A picture of the Doha skyline Image Credit: Agencies

Beirut: June 5 marks the second anniversary of the diplomatic crisis between the Arab Quartet and Qatar.

Relations were suspended on June 5, 2017 over Qatar’s continued support for internationally-sanctioned non-state players like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and its alliance with both Iran and Turkey.

Qatar’s behaviour could no longer be tolerated, said the leaders of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt two years ago, claiming that in addition to upsetting security in the Gulf, Qatar was also promoting religious fanaticism and intolerance through terrorist groups like the Brotherhood and the editorial policy of the Doha-based Al Jazeera TV.

Qatari stubbornness

Two years down the road, however, nothing has changed.

The offices of Hamas in Doha remain wide open and its leaders still have unlimited access to the studios of Al Jazeera.

The Muslim Brotherhood is still a guest of the Emir of Qatar, Tamim Bin Hamad, and so is its aging spiritual godfather, Yousuf Al Qaradawi.

The editorial policy of Al Jazeera has not softened—let alone changed—and Qatari officialdom remains firmly allied to Tehran and Ankara.

In September 2017, Shaikh Tamim made himself clear at the General Assembly of the United Nations, saying that his country was going to remain “a save haven for the oppressed (in reference to Hamas and the Brotherhood).

That month, Qatari money was used to remove Al Qaradawi from the Interpol’s list of “wanted” criminals, accused of “theft” and “terrorism” by the Egyptian Government.

That same month, Sheikh Tamim opened the mosques of Doha for absentee prayers for Mohammad Mehdi Akef, the Brotherhood chief who died at a Cairo hospital.

Al Qaradawi led the prayers, with Khaled Meshaal of Hamas by his side, despite being “wanted” on all four corners of the globe.

It was a clear message from the Qataris that they had no intention of changing their behaviour, and that they had little regard for the worries and concerns of their Gulf neighbours.

Al Jazeera’s continued bias coverage

In this file picture, a Qatari employee of Al Jazeera news channel walks through the office in Doha. Image Credit: AP

This policy was recently mirrored with the unwavering support that Al Jazeera is still showing to Al Houthis and the Brotherhood-backed Islah Party in Yemen, both engaged in fierce battles against the legitimate and internationally-recognised government of Abd Rabo Mansour Hadi.

They are also aggressively targeting Libyan Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who, with international backing, is marching on Tripoli to put an end to the Brotherhood-affiliated government and its militias.

Undermining security in the Gulf

Last month, the UAE filed a complaint against Qatar at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), objecting to a ban on Emirati products imposed by Doha.

The ban was a “flagrant violation” of the WTO charter, which calls for open market access and rules against discrimination.

Earlier, Qatar had hampered attempts by its citizens to travel to the UAE, blocking a website that allowed them to apply for visas.

Meanwhile, despite all tension, the UAE was still acting in good faith, releasing a Qatari vessel that entered its waters on 30 April, with four military personnel onboard.

It also did not expel Qatari nationals already living in the UAE, but only asked newcomers wanting to visit to obtain a visa beforehand—an internationally recognised and respected measure taken by all countries across the world.

This handout photo taken and released by the Saudi Royal Palace on May 31, 2019 shows (from L) Sayyid Shihab bin Tariq Al Said, advisor of the Omani Sultan, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani, Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Bahraini King Hamad Al-Khalifa, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salma posing for a family photo during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) held at al-Safa Royal Palace in the Saudi holy city of Mecca. Image Credit: AFP

On May 30, King Salman also acted in good faith, inviting Qatar to attend two summits in Mecca, aimed at discussing “aggression” in the Gulf after four oil tankers were sabotaged earlier in the month, near the Straits of Hormuz, off the coast of Al Fujairah.

Relations with Iran and Turkey

In this undated photo, Turkish president Recept Tayyip Erdogan visits Turkish troops in Doha. Image Credit: Agencies

One month after the crisis started, Qatar re-established full diplomatic relations with Iran and welcomed Turkish troops on its territory.

In June 2018, it publicised a phone call between Tamim and President Hassan Rouhani, where the Qatari emir sought Iranian support against the Arab Quartet.

The Iranians have also sent food aid to Doha and gave its national carrier Qatar Airways rights to use Iranian—and more recently—Syrian airspace as of April 2019.

Last October, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that bilateral relations between the two countries have reached an “ideal level.”

In February of this year, Turkey announced that it would be sending six Turkish-made military drones to the Qatari Armed Forces.

This was part of a 2018 deal that led to the training of 55 Qatari military personnel on drone command in Turkey and two-years of technical support from Ankara to Doha.

Bilateral trade between the two countries stands at $1.5 billion and is expected to rise to $5 billion USD.

Crisis will last a ‘few years’

“Qatar will not change its policies” boomed prominent Kuwaiti journalist Fouad Hashem, speaking to Gulf News.

“If it takes just one step back, a coup will happen in Qatar. The two Hamads (Hamad Bin Jassem and Hamad Bin Khalifa) came to power with a price; and that price was to carry out this scheme of tearing the Gulf apart.”

He also pointed out that the Brotherhood, which he describes as “the cat’s claws of Qatar”, was created to spread fanatic Islamist ideology across the region.

“Qatar needed them because it does not have enough citizens to do the job, investing in their wide network across the world.”

Hashem expected the crisis to last for another 2-3 years, saying that Qatar will expand its “criminality” into other parts of the Arab World, reaching into counties like Jordan, while still meddling in the affairs of Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, and Gaza.

In December 2017, the Emir of Qatar hosted Michael Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), trying to drum up Zionist support for its crisis with the Arab Quartet.

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, Qatar had set aside $1.45 million to spread propaganda against its neighbours, and paid $100,000 USD to the ZOA.