Qatar, Saudi Arabia Diverge in Battle to Shape Changing Middle East

Qatar, Saudi Arabia Diverge in Battle to Shape Changing Middle East

Since the start of the Middle East uprisings in early 2011, the region has slipped into a period of uncertainty, with a battle for political influence and legitimacy stretching across state borders. Two rich countries in the Persian Gulf region, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have operated with different and sometimes divergent strategies for trying to shape the political transitions in Egypt and impact violent struggles for power in places like Syria.

Understanding this dramatically changed regional context is important in analyzing the approaches of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Since 2011, the competition for power and influence in the Middle East has been increasingly multipolar and multidimensional. It is multipolar because no single country has become the dominant actor in the region, whether Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia or Qatar. The fractured nature of regional politics, combined with the complicated internal divisions and still-nascent ideological debates in many transitioning countries, make it nearly impossible for any single country to achieve a dominant, hegemonic position in today’s Middle East.

The regional competition is multidimensional in that countries are using many different aspects of power and influence—including economic assistance and loans, aggressive regional media campaigns and even, in some cases like Libya and Syria, arms shipments and sales—to seek advantage. Unlike previous periods in which military power was a key factor, countries and political forces are now seeking to shape the Middle East’s power dynamics through multiple means.

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