The decision by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain to cut ties with Qatar is a decisive moment in the rise and formation of the Middle East’s new coalitions. Below is a brief overview of the strategic regional map, which can help readers make some sense of the complex picture. Here are 4 regional formations that can identified:
- The Saudis, Egyptians, Jordanians, and other allied states are members of the pragmatic Sunni Arab camp. The members of this bloc are united by common enemies, challenges, and a desire to maintain stability in the region, in the face of radical, revolutionary Islamists.
- Qatar, which has just been isolated by the above coalition, is a member of the rival Muslim Brotherhood affiliated camp. This axis has shrunk considerably in recent years, after the fall of President (and Muslim Brotherhood figure) Muhammad Morsi from power in Egypt, but it continues to exist today. In addition to Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood camp includes: Turkey and Hamas. This camp has an ideological hostility to pragmatic Sunni states, viewing them as illegitimate Western puppets. The Brotherhood bloc members try to subvert Sunni governments that they view as illegitimate (though sometimes they try to work with them as well).
- The third coalition in our region is by far the most dangerous, and that is the Shi’ite Iranian-led axis. Under Tehran’s leadership, this axis includes Hezbollah, an array of highly armed Shi’ite militias deployed across the Middle East, the Iraqi government, the Assad regime, Yemen’s Ansar Allah Shi’ite army, and other actors. This axis is waging a region-wide confrontation against the pragmatic Sunni Arab states, in battle arenas stretching from Syria to Yemen. For a taste of this coalition’s activities throughout the whole region, see here.
- The fourth camp, the Salafi jihadists, consists of ISIS – its shrinking caliphate and growing terror network – and Al-Qaeda. The Salafi jihadists are at war with all of the elements described above. They cannot be seen as a coalition, as the Salafi jihadists are also at war with themselves (ISIS versus Al-Qaeda).