called for UN protection of
"liberated zones" in Syria.
As for the Emir's Lebanon precedent, that's not exactly
uplifting, to say the least. The so-called Arab Deterrent Force
of 20,000 soldiers that entered Lebanon to try to contain the
civil war overstayed its welcome by no less than seven years,
turned into a Syrian military occupation of northern Lebanon,
left officially in 1982 and still the civil war kept raging.
Imagine a similar scenario in Syria - on steroids.
A 'pretty influential guy'
As for the
Emir's humanitarian - not to mention democratic - ardor, it's
enlightening to check out what US President Barack Obama
about it. Obama - who defines the Emir as a "pretty influential
guy" - seems to imply that even though "he himself is not
reforming significantly" and "there's no big move towards
democracy in Qatar", just because the emirate's per capita
income is humongous, a move towards democracy is not so
So let's assume the Emir is not exactly interested in turning
Syria into Scandinavia. That opens the way to an inevitable
motive - connected to, what else, Pipelineistan.
Vijay Prashad, author of the recent Arab Spring, Libya Winter,
is currently writing a series on the Syria Contact Group for
Asia Times Online. He got a phone call from an energy expert
urging him to investigate "the Qatari ambition to run its
pipelines into Europe." According to this source, "the proposed
route would have run through Iraq and Turkey. The former transit
country is posing to be a problem. So much easier to go north
(Qatar has already promised Jordan free gas)."
Even before Prashad concludes his investigation, it's clear what
Qatar is aiming at; to kill the US$10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria
gas pipeline, a deal that was clinched even as the Syria
uprising was already underway. 
Here we see Qatar in direct competition with both Iran (as a
producer) and Syria (as a destination), and to a lesser extent,
Iraq (as a transit country). It's useful to remember that Tehran
and Baghdad are adamantly against regime change in Damascus.
The gas will come from the same geographical/geological base -
South Pars, the largest gas field in the world, shared by Iran
and Qatar. The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline - if it's ever built -
would solidify a predominantly Shi'ite axis through an economic,
steel umbilical cord.
Qatar, on the other hand, would rather build its pipeline in a
non-"Shi'ite crescent" way, with Jordan as a destination;
exports would leave from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Gulf of Suez
and then to the Mediterranean. That would be the ideal plan B as
negotiations with Baghdad become increasingly complicated (plus
the fact the route across Iraq and Turkey is much longer).
Washington - and arguably European customers - would be more
than pleased with a crucial Pipelineistan gambit bypassing the
Islamic Gas Pipeline.
And of course, if there's regime change in Syria - helped by the
Qatari-proposed invasion - things get much easier in
Pipelineistan terms. A more than probable Muslim Brotherhood
(MB) post-Assad regime would more than welcome a Qatari
pipeline. And that would make an extension to Turkey much
Ankara and Washington would win. Ankara because Turkey's
strategic aim is to become the top energy crossroads from the
Middle East/Central Asia to Europe (and the Islamic Gas Pipeline
bypasses it). Washington because its whole energy strategy in
Southwest Asia since the Clinton administration has been to
bypass, isolate and hurt Iran by all means necessary. 
That wobbly Hashemite throne
points to Jordan as an essential pawn in Qatar's audacious
geopolitical/energy power play. Jordan has been invited to be
part of the GCC - even though it's not exactly in the Persian
Gulf (who cares? It's a monarchy).
One of the pillars of Qatar's foreign policy is unrestricted
support for the MB - no matter the latitude. The MB has already
conquered the presidency in Egypt. It is strong in Libya. It may
become the dominant power if there's regime change in Syria.
That brings us to Qatar's help to the MB in Jordan.
At the moment, Jordan's Hashemite monarchy is wobbly - and
that's a transcendental understatement.
There's a steady influx of Syrian refugees. Compound it with the
Palestinian refugees that came in waves during the crucial
phases of the Arab-Israeli war, in 1948, 1967 and 1973. Then add
a solid contingent of Salafi-jihadis fighting Damascus. Only a
few days ago one Abu Usseid was arrested. His uncle was none
other than Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the infamous former head of
al-Qaeda in Iraq, killed in 2006. Usseid was about to cross the
desert from Jordan to Syria.
Amman has been mired in protests since January 2011 - even
before the spread of the Arab Spring. King Abdullah, also known
as King Playstation, and photogenic Washington/Hollywood darling
Queen Rania, have not been spared.
The MB in Jordan is not the only player in the protest wave;
unions and social movements are also active. Most protesters are
Jordanians - who historically have been in control of all levels
of state bureaucracy. But then neo-liberalism reduced them to
road kill; Jordan went through a savage privatization drive
during the 1990s. The impoverished kingdom now depends on the
IMF and extra handouts from the US, the GCC and even the EU.
Parliament is a joke - dominated by tribal affiliation and
devotion to the monarchy. Reforms are not even cosmetic. A prime
minister was changed in April and most people didn't even
noticed it. In an Arab world classic, the regime fights demands
for change by increasing repression.
Into this quagmire steps Qatar. Doha wants King Playstation to
embrace Hamas. It was Qatar that promoted the meeting in January
between the King and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal - who had been
expelled from Jordan in 1999. That left indigenous Jordanians
wondering whether the kingdom would be swamped by yet another
wave of Palestinian refugees.
Arab media - most of it controlled by the House of Saud - has
been drowning in stories and editorials predicting that after
the MB ascends to power in Damascus, Amman will be next. Qatar,
though, is binding its time. The MB wants Jordan to become a
constitutional monarchy; then they will take over politically
after an electoral reform that King Abdullah has been fighting
against for years.
Now the MB can even count on the support of Bedouin tribes,
whose traditional allegiance to the Hashemite throne has never
been wobblier. The regime has ignored protests at its own peril.
The MB has called for a mass demonstration against the King on
October 10. The Hashemite throne is going down, sooner rather
It's unclear how Obama would react - apart from praying that
nothing substantial happens before November 6. As for the Emir
of Qatar, he has all the time in the world. So many regimes to
fall - and become Muslim Brothers; so many pipelines to build.
Qatar's emir calls for Arab-led intervention in Syria, The
National, Sep 26, 2012.
Syria's Pipelineistan war, Al Jazeera, Aug 6, 2012.
Qatar: Rich and Dangerous, Oilprice.com, Sep 17, 2012.
Pepe Escobar is the author of
Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid
War (Nimble Books, 2007) and
Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His
most recent book is
Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
He may be reached at email@example.com
Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights
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