It’s been a year since Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut all ties to Qatar, just after a summit in Saudi Arabia. The reasons were clear: Qatar wouldn’t budge from its destructive policies in the region, ranging from support for extremist groups and terrorist ideologies, to its cosy ties with the regime in Tehran, which is simply unwilling to end its interference in the affairs of Arab countries and its promotion of sectarian discord in the region. The Arab Quartet also launched an economic boycott, stopping Qatar Airways flights from using their airspace, closing off the country’s land border with Saudi Arabia, and blocking its ships from using their ports.
Doha’s posturing in the region is illogical, and wholly inimical to the interests of not only its Arab neighbours but of Qatar itself.
Qatar has used its huge financial resources and other tools — like the Al Jazeera television network — to help spread extremism in the region, bankrolling groups that pose a clear and present danger to the political stability and territorial integrity of Arab states.
The Arab Quartet’s demands are clear: Qatar must limit diplomatic ties to Iran, shut down Al Jazeera and other media outlets, and sever ties to all terror groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Qatar must also expel the Turkish troops stationed in the country, given that Turkey is another regional power that is increasingly interfering in the affairs of Arab states.
The boycott is exacting a high toll on Qatar and its foreign currency reserves; in April, Qatar’s foreign reserves dropped to $39.7 billion (Dh145.79 billion), down $6.3 billion from the same period last year, according to data from the country’s central bank.
On the tourism front, Qatar has been badly hit — GCC citizens used to account for half of its visitors, but the ongoing situation has drastically reduced visitor numbers. In an attempt to ease the impact of the boycott,
Qatar last August granted citizens of 80 countries visa-free entry, but the move seems to have had little impact.
Qatar has launched a colossal PR campaign to improve its image, and curry favour with Western powers, primarily the United States. But this is a wasted effort, which will only result in more disappointment for Doha. The only way out for Qatar if to return to the Arab fold, and realise that its future lies with the Arab states, and that it is in its own interests to desist from actions that undermine its Arab neighbours