Qatar-Iran Economic Relations Will Improve, Contrary to Saudi Arabia’s Intent

Saudi Arabia’s attempt to isolate Qatar will backfire and lead to Qatar improving economic relations with Iran.

On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), cut diplomatic ties with Qatar,[1] and Egypt and Yemen soon did the same. The Saudi coalition’s ostensible reason for these diplomatic cuts was that Qatar supports terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida, the Islamic State, and Iranian-back political groups.[2] Although Qatar’s support for certain organizations such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood does invoke hostility throughout the Gulf, Saudi Arabia is not fully disclosing their reasoning for cutting ties. The reality is that Saudi Arabia desires for Qatar to be a satellite state, as it was until the mid-1990s. Since then, Qatar has developed policies independent of Saudi Arabia.[3]

Unfortunately for the Saudi coalition, Qatar will not meet their current demands. This attempt to isolate Qatar will backfire and lead to Qatar improving economic relations with other regional states and especially Iran.

Historical Context of Saudi-Qatari Relations

The deep tension between the Saudi coalition and Qatar is a deviation from the status quo that has existed over the last 15 years. In fact, these countries have aligned on a number of foreign policy issues since the creation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in the early 1980s, whose membership includes Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman.

For example, during Bahrain’s Arab Spring in 2011 (Pearl Revolution), Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar all supported the Bahraini Sunni regime against the Shia-backed protests, and these countries sent military troops and equipment to extinguish the protests.[4]

Likewise, during the current Syrian Civil War, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar have fervently supported the Syrian rebels against the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including having supplied arms to rebel groups such as Jaish al-Fatah and the Free Syrian Army.[5]

Another illustration is the 2015 Yemen Civil War, in which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar have sent equipment and troops to fight against the Shia Houthi rebels.[6]

Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s Relationship Deteriorates

Although much cooperation has occurred between Qatar and the Saudi coalition, there has been an increasing bitterness between Qatar and Saudi Arabia over the past 20 years. Saudi Arabia’s current intentions are related to Qatar’s transformation from a puppet state to an independent state in the mid-1990s.

From 1972-1995, Qatar’s Emir Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani followed Saudi Arabia’s policies. This former Emir did not develop relations with Iran, Iraq (after its invasion of Kuwait), or Israel.[7]

In 1995, however, Emir Hamd al-Thani was overthrown in a bloodless coup by his son Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani,[8] who sought to rebuild the Qatari-Iraqi relationship, share an oil field with Iran, and develop a gas trade deal with Israel.[9] Furthermore, the new emir intended to promote Qatar’s democratic policies, women’s rights, and an open media.[10]

Saudi Arabia recognized Qatar’s independent ambitions and intended to quell them. So, in 1996, Saudi Arabia covertly led a failed counter-coup in Qatar to return the former emir,[11] who was then living in exile in the UAE. Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani heard word of this attempted coup and stopped it with alacrity.[12]

Qatar’s Independence Enrages Saudi Arabia

Within a few years of his reign, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani took Qatar from a satellite state to a regional economic powerhouse. For example, in 1990, Qatar’s GDP was below $10 billion, while by 2007 it had reached an outstanding $100 billion (and by 2014 $200 billion).[13] The main reason for Qatar’s GPD increase was its abundance of natural gas.[14] Likewise, the money from the natural gas industry fund also assisted in funding Qatar’s state-owned broadcaster, the Al Jazeera Media Network, which was established in 1996.

Al Jazeera became known as the outlet for independent voices throughout the Middle East,[15] and frequently Al Jazeera was critical of leaders in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan (while being quiet about the Qatari regime).[16]

Al Jazeera also allowed airtime to perspectives from Islamist groups in Egypt and Palestine, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. It has provided and encouraged alternative opinions to Saudi Arabia’s state-owned media networks. As a result, Saudi Arabia was irritated by Al Jazeera’s persistent criticism and encouragement of opposing views.

Because Al Jazeera is unlike other Gulf media outlets and vocally criticizes Gulf regimes, Saudi Arabia has desired to shut it down.[17] Saudi Arabia fears that critical coverage of its leaders would fuel domestic unrest, but Qatar refuses to close down Al Jazeera.

Also, during the 1990s, Qatar was trying to develop a strong relationship with the United States, similar to the Saudi Arabia-U.S. relationship. At this time, the US established the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, and one ostensible goal of the American troops was to protect Saudi oil from Saddam Hussein’s troops. As the Gulf War intensified, the American troop numbers increased, and these troops overstayed their welcome.[18] The unwelcomed American presence at the U.S. Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia began producing unrest from Saudi citizens. The decade-long presence of American troops incited Islamic extremism in Saudi Arabia because it is home to Islam’s two most holy sites: Mecca and Medina.[19] To avoid provoking increasing unrest in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. finally left this airbase and was invited by Qatar to create a military base at Qatar’s expense. In 1996, the United States al-Udeid Air Base was built in Qatar.

