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Commentary: The Qatar embargo: Guyana and Suriname can't take sides
Published on June 16, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jansher Khan

Guyana and Suriname can't take sides in the Sunni/Shia-Saudi led confrontation with Iran. Saudi Arabia is acting like the victim and exploiting the erratic leadership in Washington, DC, that wants to roll back most of Barack Obama’s foreign policy achievements, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) would like to see the Iran/EU/US nuclear agreement scrapped. It all has the blessings of the government in Tel Aviv, which is making progress in forging ties with the Sunni-sheikhdoms that are now looking to Israel to use its influence in DC to lobby on behalf of their interests.

Shias are the majority in Bahrain and make up a significant population in the Persian Gulf states of Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE). They are considered a marginalized group in every country they live in today, expect in Iran, where they are the majority. The Sunnis see themselves as the “real” Muslims, and for them, Shia majority Iranians are “Kufars,” or unbelievers, who are apostate. They shouldn't even exist according to the radical teachings of the Wahabi sect of Islam, and which originated and is practiced in KSA.

It is ironic that the Saudi-led pack of hyenas against Qatar nurtured the most radical brand of Islam, Wahabism. They themselves are associated with the same likes that they associate Qatar with. A lot of money and promises of investments were and are being offered to countries to isolate Qatar. Somalia refused US$80 million to cut ties with Qatar according to government officials. Poor and small states such as Djibouti, the Maldives, Jordan and others in Africa had little choice but to join the Saudi coalition.

This is why Guyana and Suriname should stay far from the issue and refrain from addressing it in public. They are both friends of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the entire GCC nations. The previous government in Guyana deliberated too much in public about the Syria debacle, not that they didn't raise some great questions and concerns. However, Guyana and Suriname can't afford to fall out of the good graces of KSA and the UAE. Bahrain is interested in the aluminum industry of Suriname and that should be considered.

Both Guyana and Suriname have excellent ties with GCC countries. The UAE has emerged as one of Suriname’s top economic partners. This is why both countries, if and when, they address the Qatar embargo, will “encourage all parties to engage in dialogue to resolve the issue.”

The president of Guyana, David Granger, is a familiar face in KSA. He has been there twice on private jets that KSA sent for him. He is a military man, and I believe that his government will act in the best interest of Guyana vis-a-vis how they address the Qatar embargo. Guyana, like Doha is a small state, and is vulnerable to stronger and more powerful neighbours. And this is why the current government has moved Guyana away from its dependency on Venezuela. It's a national security risk for Guyana to be dependent on Venezuela, a country that claims two -thirds of Guyana.

The Sunni clan led by KSA should not be able to influence Guyana and Suriname to pick sides in the Qatar conflict, which isn’t subsiding soon. It's a good opportunity to seize the moment; play their cards well and see what investments the Saudis and the Emiratis can put down in Guyana and Suriname. A lot of trading off is taking place at the expense of Doha, but let's not forget that Qatar is the richest nation in world and it can survive for a long time the Saudi-led embargo, which is illegal according to international law.

A lot of ordinary people are losing their livelihood due to the Qatar embargo. Imagine, farmers are suffering in Jordan because they are poised to lose billions of dollars not being able to sell food to Qatar. The Saudi/Qatar land border was unilaterally closed. For this reason, Guyana and Suriname should move away from their dependency on commodity exports; or letting their lifeline depend on one or two nations. Qatar is paying the price, and Oman and Kuwait are watching, they will quietly begin exploring more diverse trading partners, especially for food and energy.

Both Guyana and Suriname have close ties with the Afro-Arab and Asian Islamic nations. They are the only members in the Western Hemisphere belonging to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB). Guyana and Suriname also take part in heads of government summits when the Arab/South American bloc, UNASUR and the Arab League meets every three years. Trade between the two regions has quadrupled in the past two decades. That has resulted in South American dairy products, meat, fruits, flowers, and vegetables in supermarkets in GCC countries. Bogota, Rio, Buenos Aires, Havana, Panama City and Sao Paulo are all now connected to Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Istanbul and Casablanca.

The effect of the Saudi, UAE and Bahrain air and land embargo against Qatar
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