In a time of serious upheaval in the region, Qatar’s crisis with its neighbours has become more complicated. Qatar is responsible for this crisis, but it is trying to pretend that what is happening is normal. But what is the reality of Qatar’s crisis with Saudi Arabia and its other GCC neighbours? And what are the new developments before and after the war in Gaza?
Is there really a Saudi-Qatari rapprochement? And is the UAE attempting to thwart any endeavour to achieve this reconciliation, as claimed by Rashid Al Hajri, Director of Protocol and International Relations at the Qatar Museums Authority.
In an article on the website Al Monitor, Al Hajri accused the UAE of leading the hardliners in their vigorous attempts to thwart any serious efforts to achieve Gulf reconciliation. This article by one of Qatar’s mouthpieces indicates how Doha relies on conflicting policies in the way that it is handling the crisis. This clearly demonstrates that Qatar’s policies have become as irrational as they are fragile. And by imposing its irrational policies through fabricated mechanisms, Qatar is adding fuel to the fire and aggravating the crisis. Given this difficult situation, Gulf sources have voiced fears that the upcoming meeting of GCC foreign ministers will not reach positive results due to Doha’s insistence on going solo.
The Israeli aggression in Gaza has made very clear that Qatar’s inclination to Muslim Brotherhood ideology is still strong and this has harmed the serious efforts to bridge the rift between the GCC states and achieving Gulf reconciliation. Qatar’s efforts to find a ceasefire in coordination with Turkey showed the strong influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on Qatar’s policy, which has made the resumption of normal relations between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours a lot more difficult. Qatar’s actions in the Gaza crisis brought hopes of Gulf reconciliation back to square one, especially after Doha’s negative reaction to Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz’s speech about the Israeli aggression and the need to combat terrorism.
Qatar’s response was clearly shown in comments on Qatar’s official social media accounts, which showed no self-restraint and unleashed a barrage of criticism against King Abdullah. Doha’s pro-Muslim Brotherhood stand on Gaza has blocked the way to Gulf reconciliation, but also contradicts messages of GCC reconciliation put out by the young Emir of Qatar Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani .
Relations between Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood reached a peak when they circulated the strange rumour that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are standing behind Israel in its aggression against Gaza. This rumour was initiated by veteran British journalist David Hearst and his blog “Middle East Eye”, financed by Qatar. Hearst repeated his allegations in other articles that were widely discussed by the western media. This means that Qatar’s reconciliation with the other GCC countries is at a standstill, and accordingly the relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and its other neighbours will continue to worsen. Doha’s conflicted positions cannot help rebuild the trust of its other GCC neighbours as that has faded due to Qatar’s policies throughout the years. Even a visit by Shaikh Tamim to the Saudi King was not successful because of Qatar’s conflicting interests.
Lack of credibility
Moreover, Qatar’s lack of credibility was clearly revealed when it failed to implement the Riyadh deal [made in November 2013]. Evidence abounds of Qatar’s breach of commitment to respect its neighbours. These include the offensive tweet against the Saudi King by Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammad Al Hami and the invented lies about an alleged meeting between Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister, and the Israeli Foreign Minister. It is clear that Doha is not sincere about bridging the rift and wants to wriggle out of its current situation with the least possible loss, despite the seriousness of the dispute which does not permit such games. Is obvious that Doha is caught between two approaches. The first is the young Emir’s realisation that Qatar needs to get out of its isolation since it is left with two only allies in the region: Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood. The second is that Doha’s decisions are influenced by the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In his article, Al Hajri tried to simplify Qatar’s dispute with Saudi Arabia and its neighbours, claiming that Qatar, Kuwait and Oman represent the main axis of deliberation in the Gulf crisis. He also claimed that Qatar-Saudi relations were improving, while the UAE is maintaining a hardline position on Doha and trying to thwart reconciliation. He also promoted Qatar’s propaganda about its support for emerging democracies and people of the region. This analysis ignores the fact that Qatar’s reckless policies are the root cause behind the Gulf dispute, which can not be tackled through this simplistic attempt to end the crisis. The truth is that the Gulf differences are due to policies inherited by the young Emir that he is yet to abandon.
Before he can end Qatar’s isolation, Shaikh Tamim has to show a clear commitment to stop backing the controversial policies that are creating chaos in the Gulf region and many Arab countries. The issue is not remotely as the Qatari writer claimed. Al Hajri said the UAE is seeking to thwart the Qatari-Saudi rapprochement, which is totally untrue because the alleged rapprochement does not exist. Instead, the answer is that Qatar must change its policy of supporting fundamentalist groups that have sabotaged intra-GCC relations and threatened the security and stability of people and nations.
Blood from a stone
Qatar’s alleged support for democracies is merely language used to play with people’s emotions that is only believed by some ingenuous people. But how can Doha support emerging democracies? Qatar itself has no democracy and has not developed any form of public participation, and you cannot get blood out of a stone. In addition, Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood and fundamentalist groups that oppose democracy and stand against any election that does not bring to power their own people. Although there have been diplomatic communications between the GCC parties, they have yet to yield any positive results due to Qatar’s conflicting messages, non-credibility and its alliance with the Turkish leader over Gaza. All these reasons have led to escalating the crisis.
Habib Al Sayegh is the Editor in Chief of Al Khaleej newspaper and a prominent UAE commentator and poet. This article was first published in Al Khaleej newspaper.