As can be noted from above, Saudi Arabia’s current motives to pursue diplomatic cuts stem from Qatar’s motivation to be independent, which weakens Saudi Arabia’s influence in the region. As a result, Saudi Arabia has also pulled its coalition states (UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen) on board, who dislike Qatar for various reasons.

For example, in Egypt, former President Hosni Mubarak and the current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi were harshly criticized by the Qatari owned news agency Al-Jazeera.[20] Likewise, in political contests Qatar favored former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi during his presidential run,[21] but once President Morsi won the presidency he was overthrown in a coup, with the military acting under current President el-Sisi. Bahrain is well known to be a satellite state of the Saudi government, as could be seen from 2011 when Saudi Arabia sent troops into Bahrain to squelch Shia protests.[22] The United Arab Emirates, like Saudi Arabia, sees Qatar’s vocalized support for the Muslim Brotherhood as hostile to its own regime.[23] As for Yemen, the current internationally recognized government claimed that Qatar has close dealings with Iran and Yemeni Houthi rebels.[24] These rebels are fighting the current Yemeni government.

The Turkish-Qatari and Iranian-Qatari Relationships

While animosity towards Qatar has been building from the other embargo states, Qatar has not been sitting idle. It has been building its relationship with Turkey as well as Iran, Saudi Arabia’s nemesis. The Turkish-Qatari relationship has been developing quickly over the past five years. In 2015, Turkey and Qatar formed the High-Level Cooperation Council,[25] which was created because Qatar and Turkey shared a number of similar foreign policy interests:

  • Both Turkey and Qatar supported Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood and opposed the coup in Egypt.
  • Both nations support the Syrian rebels in Syria against the al-Assad regime.
  • Both nations support the Islamist groups opposed to the internationally recognized government in Libya, while the United Arab Emirates and Egypt support the officially recognized government.[26]
  • In 2015, Turkey opened its first airbase in the Arabian Gulf (also known as the Persian Gulf), in Qatar. [27]

The Turkish-Qatari relationship has seemed to threaten Saudi Arabia’s influence by bringing another major power into the region.

Likewise, Qatar’s relationship with Iran has also immensely developed. On May 22, 2017, Qatari leader al-Thani called Iranian President Rouhani to congratulate him on his election victory (which was insulting to other Saudi coalition states).[28] Additionally, Iran and Qatar’s close relationship is primarily economically based. Underneath the Arabian Gulf, both countries share the largest gas reserve field in the world.

Since 2005, Qatar has developed this gas reserve, known as North Dome (on the Qatar side), and Iran has worked to develop South Pars (on the Iran side), but it has not been as fortunate as Qatar in its gas developments.[29] For this reason, in 2013 Qatar publically stated that they would collaborate with Iran to develop South Par, which would increase production and profits for both countries. This cooperation further upset Saudi Arabia.[30]

The success of economic relations has led to Qatar and Iran opening embassies and meetings of high-level officials. It seems that the relationship will keep improving since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani publicly endorsed strengthening relations with Qatar. He stated on June 25, 2017, “Iranian policy is to develop more and more its relations with Doha [Qatar].”[31] Likewise, in August 2017, ignoring the demands of the Saudi coalition states, Qatar restored full diplomatic ties with Iran,[32] after having pulled its ambassador from Tehran in early 2016 to protest attacks on two Saudi diplomatic posts in Tehran (which attacks were prompted by Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric). Qatar said the restoration of ties “expressed its aspiration to strengthen bilateral relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in all fields.”[33]

With these new alliances developing, it is no surprise that once the Saudi coalition cut diplomatic relations with Qatar, Iran and Turkey sent food to replace the Saudi coalition’s former imports. By June 11, Iran had sent five cargo planes carrying a combined total of 90 tons of fruits and vegetables to Qatar, and “three ships carrying 350 tons [were] also set to leave Iran”, according to CNN.[34]

Qatar’s Economic Opportunities

Since the beginning of the 2017 Qatar Diplomatic Crisis, Qatar has had a large slump in its imported goods because the majority these products originate from the Saudi coalition states, whereas Qatar’s exports have not had a significant decline. Fortunately for Qatar, the cuts by the Saudi coalition did not affect their gas and oil industry, which is the base of their economy.

Between 2010 and 2015, Qatar imported an average of $26 billion worth of products per year and exported an average of $106 billion worth of products per year.[35] Of these exports, the majority were petroleum gas (55%), crude petrol (22%), and refined petrol (9%), which in aggregate is nearly 90% of their exports.[36]

With respect to Qatari imports, the trade cuts have taken their toll on the economy. Since May 2017, imports have been deeply affected such that in May imports fell by 38% and in June by 40%, according to the Financial Times.[37]

Because Qatar does not receive imports from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, and Yemen anymore, six essential product categories have been less common: metals, mineral products, animal products, vegetable products, chemical products, and machine products.

Nevertheless, Qatar has the ability to increase its imports with other regional states, especially Iran. If Qatar increases trade with Iran, Turkey, Oman, and China, it can replace the embargo states’ former exports to Qatar. So what products has Qatar lost from the Saudi coalition, and where can it otherwise import those products from?

