QATAR BLOCKADE – MIDDLE EAST COUNTRIES HURTING THEMSELVES
Many observers around the world were surprised, when Arab nations namely Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and UAE went to the extent of imposing economic and civil blockade against Qatar to settle their scores and perhaps, to satisfy their ego. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and UAE have justified the blockade decision, stating that Qatar has been supporting Islamist terrorist groups such as Al Queda, Muslim Brotherhood and Daesh and has been courting Iran.
Further, UAE has tightened the squeeze on Qatar, threatening anyone publishing any expression of sympathy towards Qatar with upto 15 years of prison.
While one can understand any objection to support terrorist group if it would be there, how can one object to relations with a sovereign country like Iran ?
Any careful observer would inevitably think that such steps by Saudi Arabia and other countries against Qatar amount to biting one’s nose to spite the face. This is nothing but “urchin like strategy”, devoid of any appreciation of the global trade economic compulsions and its trends and mutual dependence of the countries in the Middle East region.
This also exposes the fact that the countries that imposed economic blockade on Qatar have not carefully assessed their strength and weakness and the vulnerable situation faced by them. It is like people sitting in the glass house throwing stones on others.
Who is not guilty of harboring the terrorists ?
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and UAE have accused Qatar of harboring terrorist groups.
Until recently, USA has been accusing both Saudi Arabia and Qatar of promoting terrorism.
In recent years, there have been several complaints against Saudi Arabia and a few other countries in Middle East regions for providing fund and stay support to Islamist groups, which have enabled several terrorist groups to launch attack on Jammu & Kashmir in India, Afghanistan and other places.
Saudi Arabia has running conflict with Iran and is accusing Iran of supporting secessionist forces. At the same time, Iran itself has been recently attacked by IS terrorists, who have bombed Iranian Parliament and other places.
Pakistan has suffered several terrorist attacks in recent times but Pakistan is suspected to accommodate several terrorist groups itself willingly or unwillingly.
Looking into the above scenario, one would not know as to who is fighting the terrorists and who is not doing so
Negative impact on Middle East countries.
The blockade on Qatar that would result in disruption of supply of products such as polymers from Qatar would affect Gulf Cooperation Council countries too.
Qatar produces about 2 million metric tonne per year of polyethylene , accounting for just over 2% of worldwide supply. The country’s three polyethylene producers—Qapco, Qatofin, and Q-Chem—export a combined 85,000 to 90,000 metric tonne per year of polyethylene to Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. In case of blockade, these export volumes will be seriously affected. Termination of imports from Qatar will compel the converters in these countries in Middle East region to seek alternative sources of supply.
A large portion of Qatar’s polymer exports are transhipped at the port of Jebel Ali, UAE. The Dubai-controlled port has continued to ship Iranian polymers through many political crises and it will suffer severely in case of export from Qatar being blocked.
Impact on the world
The blockade on Qatar would severely affect international trade in petrochemicals and polymers, particularly when dispute escalates to complete shipping blockade on Qatar. Qatar accounts for big share of world trade, as most of its output is exported.
Any steps for blockade of Qatari ports would halt the export of petrochemicals and polymers, which would severely disrupt the supply-demand balance of several products across the world and increase spot prices.
The blockade would have a big effect on the international markets for products such as vinyls, methanol, and methyl tert-butyl ether. Qatari producer exports 300,000 metric tonne per year of vinyl chloride monomer, 150,000 metric tonne per year of ethylene dichloride and 250,000 metric tonne per year of caustic soda every year.
India and several other countries which import natural gas from Qatar would be severely affected.
Workers from around the world who work in Qatar in various projects would be thrown out of jobs.
Counter productive decision
In today’s world, level of interdependence between the countries are so much, that no single country can act adversely against another country beyond some measure.
All the countries in Middle East are heavily dependent on each other for variety of needs. They need to co ordinate their efforts to get their due place in the global market and exercise appropriate influence around the world.
While Middle East countries have enormous oil and gas resources and have used them not only to export oil and gas, they have also set up many petro based derivative products of large size. What is conspicuous is that Middle East countries including Qatar are dependent heavily on multi national companies for technology support and operating plants, which are joint ventures in several cases.
Market in Middle East regions are so small and they need to export around the world, which mean they need to have good relations with all regions. Multi national companies operating in Middle East region want to export their products from Middle East regions around the world and blockade of Qatar would affect their marketing plans.
By such counter productive conflict between themselves, they would only strengthen the market base and economy for other countries like China and USA, which may undo advantages that Middle East countries now enjoy.
What way forward ?
It is in the interest of the entire world that terrorist activities should be stopped forthwith and terrorists groups, whatever may be the cause that they represent, should be wiped out.
If any country would encourage terrorists, then it will be appropriate for the rest of the world to join together to make such countries behave through United Nations. But unilateral action such as initiated by Saudi Arabia and other countries against Qatar cause suspicion and misgivings.
Being driven to the wall, isolated Qatar would hold talks with Turkey,Iran and other countries to secure food and water supplies. In the process, Middle East regions only further split that would not serve the interest of the any country in Middle East region.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain have moved beyond acceptable limit and Qatar would not forget this any time soon. A feeling of near permanent hatred has been planted.
This is surprising that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and UAE do not understand such simple logic. It is necessary that they should learn logic and stop the Qatar blockade immediately.