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Has Qatar passed the point of no return?

Revelations concerning its government’s harmful actions and associations are coming thick and fast

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Niño Jose Heredia/©Gulf News

As each day passes the rift between Qatar and the Saudi-led quartet is widening. Its leadership was given the opportunity to return to the fold, provided certain conditions were met, but IT chose to shelter under the umbrella of the US, launch insulting propaganda campaigns targeting its Gulf neighbours and cosy-up to Turkey and Iran.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s shuttle diplomacy has failed. If either he or the Emir of Qatar believed their signing of an anti-terrorism Memorandum of Understanding would assuage the concerns of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, they were wrong.

The cynically-inclined might be tempted to believe that move was nothing more than a ploy to whitewash Qatar but a little bit of made-in-America soap cannot cleanse its serial betrayals.

Revelations concerning the government of Qatar’s harmful actions and associations are coming thick and fast.

A former member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood’s secret affiliate in the UAE, Abdul Rahman Bin Subaih Khalifah Al Suwaidi, confessed on Abu Television that Qatar funded the secretive organisation as well as the Muslim Brotherhood coordination office in Tehran.

Al Suwaidi asserts the Qatari government provided his former group with money and passports as well as arranging coaching on how to use social media to destabilise the UAE.

Egypt was the Qatari ruling family’s first target following the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammad Mursi who Qatar backed with billions of dollars.

Whereas Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain gave generously to keep the most populous Arab country afloat when its foreign reserves were at an all-time low, Doha demanded that its billions be returned. Al Jazeera went into overdrive to paint the Brotherhood as a peaceful innocent even as its following was planting bombs under bridges, burning churches and rampaging around the capital with AK47s.

Worse, Doha affords refuge to Cairo’s most wanted Brotherhood criminals, including the terrorist-loving cleric Egyptian Yousuf Al Qaradawi, who has expressed his support for suicide bombings and has called for a jihad against Egypt.

“Naturally, the best outcome is for the Qatari ruling family to turn over a new leaf but it has shown no inclination to do so. It has taken to bending the ears of western leaders...”
-Linda S. Heard
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Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani signed up to comprehensive commitments in 2013 and 2014 with Doha’s GCC partners. He pledged to halt his support for the Muslim Brotherhood, to expel its affiliates from Qatar and to tone down Al Jazeera’s propaganda against Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

He promised to stop supporting groups attempting to overthrow the legitimate governments of Yemen and Egypt — and, most crucially, to quit interfering in the internal affairs of other GCC member-states. None of his pledges were worth the paper they were written on. Like his deposed father, Shaikh Hamad, he cannot be trusted.

US President Donald Trump is well aware of Qatar’s terrorist-supporting activities. He supports the embargo and on Friday reiterated his belief that Doha is a known funder of terrorism while hinting that Al Udaid US Airbase is a movable entity.

On the other hand Tillerson doesn’t appear to have received the presidential memo. He has referred to this terrorist funder’s positions as being “reasonable”.

Washington has been concerned about Qatar’s unsavoury friends for many years. In 2014, two members of Congress wrote to the US Treasury asking for Qatar to be sanctioned over its funding of Daesh [the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], Al Qaida and Jabhat Al Nusra.

Last year, the State Department published its Country Report on Terrorism citing “entities and individuals within Qatar” that provide financial support to “terrorist and violent extremist groups …”

Naturally, the best outcome is for the Qatari ruling family to turn over a new leaf but it has shown no inclination to do so. It has taken to bending the ears of western leaders, including those whose nations have been victims of major terrorist attacks, and, in the case of the US and the UK, pledging billions of dollars in investments.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has urged the Saudi king “to restore unity”. Here it’s worth mentioning that Qatar owns more of London than Queen Elizabeth, including 20 per cent of Heathrow Airport and a large stake in the stock exchange.

France’s Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian, who in recent days has been hobnobbing with Qatar’s foreign minister, has called upon Saudi Arabia and its allies to immediately end their punitive measures against Qatar.

France and the UK appear to be tilting towards Shaikh Tamim’s corner. Does this imply these European nations that have been severely impacted by Daesh-inspired or orchestrated terrorist attacks believe Doha’s protestations of innocence? Or are they using political expediency to gloss over unwelcome truths about the world’s richest country?

Western powers should stay out of this family affair. Together with Turkey, they are complicating any hopes of a resolution. Ironically, Qatar’s foreign minister complains that Riyadh is attempting to undermine his country’s sovereignty even as he welcomes Turkish troops on the soil of his tiny country despite Turkey’s history of being a fair-weather friend.

In the event there is no resolution to this dispute and if the US does decide to relocate its airbase, Doha will be at the mercy of Ankara that rejected appeals from Iraq’s prime minister to withdraw its military presence. Shaikh Tamim would do well to remember that blood is thicker than water.


Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East.