Metals

Of metal products, Qatar has lost an average of $214 million worth from Saudi Arabia,[38] including $41 million from Cast Iron Pipes and Iron Structures.[39] Additionally, before the crisis, the United Arab Emirates was supplying Qatar with $510[40] million worth, including $108 million from Cooper Wire, $52 million from Hot-Rolled Iron, and $90 million of Iron Structures. Lastly, Qatar has lost $141 million in metals from Bahrain and Egypt.[41]

In metals alone this is over $750 billion and two countries have the capability of replacing these lost products: Iran and Turkey. As of 2015,[42] Iran exported $1.43 billon worth of metals. Most of Iran’s metal products being sold consist of iron products and 20% of the sold metal products are cooper. Additionally, as of 2015, Turkey was one of the top five exporters of Iron Structures and 6th largest seller of Cooper Wire in Asia.[43]

Mineral Products

Of mineral products, Qatar has lost $390 million worth of product from the United Arab Emirates;[44] of this $390 million, this includes $62 million of Refined Petroleum and $298 million of Gravel and Crushed Stone. Also, before the crisis, Bahrain supplied Qatar with $91 million worth of Petrol Coke, Iron Ore, and Pitch Coke.[45]

Of Mineral Products this is nearly $500 million worth of products that Qatar is missing, yet Iran and Oman can alleviate this burden. Iran exports Petrol Coke, Iron Ore, Pitch Coke, and Refined Petroleum,[46] while Oman is one of the top five sellers of Gravel and Crushed Stone in Asia.[47]

Animal Products

Of animal products, Qatar has lost $299 million from Saudi Arabia.[48] This $299 million includes $79 million of Fermented Milk and $78 million of Other Animals (pets, insects, and zoo animals).

However, Turkey and Oman can easily replace these products. As of 2015, Turkey was one of the top five sellers of Fermented Milk to Asia,[49] while Oman was the number one exporter of Other Animals in Asia.[50]

Vegetable Products

Qatar has lost $30 million in Fruits and Vegetables from Saudi Arabia, $65 million worth of Fruits and Vegetables from the United Arab Emirates,[51] and $17 million of Fruits and Vegetables from Egypt.[52]

Yet, as of 2015, Iran exported around $600 million worth of Fruits and Vegetables and year, so they have an opportunity to substitute for Qatar’s lost vegetable products.[53]

Chemical Products and Machine Products

Qatar has lost $192 million worth of chemical products from Saudi Arabia;[54] this amount consists of $41 million of Cleaning Products. Nonetheless, Turkey has the opportunity to replace Qatar’s loses because it is one of the top five sellers of Cleaning Products in Asia as of 2015 data.[55]

As for machine products, Qatar has lost $163 million from Saudi Arabia and $315 million from the United Arab Emirates.[56] This $163 million and $317 million consists of Insulated Wire. Fortunate for Qatar, China (a strong trade partner of Qatar) is the number one seller of Insulated Wire in the world as of 2015.[57]

Over the last five years, Qatar has imported an average of $69 million worth of goods from Iran.[58] The 2017 Diplomatic Crisis creates opportunity for Iran and other regional states to replace the Saudi coalition states as Qatar’s supplier. Likewise, other states such as Turkey, Oman, and China can benefit from this predicament by building a stronger economic relationship with Qatar.

Conclusion

It seems that, contrary to the Saudi regime’s intent to force Qatar to behave as a satellite state, Qatar is turning toward Iran and new trade partners, which will solidify Qatar as a regional power in its own right.

References

[1] Barakat, Sultan. “A Gulf crisis: How did we get here?” Al Jazeera. June 11, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/06/gulf-crisis-170611063706500.html.

[2] Wintour, Patrick. “Gulf plunged into diplomatic crisis as countries cut ties with Qatar.” The Guardian. June 05, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/05/saudi-arabia-and-bahrain-break-diplomatic-ties-with-qatar-over-terrorism.

[3] Weinberg, David Andrew. “Qatar vs. Saudi Arabia: How Iran and the Brotherhood Tore the Gulf Apart.” The National Interest. June 8, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. http://nationalinterest.org/feature/qatar-vs-saudi-arabia-how-iran-the-brotherhood-tore-the-gulf-21068.

[4] Cornell University Library . “Arab Spring: A Research & Study Guide * الربيع العربي: Bahrain.” Arab Spring: A Research & Study Guide. June 27, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. http://guides.library.cornell.edu/c.php?g=31688&p=200754.

[5] Alami, Mona. “Gulf countries take back seat on Syria route.” Al-Monitor. March 14, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/en/originals/2017/03/gulf-saudi-arabia-support-rebels-syria-yemen.html.

[6] Botelho, Greg, and Saeed Ahmed. “Saudis lead air campaign against rebels in Yemen.” CNN. March 26, 2015. Accessed October 12, 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/26/middleeast/yemen-saudi-arabia-airstrikes/index.html

[7] Patrick Cockburn. “Emir of Qatar deposed by his son.” The Independent. June 27, 1995. Accessed October 12, 2017. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/emir-of-qatar-deposed-by-his-son-1588698.html.

