For the first time, the Foreign Minister of Qatar openly expressed his government’s concern that the objective of the four boycotting countries is to change the regime in Doha.
Meanwhile the rest of the Qatari officials as well as the official media have always expressed their conviction that the goal is to change the government’s policies and actions, and they boasted that the government will not surrender. The difference between both the conclusions is huge – are the four countries really seeking to change the regime or the behavior of Qatar?
What is certain is that the ties between the two sides are very bad and this is why they reached this stage, which has never been the case in the history of political tension, and this should urge Qatar to read carefully the messages sent by the governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain.
The Qatari government might be confused about the meanings behind the messages, but it surely knows that the countries rarely express what they really want and rely instead on familiar rules of diplomatic language with varying degrees, to express themselves.
Doha got confused and shaky from the first week after the announcement of the boycott. It called the Turkish garrison and communicated with Washington to explore its position because Qatar hosts its military bases. It has accelerated its cooperation with Iran because it feared a military operation.
A month later, Qatar focused on the media confrontation rather than the military defenses, to respond to accusations that it did not get used to hear, ranging from accusations of international terrorism, to working on destabilizing other Arab countries. These are serious accusations that have been spoken by important countries, including the United States.
You cannot economically overthrow a government that has $170 billion in foreign banks, equivalent to the budget of a country like Jordan for about 15 yearsAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Despite the speech of the Foreign Minister at the Chatham House in London about his fears of the desire to change the regime, we neither see nor hear about a military mobilization on the borders of Qatar, maneuvers in its vicinity, or threats about any action taken against it except the boycott, which is a means of expressing differences between countries and cannot be considered as accusations raised by the Qatari minister.
The four countries’ decision not to deal with Qatar, or the blockade as Doha calls it, cannot be aiming at overthrowing the regime because Qatar is not besieged. Qatar’s claims that it is suffering, has been ridiculed as the port and airport are working and the shelves are stacked with all kinds of foods, including the luxury of salmon and caviar.
With 2 large cargo planes, Qatar can very easily meet the daily needs of its population in terms of food and medicines. You cannot economically overthrow a government that has $170 billion in foreign banks, equivalent to the budget of a country like Jordan for about 15 years. So what is the purpose of all these decisions and all the exaggerated scenes?
The anger of the 4 countries reflects the attitude of most of the countries in the region as they are seeing Qatar as a threat to their security and stability because it has not stopped, for years now, its programmed activities to manage political change processes, support extremist Islamic groups and try to bring them to power by the force of arms and terrorism, like in Egypt for example.
It has always sought to impose terrorist and extremist groups in volatile areas such as Libya and Syria by favoring them over moderate political groups. There were high hopes that Qatar’s policy of supporting Islamist armed groups and intervening in the affairs of others would change when former Emir Hamad bin Khalifa handed over the reign to his son, Sheikh Tamim.
Optimism in vain
There has been optimism that we might be in front of a new Qatar, like other Gulf countries that started working on local development. However, after 4 years, the change of reigns has clearly not changed Qatar’s political project.
I believe that the goals of the 4 boycotting countries have quick and subsequent consequences. Due to what happened, Qatar found itself in the eye of the storm, for the first time in its history. Qatar is under international scrutiny and is being closely watched in light of the serious accusations of financing and supporting terrorism.
Qatar has become almost lonely in the international arena, with only Turkey standing beside it. The country knows that Turkey will eventually surrender to its (Turkish) interests, as Russia and Iran have already done; the cost of the Qatari financial and political activities has dramatically increased.
The most dangerous of all is that Qatar has become a notorious authority, not only locally and among its people but also within the ruling family. This bad reputation will weaken Qatar over the time and with the continuation of confrontations.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.