[8] Patrick Cockburn. “Emir of Qatar deposed by his son.” The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/emir-of-qatar-deposed-by-his-son-1588698.html

[9] Patrick Cockburn. “Emir of Qatar deposed by his son.” The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/emir-of-qatar-deposed-by-his-son-1588698.html

[10] Lambert, Jennifer. “Political Reform in Qatar: Participation, Legitimacy and Security.” Middle East Policy Council. Accessed October 12, 2017. http://mepc.org/political-reform-qatar-participation-legitimacy-and-security.

[11] The Irish Times. “Qatar accuses sheikh of ordering countering coup.” The Irish Times. February 21, 1996. Accessed October 12, 2017. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/qatar-accuses-sheikh-of-ordering-countering-coup-1.31303.

[12] Ulrichsen, Kristian Coates. “Qatar: The Gulf’s Problem Child.” The Atlantic. June 05, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/06/qatar-gcc-saudi-arabia-yemen-bahrain/529227/.

[13] “Qatar GDP  1970-2017 .” Trading Economics. 2016. Accessed October 12, 2017. https://tradingeconomics.com/qatar/gdp.

[14] Soghom, Mardo. “The Economic Incentive Behind Qatar’s Iran Ties.” Radio Farda. June 06, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. https://en.radiofarda.com/a/iran-qatar–relations-economic-gas-fields-south-pars/28529537.html.

[15] Rahim, Taufiq. “Another Coup for the Outgoing Emir of Qatar.” The Huffington Post. June 27, 2013. Accessed October 12, 2017. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/taufiq-rahim/another-coup-for-the-outg_b_3497895.html.

[16] Erickson, Amanda. “Analysis | Why Saudi Arabia hates Al Jazeera so much.” The Washington Post. June 23, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/06/23/why-saudi-arabia-hates-al-jazeera-so-much/?utm_term=.00895bb0f2a8.

[17] The World Staff. “Al Jazeera responds to demands that it be shut down.” Public Radio International. June 26, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-06-26/al-jazeera-responds-demands-it-be-shut-down.

[18] Otterman, Sharon. “SAUDI ARABIA: Withdrawl of U.S. Forces.” Council on Foreign Relations. February 7, 2005. Accessed October 12, 2017. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/saudi-arabia-withdrawl-us-forces.

[19] Otterman, Sharon. “SAUDI ARABIA: Withdrawl of U.S. Forces.” Council on Foreign Relations. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/emir-of-qatar-deposed-by-his-son-1588698.html

[20] Carlstrom, Gregg. “Why Egypt Hates Al Jazeera.” Foreign Policy. February 19, 2014. Accessed October 12, 2017. http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/02/19/why-egypt-hates-al-jazeera/.

[21] Global Security. “Muslim Brotherhood in Qatar.” GlobalSecurity.org . Accessed October 12, 2017. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/gulf/qatar-muslim-brotherhood.htm.

[22] Chick, Kristen. “Saudi troops arrive in Bahrain as protests escalate.” The Christian Science Monitor. March 14, 2011. Accessed October 12, 2017. https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0314/Saudi-troops-arrive-in-Bahrain-as-protests-escalate.

[23] Trager, Eric. “The Muslim Brotherhood Is the Root of the Qatar Crisis.” The Atlantic. July 02, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/07/muslim-brotherhood-qatar/532380/.

[24] Reuters Staff. “Yemen cuts diplomatic ties with Qatar: state news agency.” Reuters. June 05, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-gulf-qatar-yemen-idUSKBN18W0RS.

[25] Anadolu Agency. “Turkey, Qatar agree to form cooperation council.” Anadolu Agency. January 20, 2015. Accessed October 12, 2017. http://aa.com.tr/en/politics/turkey-qatar-agree-to-form-cooperation-council/82341.

[26] Schanzer, Jonathan. “Turkey’s Secret Proxy War in Libya?” The National Interest. March 17, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. http://nationalinterest.org/feature/turkeys-secret-proxy-war-libya-12430.

[27] Murdock, Heather. “Turkey Opens First Mideast Military Base in Qatar.” VOA. May 11, 2016. Accessed October 12, 2017. https://www.voanews.com/a/turkey-opens-first-middle-east-military-base-in-qatar/3323653.html.

[28] “Qatari Emir commends Rouhani on victory in election.” Mehr News Agency. May 22, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. http://en.mehrnews.com/news/125508/Qatari-Emir-commends-Rouhani-on-victory-in-election.

[29] Soghom, Mardo. “The Economic Incentive Behind Qatar’s Iran Ties.” Radio Farda. https://en.radiofarda.com/a/iran-qatar–relations-economic-gas-fields-south-pars/28529537.html

[30] Haaretz, and Reuters. “The Qatar-Iran gas field behind the diplomatic war in the Middle East.” Haaretz. June 07, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/1.793798.

[31] AFP. “Rouhani: Iran seeks stronger relationship with Qatar.” The Times of Israel. June 25, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. http://www.timesofisrael.com/rouhani-iran-seeks-stronger-ties-with-qatar/.

[32] The Associated Press. “Qatar restores full diplomatic ties with Iran in stark message to Saudi Arabia, Gulf states.” Haaretz. August 24, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/1.808702?utm_content=%2Fmiddle-east news%2F1.808702&utm_medium=email&utm_source=smartfocus&utm_campaign=newsletter-daily.

[33] Al Jazeera. “More countries back Saudi Arabia in Iran dispute.” Al Jazeera. January 06, 2016. Accessed October 12, 2017. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/01/nations-saudi-arabia-row-iran-160106125405507.html.

[34] Joyce, Tom. “Iran steps in to supply Qatar.” Euro Fruit. June 12, 2017. Accessed October 12, 2017. http://www.fruitnet.com/eurofruit/article/172469/iran-steps-in-to-supply-qatar.

[35] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “Qatar.” Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 10, 2017. http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/qat/.

[36] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “Qatar.” Massachusetts of Technology. http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/qat/

[37] Kerr, Simeon. “Qatar’s imports fall 40% as blockade hits home.” Financial Times. June 30, 2017. Accessed August 12, 2017. https://www.ft.com/content/048e5762-f9a4-11e6-bd4e-68d53499ed71.

[38] Qatar’s lost imports from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Yemen are each individually averaged between 2010-2015.

[39] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “What does Qatar import from Saudi Arabia? (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017. http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/import/qat/sau/show/2015/

[40] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “What does Qatar import from the United Arab Emirates? (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017. http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/import/qat/are/show/2015/

[41] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “What does Qatar import from Egypt? (2015)”, Massachusetts Institution of Technology, accessed August 18, 2017. http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/import/qat/egy/show/2015/

Observatory of Economic Complexity, “What does Qatar import from Bahrain? (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017. http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/import/qat/bhr/show/2015/

[42] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “Iran’s Exports (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017, http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/irn/.

[43] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “Which Countries Export Iron Structures? (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017, http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/export/show/all/7308/2015/.

Observatory of Economic Complexity, “Cooper Wire Trade Exporters (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017, http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/hs92/7408/.

[44] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “What does Qatar import from the United Arab Emirates (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017. http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/import/qat/are/show/2015/

[45] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “What does Qatar import from Bahrain? (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017. http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/import/qat/bhr/show/2015/

[46] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “Iran’s Exports (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017. http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/irn/

[47] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “Which Countries Export Gravel and Crushed Stone (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017, http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/export/show/all/2517/2015/

[48] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “What does Qatar import from Saudi Arabia? (2015)”. http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/import/qat/sau/show/2015/

[49] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “Which Countries Export Fermented Milk Products? (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017, http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/export/show/all/0403/2015/

[50] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “Other Animals Trade: Exporters (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017, http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/hs92/0106/

[51] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “What does Qatar import from Saudi Arabia? (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017. http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/import/qat/sau/show/2015/

Observatory of Economic Complexity, “What does Qatar import from the United Arab Emirates (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017. http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/import/qat/are/show/2015/

[52] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “What does Qatar import from Egypt? (2015)”, Massachusetts Institution of Technology, accessed August 18, 2017. http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/import/qat/egy/show/2015/

[53] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “Iran’s Exports (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017, http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/irn/

[54] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “What does Qatar import from Saudi Arabia? (2015)”. http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/import/qat/sau/show/2015/

[55] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “Which Countries Export Cleaning Products? (2015)”, Massachusetts Institution of Technology, accessed August 18, 2017, http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/export/show/all/3402/2015/

[56] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “What does Qatar import from Saudi Arabia? (2015)”. http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/import/qat/sau/show/2015/

Observatory of Economic Complexity, “What does Qatar import from the United Arab Emirates? (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017. http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/import/qat/are/show/2015/

[57] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “Which Countries Export Insulated Wire? (2015)”, Massachusetts of Technology, accessed August 15, 2017, http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/export/show/all/8544/2015/

[58] Observatory of Economic Complexity, “What does Qatar import from Iran? (2015)”, Massachusetts Institution of Technology, accessed August 18, 2017, http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/import/qat/irn/show/2015/.

Abolishing the United Nations Security Council Veto

Kibungo Hill, a 25-year-old shopkeeper and farmer, suffered under the Rwandan genocide stating, “I no longer concerned myself with thinking about when I was going to die, since we were going to die anyway, only with how the cuts would hack at me; only about how long it would take, because I was very frightened of the suffering machetes bestow” (Hill). At the time, the United Nations (UN) was not interested in preventing the Rwandan genocide, and if action was taken, then it was dilatory. A few months after the genocide, Kofi Annan, head of the UN peacekeeping in 1995 lamented, “The international community failed Rwanda and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret” (Eadie, 2014). Twenty years after the genocide, in 2014, the UN chief reiterated the same message to thousands of Rwandans saying “never again” (Clover, 2014). Yet atrocities of this nature have occurred again on the United Nations’ watch. As they did in the past, permanent members of the United Nations Security Council are still taking actions through self-interest; most notably through the use of the UN Security Council’s veto power. The United Nations was primarily formed to end atrocities, but in the past three decades, six atrocities have taken place, and the UN Security Council veto allowed for world powers to avoid alleviating the atrocities, and, rather, focused on their own self-interests; for this reason, the UN Security Council should abolish the permanent members’ ability to veto a resolution.

The UN Security Council was formed to forestall and quell international atrocities from occurring. Although this idea of cooperation was harmonious, it was unrealistic and, rather, proliferated political abuse from the five permanent member states. Since its nascent stages the permanent member states have used their veto power for political play. As mass atrocities have taken place since 1945, the Security Council has ignored most of these events. When observing from 1945 to present day, six instances highlight this political play and lack of responsibility from the Security Council; these include[d] the conflicts in Palestine/Israel, Yemen, Syria, Crimea, Darfur, and Rwanda.

In the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a number of human rights violations have occurred between 1948 to the present day, yet the United States protects its interests by using the veto before protecting human rights. Since the 1967 war between Israel, Egypt, and Syria, which resulted in Israel obtaining the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights; the Israeli government has continued to occupy these lands illegally according to the United Nations Geneva Convention (Human Rights Watch, 2016). The Security Council has voted on a number of resolutions condemning this occupation of land and has further written new resolutions on the Israeli settlements being built on this illegally occupied land. For example, Resolutions 605, 607, 636, 694,726, 799, 1435, and 1544 all condemned Israel’s occupation of these lands from the 1967 war (Hammond, 2010). Furthermore, in 2015, “Israeli authorities demolished 481 Palestinian homes and other buildings in the West Bank, displacing 601 people, including 296 children” to build Israeli settlements (Human Rights Watch, 2016). Unfortunately, the United States vetoed all of the resolutions. The reasoning from the United States, regardless of the president, follows a similar melody that says, “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the prospects for peace would be damaged by an action taken at the UNSC” (Middle East Policy Council, 2017). It is important to note that many of these resolutions brought forward also condemn Palestinian aggression and inhumane tactics used on Israeli civilians. In the future, regardless of how a resolution pertaining to Israel will be crafted, the U.S. cannot be a supporter of it.

The United States is dedicated to protecting Israel with the use of the veto because of past atrocities committed such as the Holocaust, and Israel’s political location in the Middle East is beneficial to US foreign policy. Stephen Zunes, of Foreign Policy in Focus, notes that the United States’ support is “through a mixture of guilt regarding Western anti-Semitism, personal friendships with Jewish Americans who identify strongly with Israel, a fear of inadvertently encouraging anti-Semitism by criticizing Israel, there is enormous reluctance to acknowledge the seriousness of Israeli violations of human rights and international law” (2002). Additionally, the majority of the United States comprises Christians, who see themselves as religiously connected to Jews, rather than Muslims. This results in 80% of Republicans and 50% of Democrats supporting Israel (Zunes, 2002). Zune says, that part of this favorability stems from Israel’s lobby in the US and their influence on the media. “[The Israeli lobby’s] role has been important in certain tight congressional races and in helping to create a climate of intimidation among those who seek to moderate U.S. policy…[while] widespread racism toward Arabs and Muslims so prevalent in American society, often perpetuated in the media” (Zunes, 2002). Besides pro-Israeli lobbies, military weapon manufacturers strongly support the United States’ military alliance with Israel and are constantly harping on Congress. Elected officials are much more interested in supporting a $2 billion arms deal to Israel, than a $60 million arms deal to Indonesia, “particularly when so many congressional districts include factories that produce such military hardware” (Zunes, 2002). If the United States were to allow a resolution to pass that pertained negatively to Israel, then the US would lose a vital interest. As can be seen, protecting this ally both delegitimizes the UN Security Council and collide personal interests and world interests.

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The United States’ veto power has also played a major role in the current Yemeni Civil War between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi supported government, which has produced a wave of human rights violations according to international law. The Houthi rebels, who are under-supplied with military equipment and use guerrilla warfare tactics, have “endangered civilians in areas they controlled by launching attacks from the vicinity of schools, hospitals and homes, exposing residents to attacks by pro-government forces (Amnesty International, 2016). Additionally, it has been reported that the Houthi rebels catch journalists, human rights supporters, and pro-Saudi individuals, then detain and torture them (Amnesty International, 2016). On the other side of the civil war, the Saudi government forces have formed a “partial sea and air blockade [which has] further curtailed the import of food and other necessities, deepening the humanitarian crisis” in Yemen (Amnesty International, 2016). Yemen has also been crippled by the Saudi government’s indiscriminate attacks on “funeral gatherings, hospitals, schools, markets, factories…bridges, water facilities, and telecommunication towers” (Amnesty International, 2016). Throughout this war, Saudi Arabia has bought military weapons from the U.S., and, concurrently, the UN Security Council has placed an arms embargo on the Houthi rebels (UN News Centre, 2015). This civil war is divided between the U.S., France, and Britain sending military supplies to the Saudis and Russia supporting the Houthi Rebels (United Nations Security Council). This conflict is entirely political and both Russia and the U.S. are not interested in counting the civilian deaths because their interests are at stake. Once again, this is a display of political interests becoming convoluted with the objectives of the U.N.

The Yemeni Civil War is involving Iran and Saudi Arabia as proxies. If a UN resolution were to arise against the Houthi Rebels, then Russia would veto it because the Houthis and Iran are close allies. As is the same for the United States, they refuse to allow a resolution to pass condemning Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations because of their relationship. Diana al-Ghoul of Middle East Monitor comments, “Russia is showing signs of mirroring Iranian policy” and is unable to be fully involved in this civil war “simply because of the way that Moscow [is] dragged into the Syrian conflict. If the Kremlin was to expand its military operation in the Middle East overtly, it would be over-stretching its capabilities” (2016). As a result, Russia defaults to its power of the UN Security Council veto. Unlike Russia’s involvement, which is minimally and retractably involved, the United States’ obligation to Saudi Arabia is not a choice. Michael Pregent, of Foreign Policy says, “the fact is that Washington needs Saudi Arabia today more than ever if it is to defeat so-called Islamic State, al Qaeda, and their global offshoots” (2016). Saudi Arabia has been the leading player in fighting terrorism alongside the United States, and that if the U.S. ruins this relationship the region will fall into more instability, especially Yemen. “If Iran were to gain control of the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait in Yemen, it would significantly increase its capacity to funnel weapons and rockets to Palestinian and Hezbollah militants, further destabilizing the Levant” (Pregent, 2016). Also, while President Obama was in office, the extra demand to support Saudi Arabia derived from Obama’s Iranian Nuclear Deal, which questioned the Saudi-American relationship (De Young and Ryan, 2017). This led Obama to selling the Saudi government weapons for their fight in Yemen, and offered the United States tacit support for the alliance (De Young and Ryan, 2017). As for President Trump, he is fervently opposed to Iran and deeply dislikes the Iranian Nuclear Deal, so his antipathy for Iran leads him to vehemently support Saudi Arabia (De Young and Ryan, 2017). In other words, both presidents would quickly veto any bill obstructing their interests with Saudi Arabia.

In the Middle East, the Yemeni Civil War is not the only crisis being abandoned by the Security Council. The current Syrian Civil War and its mass atrocities have been at the forefront of world news since its inception. This is also a conflict that is both sectarian and politically- divided among world powers. Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, has used nefarious military approaches against both military rebels and civilians (Taub, 2016). Human Rights Council investigators found that President al-Assad had detention centers “where torture and summary executions were deliberate policies…in which detainees died as the result of torture” (Rossen, 2016). To make matters worse the al-Assad regime has blocked the United Nations’ humanitarian aid, such as food and medical supplies, from reaching civilians in dire need of these basic necessities, and he has used chemical weapons, such as Sarin gas, against his own people (Kerry, 2013). As this crisis exacerbated, the Security Council attempted to stop the al-Assad regime from using chemical weapons. On April 12, 2017, the Security Council drafted a resolution which “emphasized Syria’s obligation to comply with the recommendations of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon’s (OPCW) Fact Finding Mission and the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism by providing immediate and unfettered access to and the right to inspect any and all sites” (Security Council Meeting, 2017). Unfortunately, the resolution foundered because of a Russian veto. In the past four years, “vetoes by Russia and China have blocked resolutions that would have demanded all sides to the conflict to stop fighting [and] condemned the indiscriminate killing of civilians” (Eadie, 2014). Both Russia and China have done this because they have political interests involved in Syria, especially Russia.

If Russia was to allow this resolution and others to pass, both al-Assad and Russian leaders would be on trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Court for these atrocities in Syria. This possibility is one of the reasons why Russia withdrew from the International Criminal Court in November 2016 (Seddon, 2016). Moscow does not want to be held responsible for its war crimes in Syria and Ukraine. Syria is also the location for Syria’s only naval base in the Middle East, which is on Syria’s Mediterranean coast in the city of Tartus. This base is critical to Russia if it intends to supply its proxies such as Iran, Syria, or Hezbollah with weapons, and it allows for Russia to reach other trade markets such as North Africa or East Africa (Marshall, 2015). Similar to Russia’s interest in trade, China also has investments in Syria and intends to use the Syrian Civil War to its advantage. “China has announced plans to increase humanitarian support for the Syrian people as well as military support for the Syrian government in the fight against terrorism…[last August] China’s Central Military Commission pledged to expand Chinese military support for the Syrian government” (Global Risk Insights, 2016). As for after the war, China committed to a $10 billion deal with the Syrian government to rebuild their telecommunication infrastructure; this is part of their larger “Silk Road” $900 billion infrastructure initiative around the region (Global Risk Insights, 2016). Both Russia and China are seeking to improve their economies through the use of the Syrian Civil War, and, as a result, both countries will veto any resolutions obviating their future economic success.

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Simultaneously, Russia has been persistent about not allowing the UN Security Council to vote on any resolutions relating to Crimea. In early months of 2014, Russia pursued a referendum that led to it annexing Crimea, which is an ethnically majority-Russian area in the southeastern part of Ukraine. This move by Russia was both illegal and violated international law (Euro Maid Press, 2016). Throughout this crisis, Russia has captured and detained Ukrainians who sully or lampoon the Russian government (Euro Maid Press, 2016). Likewise, a number of cultural and religious institutions have been shutdown in Crimea by the Russian government (Osborne, 2016). Therefore the United Nations General Assembly voted on a document calling Russia the illegal occupier of Crimea, and the bill passed (Euro Maid Press, 2016). As noted before, because the bill passed through the United Nations General Assembly the bill was only a recommendation, not legal action. Although this recommendation was not binding, it was a partial reason Russia withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (Seddon, 2016). Additionally, the most significant reason Russia annexed Crimea and will not allow a resolution to pass the UN Security Council is because of the warm water port that located there called Sevastopol (Marshall, 2015). All of Russia’s other ports (besides Tartus in Syria) are cold-water ports, meaning they freeze for many months throughout the year (Marshall, 2015). So this limits Russia’s ability to build a navy that can easily move or have many successful trade routes. The Crimean port, Sevastopol, allows for both. Russia trade ships are able to reach other markets such as Europe and Turkey with ease; as for the navy, “eight new ships are being commissioned, as well as several submarines” (Marshall, 2015). With the annexation of Crimea the Russians are increasing their strength around the Baltic States, and nobody is there to stop them, especially not the United Nations Security Council. This political manipulation demands that changes be made in regards to the Security Council veto.

Not only have the United States and Russia used their Security Council veto power to allow injustice to continue, China also played a major role in allowing genocide to continue throughout 2003 in Darfur. Darfur is in the western region of current-day Sudan, and it is mixed with Muslims, non-Muslims, Arabs, and Blacks. At the time, it was one of the poorest countries in the world. By the same token the Sudanese government’s “neglect left the people throughout Sudan poor and voiceless” (Darfur Australia Network). This led to an uprising by the non-Arabs living in Darfur against the pro-Arab government of Sudan. So the Arabs living in Darfur, with the assistance of the pro-Arab Sudanese government and army, slaughtered these non-Arab protests (Darfur Australia Network). The Arabs who lived in Darfur and committed the crimes were known as the Janjaweed (Darfur Australia Network). This group entered on horses and camels into villages and “destroyed houses and buildings, shooting the men, gang raping the women and children and shooting anyone who tried to escape” (Darfur Australia Network). By the end of the bloodshed, 400,000 people had died and 3 million had been displaced. During the crisis, it was expected that the Security Council would take action, but one of its permanent members had ties to Sudan. China was personally involved in Sudan, so any changes to the status quo would squeeze its economy. For example, in 2004 the UN Security Council proposed a resolution to impose oil trading sanctions on Sudan, but China threatened to veto the bill because “China was the largest investor in a Sudanese pipeline project”, where most of this oil went to China (Sudan Tribune, 2004). Around the same time, another Security Council resolution was focused on placing an arms embargo to Sudan and the Janjaweed, but China’s dilatory actions slowed the process. This was because Sudan was a major purchaser of Chinese weapons used throughout the Darfur Civil War (Eadie, 2014). Eventually, China allowed for the measures to pass because it abstained on the vote (Sudan Tribune, 2004). Again, the UN is expected to stop these atrocities from occurring, but it cannot help in doing this if certain member states are reaping benefits from atrocities occurring.

As the Darfur Civil War was unfolding, many diplomats spoke of it as genocide because it seemed to look similar to a genocide that occurred ten years earlier in Rwanda. The Rwanda conflict occurred between two ethnic groups: the Hutu and Tutsi. After Belgium colonized Rwanda, they placed the Tutsi people in-control (14% of the population) of the majority Hutu (84% of the population) population. After the Belgians left Rwanda, the Hutu retaliated against the Tutsi (Lalla). The genocide was systematic and organized by the government, who called for the Hutus to kill all the cockroaches (Tutsi) (Lalla). Rape was also a tool of the genocide, as Women Aid International notes that, “In 1994, almost every adolescent girl who survived the genocide in Rwanda was raped” (Lalla). During the time of the genocide, most states were fearful to say the actual words “genocide,” so they did not. This was especially true for the United States and France, where both states coerced “a ‘hidden veto’ (whereby a permanent member exercises its veto rights by threatening to veto a prospective resolution, thereby making it clear that the resolution, if taken forward, will fail)…while also ensuring that the definition of the crisis under International law was weakened” (Eadie, 2014). If the permanent members would have agreed to pass the resolution calling it genocide, then the world powers would have been legally obligated to interfere according to the Geneva Convention (United Nations).

The entire objective of the United Nations, and especially the Security Council, is to stop genocides and mass atrocities from occurring. Deciding to intervene cannot be based on the personal and political interests of the crisis, especially if a state is a member of a unified world organization that was created to rid all human rights violations and mass atrocities. The Security Council veto, as can be seen in the six instances above, is purely a self-interested political move in a collective moral organization; the two are mutually exclusive. For this reason, the Security Council veto must be abolished and reformed from the United Nations Charter. How many systematic mass killings will need to take place before the Security Council’s permanent members abdicate their veto power?

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